BLOG: Increasing Social Value Opportunities in Community Infrastructure Projects

In June’s P4P blog, Lyn Brown, Business Support Co-ordinator for hub North Scotland, outlines how the introduction of the new Social Value Portal model will help increase procurement opportunities for social enterprises in community infrastructure construction projects.

Introduction

Hub North Scotland is one of five hubCos created by the Scottish Futures Trust to deliver inspiring infrastructure projects for communities.

We are a public/private joint venture company consisting of 16 public sector organisations, including local authorities and health boards, across the north of Scotland, the Scottish Futures Trust, and private sector partners.

The hub North Scotland territory covers 62% of Scotland, ranging from Argyll and Bute in the west, the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, and the Highlands, to Moray, Aberdeenshire, and Aberdeen city in the east. Since it was launched in 2011, hub North Scotland has been responsible for £700 million of infrastructure projects in the education, healthcare, and emergency service sectors with a healthy pipeline of future work and plans to extend into social housing.

Community benefits are a key part of all our projects, particularly training, jobs, and opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). That has seen 314 new local jobs created by our projects along with 200 apprenticeships and trainees and supported 126 graduates into employment. In addition, more than £450 million of work packages have gone to SMEs. These work packages include everything from steelworks and major earthworks to soft landscaping, fencing, decorating and signage.

Switching over to social value

With community benefits now firmly established as part of the construction procurement landscape, it was clear there is potential to achieve much more. A review by the Scottish Future Trust’s hub Programme Management Office has resulted in a shift to a new model – social value. This is the natural successor to the community benefits model as social value looks at a broader range of measures and outcomes which can deliver more relevant benefits to local communities.

Social value is quantified through a menu of Themes, Outcomes and Measures (TOMs) and recorded on the Social Value Portal, which is a national on-line framework for reporting social value by organisations across the UK. The Scottish Futures Trust has agreed a set of 48 bespoke TOMs within the Social Value Portal, which will be used by the five hubCos to select from for their projects.

The TOMs menu being used by the hubCos will allow social value to be aligned with local and central government policies and priorities, such as the National Performance Framework. It will also allow tailored targets to be set for individual projects with a clear focus on local needs. Proxy values are used to monetise the social value outputs. These proxy values follow HM Treasury principles for monetising economic, environmental, and social impact.

Social value is part of the hubCos invitation to tender (ITT) process with appropriate and realistic targets discussed and agreed with Tier 1 contractors and design teams.

What does it mean for social enterprises?

The social value TOMs being used by the hubCos have several measures specifically aimed at creating more opportunities for social enterprises and other third sector organisations (TSOs). These include opportunities for long term unemployed, rehabilitating young offenders and people with disabilities. A construction site is no constraint with opportunities available in office work and catering. Several of our projects have used social enterprises to provide the main catering facilities on site. Social enterprises and TSOs can register for our supply chain via our website.

 In addition, there has been a growing recognition by our public sector clients and our Tier contractors of the importance of having and using social enterprises and TSOs in their supply chain. For example, we are currently working with Aberdeen City Council and the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to identify potential social enterprise opportunities for forthcoming projects.

What is hub North Scotland doing?

Hub North Scotland has fully committed to using the Social Value Portal model and is in the process of switching over for our new projects. We will be using it for the Torry Primary School & Community Hub and Countesswells Primary School projects we are delivering on behalf of Aberdeen City Council.  Discussions have already been held with Aberdeen City Council and our Tier 1 contractor for the projects, Morrison Construction, to agree which TOMs will be used and the targets. Work is due to begin at Torry this summer.

We will also be using the Social Value Portal for the new Barra and Vatersay Community Campus (BVCC) project in Castlebay, which we are currently developing with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles. As part of that process, a BVCC Social Value & Community Benefits Group has been created with membership including social enterprises and third sector organisations. This group is meeting regularly to discuss potential TOMs.

To complement this switch to social value, hub North Scotland has taken the opportunity to refresh its supply chain offering. We currently have an approved list of Tier 2 suppliers, which is provided to our Tier 1 contractors when they are appointed to one of our projects. They are encouraged to use suppliers from this list.

We have developed an on-line supply chain portal which will be launched shortly. This portal will have details of our Tier 2 supply chain, the services they offer and the geographical areas they work in. The portal will also identify social enterprises and third sector organisations registered with us and the services they can offer. Our Tier 1 contractors will be able to access the portal to find potential suppliers when appointed to projects. The new portal will go live this summer and social enterprises and TSOs can register via our website.

The new portal will also have a communications area where suppliers can get details of upcoming projects, opportunities, and initiatives. Further features are planned once it is established.

Furthermore, Hub North Scotland has also developed a closer working relationship with P4P and Social Enterprise Scotland as we plan to maximise the opportunities we can create for social enterprises.

Conclusion

There can be no doubt the construction industry now has a far better understanding of and commitment to delivering meaningful benefits to local communities. The introduction of the Social Value Portal model is a logical progression of that.

At the same time, our public sector clients are beginning to embrace community wealth building with a far bigger desire to keep as much of their infrastructure investment as local as possible, combined with more collaboration with VCSEs and TSOs.

That can only bring more opportunities for social enterprises. There is a willingness by all parties to make that happen. By working together, it will become the new normal.

Further information on hub North Scotland can be found at www.hubnorthscotland.co.uk

Details about the Social Value Portal can be found at www.socialvalueportal.com