In his first column for Housing Digital, Andrew van Doorn outlines the key areas of discussion that have emerged from the launch of the HACT Social Value Roadmap
HACT has pioneered social value in social housing, launching the UK Social Value Bank with Simetrica-Jacobs back in 2014. Since then, the UK SVB calculator has been downloaded over 19,000 times and continues to be free for all housing associations.
Our social value roadmap, which we launched last year, has provoked unprecedented interest among our colleagues within the sector and beyond. At our first orientation meeting for supporters of the roadmap that we held in January, there were representatives from housing organisations, contractors, procurement organisations, and global investment fund managers.
Since its launch, I’ve had conversations with colleagues from over 50 organisations about social value and what they want the roadmap to achieve. A number of themes have emerged from these discussions, which I’m confident the social value roadmap will address.
The first is net-zero carbon. It’s a phrase that has become commonplace in many of the discussions we’re having externally and internally, and not just around social value. We were also, for example, recently asked about how the UK Housing Data Standards can be applied to environmental retrofits.
The first stage of the roadmap involves expanding and refreshing the existing wellbeing values, as well as developing new Exchequer or economic values, and, critically, environmental values.
Social value measurement in development and the built environment has traditionally focused on apprenticeships, job creation, and training. One of the key areas for expansion is to value the work that social landlords do in improving environmental sustainability, particularly in terms of the primary benefits to tenants and the secondary benefits to the exchequer.
We’re looking forward to working with project partners to ensure these values are relevant to their net-zero-carbon strategies.
Environmental, Social, Governance
The second area is closely related: ESG funding. One of the use cases contained within the roadmap expressly looks at ESG; and, as you can imagine from internal discussions that you may have had in your organisation, there is a lot of interest in this.
The Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing, which was announced last year and which HACT has endorsed, was a clear signal of the importance of ESG reporting for investment funds. As a self-disclosure framework, the reporting standard stops short of actually valuing the impact that a social landlord makes. Rather, it states that there should be a disclosure about how support to tenants is delivered, and how the impact of it is measured. Likewise, across all the domains, it is more about providing assurances that mechanisms are in place rather than describing the value of these assurances.
“There should be a disclosure about how support to tenants is delivered, and how the impact of it is measured”
The expanded UK Social Value Bank will speak directly not only to the social part of the Sustainability Standard, but also the environmental. With an enhanced valuation methodology that speaks to all domains, this will then give social landlords and their investors clarity about the value of implementing the standard, enabling everyone to make informed decisions on the choices that can be made based on the valuation of those outcomes. We have discussed and agreed with the Good Economy that it is important to ensure the Reporting Standard and the UKSVB are aligned going forward.
In developing this, and the other use cases in the roadmap, we will be testing them in live environments with project partners, who include fund managers. Those involved will have early access to the results of this testing, as well as the design of the tools mapped to their specific circumstances.
The value of tenancies
The third area is the social value of a tenancy. This is a subject that a number of organisations have raised, and I appreciate where the demand for this information is coming from. Without getting into too much detail, the critical difference between the work that has taken place around the social value of a tenancy and the UK Social Value Bank (UKSVB) is that the former values the secondary benefits of a social housing tenancy – the benefits to the state – rather than the benefits to the individual or the primary benefits.
As we expand the UKSVB, we will remain committed to primary benefits being the main valuation method, as agreed by the UK Social Value in Housing Taskforce. At the same time, the roadmap is committed to developing out the secondary benefits, or Exchequer Values, as part of the expansion of the UKSVB. These new values will be aligned to the Wellbeing Values, ensuring that they do not double count, and that they are methodologically consistent and robust.
Making data work
This takes us on to my final thoughts for this month’s column: if you are going to collect social value information, then you need to be doing something with it. Just saying that the social value of a tenancy is worth £x doesn’t really mean much. Our role as a sector should be about enhancing social value and making active decisions to do this on the back of robust information.
Social value needs to be located in the real experiences of people and communities. When thinking about social value, we can visualise the golden thread from the change people and communities need and want to see for themselves; through what organisations can do about it (how it fits their mission and purpose and ambition), what change or impact is made and, finally, what value does this drive.
“If you are going to collect social value information, then you need to be doing something with it”
The expanded UKSVB and associated use cases and tools will enable organisations to incorporate social value information into business decision-making. The tools will enable you to apply social value information to forecasting, performance measurement, and operational excellence. After all, social value isn’t just something that happens by chance. It needs to be planned for, invested in, and delivered.
There will be tools to help you apply social value to resident engagement, risk management, and regulation. It will promote cross-sector professional development, benchmarking, and assurance. And it will enable organisations to demonstrate the social value and economic benefit they bring to their residents and their communities.
We’re at the start of an exciting process with our social value roadmap, and I’m proud of the role that HACT is playing in pioneering social value for the social housing sector. Our roadmap is ambitious. Our roadmap is pioneering. Our roadmap will enable the social housing sector to use social value to improve services, enhance decision-making, and influence stakeholders.
Together, we can do more.
- To find out more about how you can get involved in the social value roadmap, please contact Andrew van Doorn
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