Please describe your role and responsibilities, how many years you have been in the company?
I joined Willmott Dixon seven years ago as a Management Trainee in our energy efficiency and retrofit department. Over the years, I found that I was drawn to the elements of my role that involved people and communities. When a job opportunity in the Foundation team came up I jumped at the chance and have now been with the Foundation team for just over two years. My role as Foundation Manager involves day-to-day support for our regional community teams across the business, developing new systems and processes to enable them to easily capture and report the great things that they do in the community. I also collaborate with people outside of the business, keeping abreast of new ideas and trends in social value. It’s this part of my role that I find most exciting; I enjoy learning new things and working out if/ how we can apply them to our business.
What was your background previously and where did your interest in community begin?
At University I studied Geography. This mostly focused on the physical elements of the environment and climate change, but what I always found most interesting was how our environment affected people and communities.
How has your community investment program evolved at your company?
Social Value has evolved massively at Willmott Dixon, even in the short time that I’ve worked for the Foundation team. As a construction business we are often working in the core of communities and by the nature of our work this can often be disruptive. Taking this into account, the teams have always been brilliant at engaging with the communities that we work in; inviting them to come and look around our sites and teaching them about the construction process.
Over the past few years, the teams have also been working with our local communities to understand their needs and how we can help them. This can be anything from tackling youth unemployment through to developing our Building Lives Academies, which focus on providing education and training for local people (this could include individuals who are long-term unemployed, NEET’s or ex-offenders), to setting up activities within local communities to reduce isolation.
What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
The term sustainability is most widely used to describe economic and environmental sustainability, with many people and organisations thinking of social value separately rather than as the social pillar of sustainability. This interchangeable use of terminology can often cause confusion. I’m very lucky that at Willmott Dixon our people are really engaged with social value and giving back to the communities that we work in. Although there is rarely a shortage of volunteers to support community activities, a challenge can be capturing all the great things that the teams do.
What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
My biggest, and steepest, learning curve has been on capturing social value data. It is so important to capture data on our social value activities, as it enables us to learn and improve. Whilst we have made great progress in collecting data relating to what we put into the community as well as what the output of this is (i.e. the number of apprenticeships we’ve offered), I very quickly learnt that it’s extremely difficult to capture the impact of these activities on the people and communities. This continues to be an ongoing challenge.