Social value has been firmly on the public sector agenda since 2012 when it gained a formal place on the pre procurement radar of public sector clients with the passing of the Social Value Act. Under the Act, Social Value is considered in three parts: social, economic and environmental. Since 2018 it has moved further up the agenda after even the notoriously dry Treasury Green Book sought to include social value in its guidance on how to appraise and evaluate projects.
These developments have altered the procurement process, as commissioners have been asked to increasingly asked to consider how to get more social value for money out of procurement. They are considering how best to secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits for their area or stakeholders, often as a ‘by-product’ of the original commission. Any tender should therefore target these three parts of social value directly, demonstrating how the practice will enhance social value through each one specifically.
In a competitive tender market, at We Made That we’re always seeking to maximise the social value that can be realised through the processes and outcomes of our work. One approach that we’ve found to be successful is to work in collaboration with other practices, local partners or stakeholders to enhance social value in both the tender and delivery process.
Collaboration offers multiple opportunities to boost social and economic benefits to a project. For example, including team members with a close relationship to the local community, or collaborating with local practices to support spend in the local economy of a project.
One example of this approach is our current work on a mixed-use masterplan for the Purley Way in Croydon. We Made That are leading a large project team, including design collective, Resolve, an interdisciplinary team which combines architecture, engineering, technology and art to address social challenges. They have a close relationship to the local community in Croydon having grown up in the area, and frequently work with youth and under-represented groups in society and engaging them in the design process, as well as working with local communities as stakeholders in the short and long term management of local projects. Resolve are leading the engagement strategy for the masterplan and have developed an online platform in response to COVID-19 implications, to crowd source stories, memories and local knowledge about the area. At the other end of the practice scale spectrum, the project team also includes Hawkins\ Brown, who are long-term collaborators with We Made That, bringing their diverse team and experience to the project.
Supporting spend in the local economy can also offer ‘added value’ to a project. In 2017, We Made That were appointed by Harrow Council to lead on the design of the new public space in the centre of Wealdstone, with the intention of using the project to bring the community together. This included building an identity for Wealdstone which celebrated the town centre and it’s successful activity. We collaborated with Spacemakers and design studio, Silo, alongside local graphic designer Karolina Ciakaite who led a series of workshops for a group of local young people to research, design and produce furniture for the new square. This was a direct response to addressing the emerging challenge of a lack of activity for young people due to cuts to youth services, and the resulting negative perception of groups hanging around the town. The Wealdstone Youth Workshop produced ‘The Wealdstone Leg’, a furniture component that forms the basis of a range of stools, benches and chairs to be used in the square. The resulting furniture is also available to buy, with all proceeds going back into the project, and the workshop participants each receiving a royalty on sales as well as a stipend for taking part in the project.
In addition to social value gained for the local community through collaboration, We Made That directly experience the additional value offered through a collaborative approach; working with larger or more established practices helps to open doors that otherwise might not otherwise be open to us, and working with more recently established practices brings new ideas and energy to the team, whilst providing a helpful ‘hand up’. In a global context that’s keeping us all physically apart, we will continue to pursue project that bring teams and communities together.
By Lorna Reed
See article on Building Design Online here: