In addition to the tight margins on construction tenders that limit scope for any ‘extras’, there are other challenges for the bid team. For one thing, teams tend to be highly focused on project deliverables. Thinking or talking about activities that aren’t part of core project delivery is a cultural shift.
When I’m helping teams prepare for an interview it’s difficult enough to lift heads from the detail to look at the bigger picture of client value. And that’s before thinking about things that can seem a bit like “soft and fluffy stuff”.
But, like it or not, heads have to be lifted. Social value has to be defined and quantified.
So how do we do this? We ask (and occasionally force) teams to see the project from the perspective of the client, the stakeholders and the community in which they might be operating.
You won’t get vital community insights sitting in your office. There’s nothing like taking a physical tour around the area on foot (not in the car!). Meeting local people at community events will help you to understand what they would recognise as valuable. Yes, it’s time consuming. But it gives you first hand evidence of what locals think and need - input that can support your proposal.
People appreciate being listened to and heard. Prove that you are a listening organisation by backing up your social value commitment by publishing ‘you said, we did…’ evidence.
You may not always like what you learn. It will raise real challenges. But not knowing what people think doesn’t make their thoughts go away. Being aware of local issues from the outset means there are opportunities to design highly relevant solutions into the wider project delivery. If it doesn’t meet a recognised need it’s likely to be a token effort.
Who defines ‘value’?
Clients might define value as anything that helps secure wider strategic or community objectives. Value could also be simplifying the planning approval process by involving communities in the proposed project. Communities will only see value if there is a meaningful and tangible impact on their lives.
Good for business
The UK construction industry faces an unprecedented anticipated shortfall in skilled labour over the next few years. To address this issue every construction company we work with is straining every sinew to attract and retain staff. A commitment to delivering social value is good for your image. It makes you a more attractive employer in a competitive recruitment environment.
Another massive area for adding “social value” is through use of natural resources, energy consumption and bio-diversity. More re-cycling, re-using products, and eliminating waste all deliver social value as well as reduced costs.
Social value legacies can help increase pride in a location; reducing crime and vandalism. For example, Queen Elizabeth Park in East London was built originally for the 2012 Olympics. It is still being actively used and has spurred the re-generation of huge swathes of East London. In your next construction tender, think about opportunities to go beyond building structures and do more to build communities.