This Learning Report focuses on the creation of a social value strategy. It describes the six step process used to understand the context of working in Slough, to unearth local priorities and to set in place a forward plan for social value for Yondr Group Ltd.

Recognising the importance of community consultation and partnership in creating social value, Yondr enlisted the support of Groundwork in the development of a social value strategy and community action plan linked to the building of a new data center in Slough. Yondr acquired the site in 2019 – previously the AkzoNobel (Dulux) factory – and is in the early stages of construction of a new data center facility. One of Yondr’s key aim’s as a company is to be a ‘welcomed addition to any community’, aiming to achieve this goal through initiatives derived from community consultation and developed to directly address the needs of community members, in this case, the Slough community.

Yondr worked with Groundwork to develop the ‘Yondr Approach to Social Value’ – a set of guidelines for social value creation which will have worldwide application as part of new Yondr developments in different countries. There is no universal understanding of the term ‘social value’, while in the UK this has been defined by the Social Value Act of 2012, Yondr is a Global company and is determined to add value to their communities everywhere. Yondr defines social value as “meeting the current needs of the industry and the communities in which we work; improving the quality of life for generations to come.”  To be applicable worldwide, a good starting point is to understand what’s important for the local communities impacted by a project and therefore what can be done to enhance the overall quality of community life. This is exactly what Yondr and Groundwork set out to do in Slough.

Yondr is a developer, owner operator and service provider of hyperscale data centers internationally. Yondr aims to set the standards within the industry offering both the most advanced technical capabilities as well as industry leading sustainability and social value practices. Yondr is committed to providing real, life-changing opportunities to people in the locations where they operate through education, training and employment.

Groundwork is a UK wide charity delivering economic, social and environmental projects in communities. Operating for almost 40 years, Groundwork works in partnership with government (local and national) and business to deliver rich outcomes for our beneficiaries. In a typical year Groundwork raises and invests approximately £90m into UK communities and has worked in Slough for many years with established stakeholder connections. Groundwork has considerable experience in facilitating and delivering projects of this nature locally, designed to achieve strong economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Using Slough as a case study, Yondr and Groundwork have developed a six stage approach to social value creation in communities worldwide. We encourage other businesses and organisations to use this information in creating social value and encourage community members to get involved in these practices locally.

Stage 1 – Scoping the Need

At the project initiation stage, Yondr engaged Groundwork on account of strong local networks and knowledge. Once the partnership was formed, we set up a social value steering group with key staff from Yondr and Groundwork (nationally and locally) and started to work on a broad plan for engagement. Groundwork assessed local conditions through our own knowledge of the area and understanding of the broad issues in Slough through the indices of multiple deprivation.

Stage 2 – Determine the Assessment Criteria

Based on the scope, we created a broad set of criteria and established the baseline context for the potential work, defining characteristics of a successful plan and broad cost parameters. We knew that Slough Borough Council were keen to see benefits delivered in the town over and above the requirements set out in the section 106 planning agreement. A focus on youth and young adult unemployment was identified but with scope to bring other projects with strong community and environmental outcomes to the table.

Stage 3 – Data Collection

Community consultation is an integral part of this process, community members should be the key architects in determining what initiatives are most important for the project. In Slough, Groundwork started with key statutory organisations such as the Department of Work and Pensions and the local authority’s NEET branch, before engaging with wider partnerships including YES Slough, the Slough Business Community Partnership and the local Council for Voluntary organisations. Groundwork engaged the education sector e.g. Brunel University, Langley College and local schools and other 3rd sector organisations such as Slough Refugee Centre. Feedback from this process of consultation was overwhelmingly positive, with many of the organisations pointing out the difference in this approach through its focus on community collaboration and partnership.

Stage 4 – Data Analysis

Through the community consultation process and data collection we had a number of key findings:

Slough is a unique place – 42% of its residents were born outside the UK, and has high socio-economic deprivation in places with 16% of children living in low income households. 22% of the residents are under the age of 20.

There is a comparative lack of accessible green space within the town although within a short distance of Slough there are some amazing parks and open countryside.

Whilst the town has some high profile employers the majority of people in the highest paid jobs do not live within the town meaning that much of the income generated is not retained in the town. There is a below average number of construction apprenticeships and female employment is 8% lower than the national average.

This information and understanding of the community was then used to identify problem areas that could feasibly be addressed by Yondr in an impactful and positive way.

Stage 5 – Prioritisation

A long list of project ideas and potential costs was presented to the steering group including options across three themes:

  • Economic – CSCS Cards funding scheme; Professional behaviours and attitudes training courses; Adult learning in construction, IT and business; Females in STEM university scholarship; Industry placements (in partnership with FE providers); Traineeships/ Apprenticeships for NEETs; Kickstart 18-24 DWP 6 month paid roles;
  • Community – Employee engagement to develop local community projects; Yondr grass roots small grants programme; Film-maker residency with Resource Productions; Hoarding project for schools/ children
  • Environmental – Green team waged trainee programme sponsorship; Access to nature at Iver Environment Centre;

The social value group prioritised the ideas using an Action Priority Matrix to review short, medium and longer term priorities, and agreed to focus on the following projects to initiate the strategy in Slough. Other long list options will be delivered in future years.

  • Route to work programme – directly responding to the comparative lack of apprenticeship and traineeships in Slough, and seeking alignment with the Government Kickstart programme to take on 16 trainees, providing training and qualifications, London Living Wage uplift, and guaranteed job interviews for identified entry level places within Yondr or supply chain partners
  • School hoardings project – designed to connect to the young people of slough, we created a project with local schools to design pictures for site hoarding with a local artist commissioned to paint them on.
  • ‘Employee volunteering’ to develop local community projects – management of volunteering days (insurances, risk assessments, contact with community groups etc) to directly support the communities in Slough
  • Sponsor Slough Female Student for STEM based college education – supporting social mobility in Slough and encouraging more females into STEM subjects with up to £30k support for living expenses to support for Slough residents
  • Iver Environment Centre school trips for Slough schools – supporting 600 schoolchildren across 10 schools to address the lack of urban opportunities to interact with nature, through paid trips to the Iver Environment Centre
Stage 6 – Next Steps

Groundwork is now working alongside Yondr and other stakeholders to implement these projects. We keep an active dialogue between partners and will keep options under review at key moments through construction and operational phases.