Setting social value as a central priority drives better outcomes for stakeholders across the building life cycle whilst continuing to secure financial viability and commercial success.

The pandemic has opened up new challenges and opportunities for everyone. A new economy in which firms place social value centre stage in their strategic planning has the power to deliver a host of benefits: sparking new partnerships, strengthening their role in the community, refining processes and enhancing stakeholder livelihoods along the way. Integrated planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore was keen to clearly define and demonstrate the significance of social value within the built environment and how it is a key part of ANY design project.

The problem

Barton Willmore already recognised the importance of social value in procurement and carefully illuminated areas in which it sought to deliver social value through its master planning process. Many employees therefore had a solid understanding of social value. But they struggled to find ways to expand the social benefits delivered within the built environment or accurately measure their value. Being equipped to use stakeholder outcomes to evaluate early-stage design options would enable employees to prioritise design and business outputs even more effectively.

The considerations

Building on this strategy, Human City would take the company to the next level by helping them make social value a priority area. Using human-centred design principles as a foundation, we would:

  1. Help leaders and staff to embed social value throughout the organisation
  2. Develop the organisation’s knowledge, values and activities to create a strategic approach to social value
  3. Design a roadmap to deliver social value, review progress and identify improvements.

The implementation

In order to help Barton Willmore find ways to make social value a more central consideration, even on commercial projects, we opted for a phased approach, starting with an orientation workshop. This formed part of their Reboot programme – a series of internal communications and professional development sessions hosted in early 2021. The workshop addressed:

  • What different disciplines - such as social anthropology - can bring to conversations about resilience and value creation
  • What planners, architects and designers can bring forward in terms of creative and innovative solutions to deliver value
  • What is significant and/or encompasses social value, and whether we can overmeasure and overvalue
  • Data collection and measurement (impact and value) principles, and a best practice case study. 

The workshop also allowed us to identify new employee ambassadors to support the development of Barton Willmore’s approach to social value at the next stage, leading to the formulation of the social value strategy itself.

The benefits

With this interdisciplinary, discursive approach to social value creation we not only addressed practical questions about creating and measuring social value, but also commercial questions of financial viability. By turning social value into a business opportunity, we start the process of embedding social value creation into the crucial early stages of a project, as well as the later procurement and design development phases.

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