A social and wellbeing value assessment.
Railway Gardens, Gerddi Rheilffordd, is a grass roots community project in the vibrant community of Splott, in the city of Cardiff, Wales. It is a community garden and so much more: a hub for skills workshops around food growing, energy saving, or community action; festivals; family activities; school visits; and community assemblies.
The concept was sparked by Green Squirrel, a community interest company, to bring back a disused railway works yard which had historically been a public space, back into community use and with a longer term plan for it to be community owned and managed. Green Squirrel’s work is at the forefront of empowering communities in Cardiff to take action for community wellbeing and sustainability.
Having just signed a long lease for the land with Cardiff Council and thinking about the next stages of Railway Garden’s development it was an ideal time to be able to think about how the gardens can maximise it’s impact and demonstrate the value it will create.
Urban Habitats’ undertook a social value and wellbeing impact assessment. This drew on existing expertise and an investment by Urban Habitats in training on social value assessment and valuation methods, including the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) method.
Creating with communities is a core value of Urban Habitats and this work offered the opportunity to establish an integrated working group of Urban Habitats and community volunteers. Urban Habitats established a learning model that was agreed with volunteers at the outset and used to assess learning across the work, jointly, and as a group effort.
The outputs were a social value and wellbeing impact report with both a valuation of social value using the HACT method and a wider holistic assessment of Railway Gardens’ impact within Wales’ unique Wellbeing of Future Generations framework. The work was also co-produced and learning outcomes were recorded. Crucially this set out a framework and developed strategic understanding for future of how Railway Gardens can assess and also maximise its social and wellbeing impacts.
What we learned:
We learned the value of combining specific tools like HACT with a broader framework of wellbeing goals in order to capture a far broader range of positive impacts that would not be identified with a narrower view. This would not have happened to the same extent without the work being co-produced.
Working with two fantastic community volunteers we were able to learn and think more about how we can put ‘creating health with communities’ into action. Agreed learning goals across the team gave priority to everyone’s learning. This also provided an opportunity to diversify the skills, lived experience, and thinking within the assessment team.
We found – and continue to find – the social value assessment report carried out by Urban Habitats extremely valuable. The process of working with Urban Habitats encouraged us to check our own assumptions about the social and wellbeing impact of our activities, demonstrate the potential of the Railway Gardens project to stakeholders, and boost confidence among the community members taking the project forward.
Hannah Garcia, Director, Green Squirrel