This month, we’ve taken a deep dive into the world of social value in infrastructure. We’ve broken down what social value statements are and what makes a good one. We asked how we can better integrate social value into the planning process. And, finally, we shared some key stats on the current state of social value in this large, multifaceted industry.
It’s no secret that here at Impact, we believe the infrastructure industry has an opportunity to do so much more in terms of maximising social impact and bolstering local communities. But what key challenges are holding it back? We’re here to break down three of the main barriers keeping infrastructure providers from making the most of their efforts.
A lack of confidence…
The first roadblock is usually how do you collect data? How do you know which data to focus on? What do you do once you’ve got it? A lot of the impact measurement and evaluation systems out there are complex – or simply not nuanced enough. Organisations are left to juggle multiple systems to cover all their bases.
Not to mention, converting cold, hard data into tangible, real-world outcomes is complicated. And many organisations are deterred by all the information they don’t know. They lack the confidence to do it properly. Or simply put off capturing anything at all.
More than 45% of people involved in government projects believe they can’t confidently measure their social value impacts. Which begs the question: how much impact is going left unnoticed, not accurately tracked or measured? How can infrastructure providers ensure they’re squeezing as much value out of every activity and project as possible if they aren’t actually visualising the impact of their efforts?
63% of local government respondents agree to having a good understanding of the Social Value Act. That’s fantastic, but 14% still feel they do not. This research by Social Enterprise UK supports the idea that the closer respondents are to the Act – for example, working in procurement or service delivery and dealing with it by necessity – the better their understanding of it is. This leaves us with a lot of progress to be made in terms of establishing a blanket understanding and standardised approach across all levels of infrastructure.
To embed social value across infrastructure beyond procurement – dipping into planning, design, and delivery – we must lift everyone’s understanding and confidence. We need to move past this ‘need to know’ basis of social value, instead empowering all teams to consider what social value they can bring to the table.
A lack of flexibility…
When asked whether improved and increased guidance and frameworks are important for measuring social value:
And yes, frameworks can be really valuable for guiding organisations on key areas of focus or identifying what data to collect. However, lots of frameworks are also incredibly complex. So how are organisations and teams that are already stretched to the max supposed to embrace them fully?
Despite the above results, there remains very little appetite for a national, centralised measurement approach, with 60% of chief executives saying this isn’t important at all. It would just inhibit individual organisations from prioritising their own local area and innovative ideas.
A standardised understanding and system for value delivery and measurement is crucial to raising the standards of value generated, yes. But there still needs to be room for adapting frameworks and systems in line with local needs and requirements.
If a one-size-fits-all approach threatens to limit scope, creativity, and innovation, how do we get the best of both worlds – standardised support, a baseline understanding, and individual freedom and flexibility?
A lack of communication…
A massive problem for the infrastructure industry is the vast lack of communication surrounding social value. As we said earlier, the departments that deal with social value regularly know it well. But this insight tends to remain in a silo.
Until the industry can prioritise free and open communication across departments, organisations, and the wider industry, how can we expect everyone to reach the same level of understanding and engagement with social impact?
When asked whether they communicate social value between departments, to the public, or to potential providers, results were largely split.
Radical transparency of expectations, best practice, success stories, goals, and any lessons learnt is critical to maximising social value for infrastructure – and nearly any other industry, for that matter. It’s why we shone a spotlight on social value statements this month. They’re a great way for authorities and organisations to share their perspectives and aims. They bring everyone onto the same page and encourage us to learn as a wider industry.
Despite sizeable progress over the years, the infrastructure industry is still struggling with social value in a lot of ways. We believe that maximising value will take a whole industry effort, requiring better communication, increased flexibility and support, and raised confidence across the board.
The Impact platform helps all organisations involved in infrastructure bolster their social impact. With a discovery workshop to help you identify your local priorities and a framework-independent platform to help you manage complex processes with ease, there’s no end to how we can help. If you want to find out more, get in touch on 0161 532 4752.