Delivering on measurable social value goals
Social value can be difficult to define and measure. But for Enfield Council's Peter George who is Programme Director for Meridian Water, clear and quantifiable aims is the easy bit.
“For us, social value is about delivering economic benefits to local people and ensuring contracts with our private sector development partners reflect that.” Peter George, Enfield Council.
Meridian Water is a £6 billion project to deliver 10,000 homes and 6,000 jobs alongside supporting infrastructure for what will be a new community of 25,000 people. Edmonton, where the project is based, is in the top 10% most deprived areas, so the key goal is to change that.
“We’re organising the whole programme so that the principal beneficiaries are the local people of Edmonton, so social value is integral,” says George. “We want them to benefit from the new homes, training opportunities, job opportunities as well as the new facilities and parks. We also want local businesses to benefit."
This means including clear social value goals in contracts with private sector partners working on Meridian Water.
Measurement is guided by the Index of Multiple Deprivation, which is broken down into nine areas, including skills and jobs, education, barriers to housing and health. All partners on the project have a variety of performance measures, starting with equality and diversity.
“We also monitor things like the number of jobs being created, how many local people are employed, the local businesses benefiting from what they're doing, how many people they are upskilling and apprenticeships created,” he says.
This is already delivering skills training programmes from apprenticeships to a scholarship for a local student to study architecture. Planning permission has also been granted for a skills academy which the private sector will partly fund.
The academy will provide construction and retrofit skills training for over 500 local people every year.
A TV and film skills academy for local residents is also being built as part of Troubadour Theatre’s new TV and film studio complex at Meridian Water.
George says the Council has also got its major partners to invest in mentoring programmes.
“It's not just about getting people in the door, it's about keeping them. There is a higher number of dropouts among women, black, Asian and ethnic minorities in certain parts of the construction industry, so it's not just financial support, but also emotional support.”
Aside from adding value through skills and jobs, money going directly into the local economy includes an Enfield business which has been given a £12 million contract by one of the main project partners.
Meridian Water benefits from economies of scale – the project will take another 20 years to develop out. Improving skills within the local labour force is an obvious win for both the council and private sector, particularly in the construction industry, where there is a shortage of skilled workers.
“The sweet spot with social value is where there's an alignment of interest. It's more likely to happen and be successful, where the social value benefits both the public and private sector but finding that sweet spot is not always easy,” says George.
Looking ahead, George is interested in how procurement can be reorganised so that local companies are not just benefitting from the supply chain but can be directly awarded contracts.
He also wants to strengthen the relationship between the private sector partners and local schools and colleges to inspire young people and help shape the curriculum.
Aside from the goal of lifting Edmonton out of deprivation, what does success ultimately look like?
George says it’s about ensuring that local people have felt benefits from the project, that it has improved their day-to-day lives.
“There's an absence of hope in many of these areas, and building hope and aspiration particularly among the younger generation is hugely powerful,” he says. “If local people say the project is a success, then that will be one of the biggest confirmations that it's successful.”