Creating Social Value Through Infrastructure

Posted on the 28th October 2020

Creating social value is no longer just the work of the community sector. As we attempt to “build back” our economies through infrastructure projects, everyone across the construction sector is being asked to embed social value.  But what is Social Value? And how exactly does one go about creating it through infrastructure?

Jacobs have released this blueprint to suggest a few options that might inspire you…

An excerpt from Before & Beyond the Build Executive Summary:

Many nations around the world have experienced long periods of positive economic growth, but the benefits of growth have not been distributed equally or fairly amongst all members of society. Some have benefited more than others, and high levels of intergenerational and income inequality, homelessness and poverty remain, even in historically prosperous nations.

Recognising the global challenge, in 2015 the United Nations launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs called for worldwide action across governments, business and civil society to address 17 critical societal issues and were adopted by all UN signatories in the same year.

The growing economic and social divide, combined with a constrained funding environment, and changing societal expectations has forced governments, businesses and not-for-profits to re-evaluate the role they play in creating a fairer society; where development is sustainable and inclusive, and its benefits are shared more equitably amongst all members of society. We’re seeing a new wave of models and approaches, such as social procurement, social enterprise and impact investing, that place a greater emphasis on societal and human-centred outcomes.

Right now, we have an opportunity to look at infrastructure investments through a deeply collaborative and strategic lens and consider how we can leverage these new models and approaches to design, deliver/build and operate infrastructure in a way that could support us to tackle some of today and tomorrow’s most pressing challenges.

Infrastructure projects have a critical role to play in achieving the UN SDGs. A 2018 report by the University of Oxford and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) found that networked and non-networked infrastructure investment will contribute to achieving up to 80% of sustainable development targets. We also know there is around $68.5 trillion in planned infrastructure investment globally in the next two decades.

What if this infrastructure could be planned, delivered/built and operated to generate enduring social value, helping to address and overcome some of the most entrenched social issues in our communities?

There are many local, one-off, single discipline examples of innovative approaches to creating social value and positive community outcomes through infrastructure projects. What we need now is a connected and scalable approach to incorporating social value innovations into projects at scale to generate positive social outcomes and improve community wellbeing.

The need for change is urgent. Recent global events have shone a bright spotlight on the growing divide between different groups in society. As economic growth slows and governments try to balance funding constraints with the need for stimulus to help reboot their economies, there is a growing sense that now is the time to think differently about the way infrastructure is planned, delivered/built and operated to improve the wellbeing of all members
of society.

This paper presents a blueprint for generating social value through infrastructure investments, introducing five components that can be embedded across the project lifecycle: big data analytics, co-design and self-determinism, progressive infrastructure financing and funding, social procurement, and robust measurement practices.

Of course, the blueprint is just the first step. The next step is to collaborate with willing partners to test and refine it and, ultimately, determine how effective infrastructure is as a vehicle for generating lasting social value for current and future generations.

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