This post is guest authored by Wesley Ankrah, Founder and Managing Director of SeerBridge.
When I first sat down with Ally Kennedy, a Director at BECG, I can honestly say that I had no idea what a communications agency really did. I’ve worked with different political and communications agencies over the years since I began working in the built environment, but if truth be told, I just thought they were the people who spoke to politicians on behalf of developers.
Nine months on from that first conversation, I find myself and my business SeerBridge working in partnership with BECG on an exciting new mission to push the social value agenda to the forefront of the built environment.
The timing of this relationship could not be more pertinent. As we began working together to support clients in understanding how to maximise and measure their social value, the Planning for the Future White Paper landed. On one hand it is exciting that we get to witness this once in a lifetime change to planning policy, however, I was left deeply disappointed that social value was not mentioned once throughout the entire document. How is this even possible? We have a system of planning that is failing its communities and an Act of Parliament that was passed as legislation only eight years ago, making social value a statutory requirement of public procurement and clearly demonstrating a desire to achieve more value from public spending. Yet here we are in 2020 about to see the most radical planning reforms being passed and there is not one mention of social value.
I’ve been talking about social value it seems for far too long and I’m definitely not seeing how communities or charitable organisations are benefitting from the Social Value Act. I would even go as far as saying that the voluntary sector is more or less excluded from the whole social value movement, because they simply cannot afford the measurement services and consultancy fees from large organisations who can quantify their outcomes and outputs. The number of charities I speak with that are not aware of the Social Value Act is still extraordinarily high – but whether or not they know of its existence is irrelevant if they are unable to access the knowledge and training needed to gain benefits from social value.
Since working with BECG, I have seen first-hand the importance of their role in engaging communities on all kinds of development in their area, from the very start of the process right through until infrastructure is built, homes are occupied and businesses up and running.
BECG’s in-depth knowledge of how to engage communities, along with my expertise about how to empower communities presents a unique opportunity to enable organisations to embrace the built environment to deliver real social change, and allows developers to target their efforts and resources effectively to achieve this.