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Social Value Portal

Islington Borough Council and the Affordable Workspace Programme

In just three years, Islington Borough Council has delivered an astonishing £1.24 million of Social Value. Their achievement demonstrates the power of the Social Value TOM System™ for generating real change both internally and with partners.


The London Borough of Islington faces significant challenges in its distribution of wealth, with some local people working in the area’s global economic clusters, and others being families living in deep poverty. This inequality has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

In an attempt to 'lock in' local wealth and prosperity for everyone's benefit, Islington Borough Council introduced its Affordable Workspace Programme, using Social Value Portal and the Social Value TOM System™ to report and measure its impact.

The Affordable Workspace Programme delivered 1.2 million of Social Value - 90% of the total contract value. Read on to learn about the life-changing opportunities this is generating for local people. 

Introducing the Affordable Workspace Programme

In 2020, the council decided to tackle business inequality through a pioneering Affordable Workspace Programme.

Generally, affordable workspace is priced at 80% of market value, but in Islington, this is still too expensive for many. The average cost of a desk in Islington is £375/month, according to Hubble, compared to £220/month in Bethnal Green. Smaller businesses are priced out of the borough and the knock-on effect is lost local spend, as businesses look elsewhere to set up shop.

Under its draft Local Plan, Islington Council asked developers to provide the council 10% of constructed office space as genuinely affordable workspace at peppercorn rent, for at least 20 years – up from the previous target of 5% of space for ten years. The council also committed to pass on this rent to workspace operators, without taking a commercial income.

The Islington Council team then faced a clear challenge: how could they procure the right operators and compare bids for spaces?

They turned to Social Value Portal and the TOM System, the leading method of delivering and measuring Social Value.

Using Social Value Portal and the TOM System™ was a simple way to help us look at what we want to derive in exchange for that space to the benefit of Islington residents and businesses. We looked across our services against a series of TOM System Measures to understand what to target.

Caroline Wilson, Director of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council

Making the TOM System their own

Social Value Portal helped the council to identify five priority areas of Social Value, aligned to its corporate objectives. From then on, each tender document would include questions on each area.

We don’t prescribe how partners meet objectives, but align it to our corporate ambitions about tackling poverty and inequalities in the borough. We ask them to produce a Social Value plan against those ambitions that describes how they will deliver against the five areas over ten years of a lease. Overall, we ask them to deliver at least as much in Social Value as we would have gained financially through a commercial lease.

Caroline Wilson, Director of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council

The programme started in March 2020. Despite the pandemic, three facilities have since been launched:

  • Space 4, a 'tech for good' coworking space
  • Fashion Enter, a manufacturing space for local people in fashion and garments
  • Better Space, an incubator for social enterprises and social impact businesses

Between March 2020 and April 2022, these three spaces generated a colossal £1.24 million in Social Value.

We’ve been blown away by the success. It’s an important message because we could have derived commercial income, but we can say publicly that this has delivered far in excess of what we would have gained financially. We work hard with our partners and are intimately involved in all of the coworking spaces, making sure our residents and our local businesses get the best value from them.

Caroline Wilson, Director of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council

Life-changing opportunities

The opportunities being generated at these sites are truly changing lives for the people of Islington.

In fact, Space 4 alone has delivered: 

  • £554,114 in Social Value
  • 28 apprenticeships
  • 394 weeks of training
  • Nearly 1,000 weeks of work experience
  • 8,000 hours of career support sessions

The organisations who operate the workspaces are true partners in delivering Social Value. The matrix motivates them to innovate across a range of our corporate objectives, and it incentivises creativity. And fundamentally, beyond the numbers, it’s the stories of our residents whose lives have been changed by access to the programme.

Caroline Wilson, Director of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council

The Affordable Workspace Programme continues, and Islington Council has a pipeline of affordable workspaces on the way across the borough.

Inspired by the £1.24 million of Social Value derived so far, the council wants to embed the programme into the planning process, beyond the existing section 106 requirements. The team is also extending the use of underused council assets such as garages to provide even more space. This has all stemmed from Islington Council’s work with Social Value Portal and use of the TOM System.

Social Value Portal has been a great partner, challenging us along the way. We couldn’t have done it without the collaboration, inspiration and tools they’ve given us. At a time when council budgets are under incredible pressure, it has allowed us to demonstrate better value than cash in the bank. We are still on a journey, but it is clear that Social Value is a major contributor in our efforts to make a real difference for our local residents and small businesses – spreading wealth and prosperity more fairly in the borough. Onwards!

Caroline Wilson, Director of Inclusive Economy and Jobs at Islington Council


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About Social Value Portal

Since 2017 Social Value Portal has been at the forefront of the Social Value movement. As creators of the endorsed Social Value TOM SystemTM, hosts of the annual Social Value Conference and founding members of the independent National Social Value Taskforce – they set industry standards and lead the business agenda.

Their unique mix of consultancy, cloud platform and programmes offer organisations the complete solution to accurately measure, manage and report Social Value – and create lasting impact.

In 2022, SVP achieved B Corp status, scoring above average in all assessed. The company’s aim is to promote better business and community wellbeing through the integration of Social Value into day-to-day business activity across all sectors.

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