It’s great to see how social value has driven change in the industry since its emergence in the Public Service Act 2012. The importance and responsibility of adding demonstrable social value has certainly grown as a result of this legislation. This is something we applaud.
The industry has, however, collectively struggled to agree on a singular social value definition. This is understandable as it’s such a far reaching and evolving aspect of design, and how you operate as a business. Its impact is so varied. Some obvious common themes flow through it yet it remains incredibly individualistic dependent on your viewpoint and areas of influence.
Looking in the mirror
We knew we needed to grapple with our own definitions and standards. It was clear to us that our people driven culture and social value impact were pre-existing and longstanding, but it was being communicated and measured in an informal way. The challenge that lay ahead for our employee-owned practice was to discover ways in which we could formalise and implement a strategy across work we undertook naturally.
How? Start with the ‘Why?’
We naively began the journey reviewing how our core values fit within other predetermined definitions and categorisation and quickly discovered an awkward disconnection. A one size fits all approach didn’t fit. It was a useful exercise which led our task group (a group of advocates, who also represented various parts of the business) to disregard other definitions and start with the obvious question – Why? This moment was a revolutionary point for our strategy and reinforced our decision to remain true to what drives us:
At Stride Treglown we are committed to sustainability and responding to social, environmental and economic issues across all aspects of our work. As designers, we recognise that we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make a positive contribution through the buildings and places that we create.
Social Value Policy 2020, Stride Treglown
Better places – empowering people – resilient partnerships
We began the huge task of mapping our social value impact onto the many established industry drivers such as the United Nations 17 Sustainable Goals, national policy and developing industry guidance. In truth we found this an interesting challenge, as social value affects all aspects of your business practices and project work, oftentimes switching from a big picture and little picture viewpoint.
We knew we had to get down to details. Organising our initiatives and priorities led to three key themes in our work: people, places and partnerships.
Each of the three themes were then subdivided into underpinning goals which allows the strategy to drill down into much more detail in specific areas. Doing this felt at times like the X-factor 6 chair challenge where some goals were added, exchanged or removed! But this iterative process – which very much resembled a design process – was vital.
All in the detail
Unlike other KPIs, social value prioritises outcomes rather than outputs. Agreeing the outcomes for each theme was a great deal easier now that the structure was in place, and the structure itself made it easier to talk to stakeholders. This wider engagement was crucial in mapping the right outcomes. We consulted with our employee forum, sector leads, data team and HR, as well as representatives from each office who sit on our Social Value Task Group.
It sounds obvious, but it’s also much easier to measure the success of each outcome when you know how they exist within the bigger picture. Being clear about what it is you are measuring for each primary and secondary outcome can help define short and long term goals. This keeps social value in the short and long term view.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
We’ve been honest about our journey, having come a long way to formalise what we already did so naturally. We also acknowledge this is something that will continue to evolve as we evolve.
We’re at a point in time where the business analysis has been collated, reviewed and distilled into a developing strategy. It’s now time to let it be a tool for the business. What’s equally important is that we use this as a tool to engage with others who are on their own social value journey.
Have a look at our social value story here.
We are really excited about the possibilities ahead now that the strategy has been formalised. Despite the pandemic interrupting our working ways this year, we have seized this opportunity to reflect back on what drives our business and initiate a unified direction of travel that ensures added value.
Watch this space, there are exciting plans ahead for the future of social value within Stride Treglown.
If you have questions, or would like to talk about your own social value journey, please get in touch with Karyn.