Socius director Olaide Oboh and Savills Earth’s new director of social value Wesley Ankrah tell Montfort Real Estate’s Andrew Teacher that developers could play a critical role in supporting culture and youth development.
Youth services, which have seen their annual funding cut by local authorities by more than £1 billion over the past decade, are under particular strain at the moment. It’s an area where developers can step in to plug the gap in support and have an immediate beneficial impact on young people’s lives.
It’s a field that Ankrah knows well, having started his career in youth services, while Oboh’s non-traditional route to real estate started in the marketing team at Marks and Spencer.
Ankrah now leads the social value team at Savills Earth, attracted by the opportunity to “shape what social value looks like for a FTSE250 company”. With an increased amount of focus on the E and G in recent years across the business world, there are still open questions surrounding social value’s role in the ESG equation and how can it be measured.
For Oboh and Ankrah there is a balance to be struck between incorporating and measuring data, and ensuring that social value generates long-term benefits for the community. “We make massive assumptions that social value data is as robust as financial data,” Ankrah observes. “It isn’t. It isn’t possible to count every element of social value, as the data doesn’t exist yet.”
For Oboh, “it’s about the impact on people and the case studies. We’ve got to tell people’s stories, as people buy into stories and understand stories much better.”
“Local authorities should be holding developers much more accountable on social value”, Oboh continues, to ensure councils are getting as much social value as possible and avoid developers ‘social washing’. “Most of us are willing to pay more because it’s aligned with our values and we’re making a long-term decision rather than a short-term profit decision. As Socius do, we balance profit with purpose.”
Both recognise the key role played by partnerships, whether that’s through Socius looking to influence its wider supply chain to do more for local communities through creating jobs, apprenticeships or providing assemblies at schools, or through partnering with both local authorities and communities to ensure that social value is delivered not just for this generation, but the generations that follow.
Ultimately, credibility matters more than ever and building long-lasting relationships through early engagement with all stakeholders within the community remains a central tenet for social value. For Ankrah “there’s a lot of guff that is just said and not delivered on.”
It will require concerted effort in the real estate industry to move on from empty promises at planning committee to ensure that it creates places and spaces that benefit the communities it builds in.