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Better social value data management for building back better

Better social value data management for building back better

Author: Jeremy Galpin, lead consultant for social value at Costain

This is the first in a series of articles that explores the potential of technology to help us maximise the impact of our social value initiatives through better gathering and management of data. In this first article, we look at how standardising, sharing and managing social value data is being improved through digital technology.

The National Infrastructure Strategy, published in November 2020, describes the Government’s plan for rebuilding the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic and for addressing some of the longer term issues it says have limited the UK’s infrastructure sector. It includes tens of billions of pounds of investment in projects that support economic growth.

Both the government and investors want to ensure the investment in infrastructure is aligned with an increasing focus on Economic Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. It is important that the social element of the ESG framework has sufficient emphasis on outcomes for people, balanced with the environment and governance metrics. So, how do we ensure these schemes help us “build back fairer, faster and greener” as the Government hopes?

Standardising the data

Delivering social value on infrastructure schemes is influenced by the whole range of organisations delivering an infrastructure asset. Complex supply chains, where networks and trust are key to successful delivery, encompass multiple layers, criteria and subsystems. There are at least 10 value frameworks in use to measure social value including skills, the environment, diversity and inclusion, employment, innovation and exports. These are also then split between local and national needs. The challenges in navigating the complexity of collating, measuring and communicating social value data could lead to a failure to deliver the promised social value – something that is detrimental to the parties involved and society as a whole.

There are a number of tools that help companies define, capture and record the social value that’s been created through projects to help demonstrate we are building back better and fairer. For example, the National Themes Outcomes and Measures (TOMs) Framework, recently updated to respond to COVID-19, helps organisations by providing a ‘minimum and consistent reporting standard’. While larger organisations are repurposing existing internal systems to support the collection of social value data. These are all steps in the right direction but a single industry standard for the social value data needs to be established quickly to stop the proliferation of multiple, different standards.

The Government’s recently published Greenbook is a helpful step in this direction and as part of the National Digital Twin programme, the CDBB is working towards a ‘commons’ for Digital Built Britain which will need to include reference data for social value.

This is good progress on improving the metrics and standardising the data but are there further steps we could take as an industry to bring data together in a way that can harness its complexity so that we can demonstrate even greater value and drive continuous improvement?


The complexity of data systems

Understanding a local community’s collective needs at system level is integral to identifying the right social value initiatives for a scheme. But it is not easy to compare engagement in Hackney with engagement in Islington even though the two London Boroughs are next door to each other. Some elements of segmenting the data are essential as well as some element of standardisation.

Systems architecture and cloud base data platforms can help manage the interconnectedness of social value, so that an environmental piece of work also considers and links to the educational, employment, and wellbeing value and reflects the nuances of different geographical locations. Changes and trends can be mapped and opportunities to enhance outcomes throughout the lifecycle of an asset easily identified.


Managing and sharing the data to drive learnings and best practice at scale

To draw all the complex data together to share learnings and drive best practice at scale across a programme and indeed the industry, Costain is working with the multinational software provider, SAP, and Keytree (a Deloitte company) to develop a new Cloud-based platform called the Intelligent Infrastructure Control Centre (IICC).

The IICC brings the operational data from an infrastructure project together in one place where it can inform decisions and transform delivery. It will also help us unearth, interlink and federate complex social value data in one place. Where data is not easily available, it uses artificial intelligence to deep mine the existing data to manufacture data that means you can start to predict the outcomes and look at scenarios.

Aligned with a range of different value frameworks and government guidance that our stakeholders believe provides the optimum framework for the infrastructure sector, the IICC’s social value module will first be used by the ‘Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy Living Lab’ (TIES Living Lab) consortium. Members such as Transport for London (TfL), East West Rail Company, HS2 and Network Rail are able to put in the value of their projects and the parameters for the social value baseline that they need to achieve. It will then display what the monetised social value targets should be.

The IICC will also be able to track current performance against that baseline. It will be enabled to capture the outputs data of social value initiatives, such as the number and kind of jobs created as well as the outcomes data, such as feedback from wellbeing surveys that look at happiness ratings.

The increased transparency and accuracy enabled by the IICC can be more effective in enforcing performance and delivery against promises made. Greater visibility of what social value has been delivered through government procurement will benefit all stakeholders. Transparency can also assist businesses that did not win the contract to understand why and drive-up best practice sharing as part of competition. It allows both positive and poor behaviours to be called out.

Intuitive to use, the IICC dashboards present the quantitative data and act as a portal to drill down into more qualitative data which can include infographics, videos, heatmaps and individual stories. The immediate accessibility of this data will enable data driven decisions that have the power to do even more to engage stakeholders and improve people’s lives.


The future of social value data

The next stage will be linking all this data into digital twins so social value data gathered in delivery phase can inform opportunities to enhance social value during operations, ensure continuous improvement and grow best practice at scale across the industry. This data in digital twins would provide a sense of trend and direction, enabling better decisions on issues that affect social and economic prosperity across the whole lifecycle of an asset, so organisations can adapt their initiatives to achieve better outcomes. In so doing it will enable the goal of digital twins which is ultimately to benefit people, society and nature and to deliver public good. For example, the digital twin of a new strategic pipeline we’re working on with Microsoft, will help Anglian Water better understand the impact of their operations on the environment and on the communities they serve, right across their network and its lifecycle.

Digital technology such as the IICC and digital twins are already starting to enable a more comprehensive capture of social value data and make it transparent and accessible. The wealth of data and analytics will be pivotal in balancing the focus on owners, clients, and operators with the impact on users, society and local communities, helping to ensure we “build back fairer, faster and greener.”


Read part two in a series of articles that explores the potential of technology to help us maximise the impact of our social value initiatives through better gathering and management of data. In this article, we look at how digital technology is improving the conversations we are having with communities and the data that demonstrates we are improving people’s lives.

To find out how the IICC could benefit your organisation contact [email protected]