Last year, when I made the move from managing Willmott Dixon’s HR projects, to heading up our Foundation, I was hugely excited. Like most of our people, I had been touched by the Foundation’s stories – of the hard work and dedication of our people, the generosity of our supply chain partners – and the courage of the people with whom we work, who overcome almost unimaginable odds in order to make their way in the world.
Stories are what brings the work of the Foundation to life, and help us understand the extent of the impact of what we do. As someone who has built a career working with people, I am drawn to the stories.
But these days, when businesses are becoming increasingly purpose driven, and when there are pictures of smiling community groups on practically every business’ website, how can we be sure that what we are doing is not just a PR stunt, but is actually making a difference?
The more I become familiar with the work of the Foundation, the more I realise the importance of all the work that’s gone on behind the scenes to make sure that we have robust systems for planning, collecting, assessing and reporting our social value performance.
Our numbers (which are externally verified) provide our customers with robust data on what we have done in their local communities. They mean we can set targets which drive us to improve year on year.
In 2016 we introduced what we call our Social Value Account – a tool which helps us to calculate the monetary “value” of our initiatives. It uses proxy financial data provided by an independent external expert in the field, to provide us with an idea of the value of our interventions to society.
During 2017 some of our projects have used this methodology to demonstrate the equivalent financial value they added through community activities to the local area. In early 2018 we were able to celebrate our first project returning over 10% of its contractual value in social return – and that is before you count the amount of money we spend in the local area on goods and services. During the summer months of 2018 a tool will be rolled out across the business to enable all our projects to scope, plan and report their social value in this way.
While data might seem a rather dull component of the Foundation’s work, it is absolutely key to helping us answer fundamental questions like: are we actually making a long-term difference to people’s lives? Are we really helping our customers and communities in the way they want? and which interventions are likely to have the most impact?. The changes we make during 2018 will also mean we can confidently represent the value of our social value proposals in bids and tenders. We can replicate commitments akin to that of our Framework Partner, Scape, where we will deliver a social return on investment for each of our joint projects, worth at least 10% of the value of the project. We can make it even easier for customers to choose us for reasons beyond the quality of our buildings.
So there are lots of fantastic stories in the Review – which you can find by clicking the ‘case studies’ button at the top of the screen. I hope you find them as inspirational as I do.
But I would also urge you to look at the sections on our Impact, which show the scale of what our people have done: the 61,000 hours that our people dedicated to community investment work – equivalent to around £900 per employee; the 1,471 mock interviews; the 900 work experience opportunities – and so it goes on.
Do also take a look at how we are doing against our target – to enhance the life-chances of 10,000 young people – which commits us to transformational change. The link to how we measure explains how strict we are when allowing interventions to count against the target!
Finally – I’d like to offer my thanks to everyone who makes this work possible – site teams, both within our supply chain and within Willmott Dixon, the support functions and our wonderful legacy and community managers, who drive community investment through the business, who plan initiatives and interventions, who painstakingly input the resulting data, and who participate in our often heated, but always good-natured debates about what counts and what doesn’t!.