There are certain definitions that comes to mind when hearing the words ‘Social Value’. Social values are positive impacts, and the core element that lies within is what we return to a community.

‘Material’, ‘Personal’, or ‘Societal’?

Different communities have different needs, and therefore what could be contributed as ‘Social Impact Value’ in one area may differ from another area. In simple terms, social impacts such as job creation are easily quantified and easily understood within the development context. It requires an investor or developer to create certain jobs.

This is certainly straightforward, but what we want to discuss here is about how to use innovative ways to create values, how we can create a core platform to diversify social benefits and how to engage with communities to gain better results and return on values.

There are so many angels to this, and in a modest definition, the diagram below attempts to capture ‘the process’ for embedding social values in development and the outcomes that corresponds to the process.    

‘Initial Thought Process for Creation or Maximising Social Values’

What are the key social impact values that can be created by a development

Creating social values is a thought process and cannot be formulated as such. Therefore, a robust understanding of a community’ it’s needs’ are fundamental to this process.

For instance, developing a gender inclusive development, or a development that considers the needs of vulnerable people. A community-based participatory approach allows different stakeholders to provide input into social and community development programmes, strategies and tools for creation of social values. 

Different techniques and structures, such as the use of an online platform, could obtain key beneficiaries’ input and incorporate them into an early design stage. Developments also could lead to creation of social capitals i.e. project related community centres, training and development enterprises in which people from different backgrounds and neighbourhoods could gather and exchange ideas and knowledge.

In many project examples, developments have brought inspiration for younger generations for hope of a better future. The creation of hope, bringing motivation for people, and improving local knowledge are all considered as ‘Social Values’, which in theory cannot be specified or monetised.

Investors or developers may not recognise the importance of such values in practice, but, experience and lessons learnt have demonstrated that creating ‘hope’ and ‘trust’ are the basis for a joint-effort collaboration between development and a community for a long-lasting economic return.

Although short term economic returns could easily occur during the short-term development period, not considering these social values could certainly harm a development in a long run. Did you know that a new report from WSP has found that the social value of Science, Technology, Engineer and Math (STEM) apprenticeships could exceed £6 billion in the UK? Read more here.


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