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Building momentum: SVUK and built environment in 2020

Merry Christmas from a sector that has taken big strides to Build Back Better.

After the strangest year on record, this one has come to its end. Much was put on hold; one of the sectors that has been anything but standing still is the built environment. And being a sector well represented in our membership, we thought it would be a good time to share a few of the things that has been going on. So, grab your mulled drink, minced pie, lean back and let us tell you the story of what happened in the built environment and social value movement this year.

It was a rainy January day when the year of 2020 sprung to life and little did we know about what was awaiting. In the end of the month, jolly members met with new acquaintances in the biggest National Social Value Conference ever hosted. And guess what? Over 50% of the attendees were from the built environment sector. It was momentary and evident how the social value attention, aspiration and commitment from the sector had grown exponentially.

Then came COVID-19. But whilst many didn’t know what to do, hospitals still needed their services and maintenance, roads were kept after for the reduced traffic to be running and many projects that had been started continued. Nevertheless, the furlough, uncertainty and worries became familiar shadows noone could get rid of.

Build Back Better? Yes, that was the slogan the UK used to turn this devastation for the country into something that could perhaps bring some positives. And in its spirit, we’ve had our members continue to push social value high on the agenda:

  • As a Relevant Authority for Social Capital for a new industry process and toolkit for value, 17 members have worked hard to help develop the support that sets out to change how contracts are being procured and managed. For more, check out the recent blog or project pages.
  • Thanks to SeerBridge, a planning policy sneaked in with a last-minute panel at Social Value Matter that became one of the most attended sessions. In its aftermath our members set up another event, a LinkedIn group, a Milo board and the collaboration that then ultimately produced a response to the Government white paper on the future of planning.
  • The built environment thought leadership group still organised events and Real Worth who’s behind the one for designed and use of buildings and places, also helped pull together a regional event for members to respond to Liverpool’s new Spatial Development Plan.
  • The ‘How Do Companies Act?’ campaign continued and continues, gaining more attention and signatories by the day.
  • We welcomed the Central Government’s new amendments to the Social Value Act
  • and hosted two webinars. For those who missed it or want to get up to speed, we’re also organising two ‘How to’ workshops in January.

And then as an early Christmas gift, the government published the Construction Playbook and key guidance for public works projects. On the positive side, social value is undoubtedly featured, and the Playbook mentions outcomes repeatedly. But… what does this mean in practice? Is this just intended positive outcomes? Will it include negative ones? Will outcomes be well defined? The guidance does leave question marks for us as a network. Another new edition to the landscape that is worth mentioning on this theme, is the new guidance from BSI 8950 on enhancing social value, which describes outcomes as dimensions of wellbeing. The challenge for any social value measurement is measuring what really matters to people and this means defining the right outcomes.

And with that we’ll leave you to enjoy your mulled beverage and your own thoughts.

We hope you’ll come with us into 2021, as eager as we, to continue the work to reach new heights and build on the social value momentum that has already started.

Merry Christmas!

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