ESG Series Episode 4: Wesley Ankrah, SeerBridge; Shain Shapiro, Sound Diplomacy; Vestalia Chilton, Kensington and Chelsea Art Week

In a recent ESG focused episode of PropCast, a leading source of insights within the industry, Wesley Ankrah of SeerBridge, Shain Shapiro of Sound Diplomacy and Vestalia Chilton of Kensington and Chelsea Art Week joined Blackstock Consulting founder Andrew Teacher to chat about how social value can be measured but also why investors, planners and city leaders need to be mindful of not trying to fit everything “into a spreadsheet”.

Their conversation explores the ways in which social value can be included in political agendas and within the plans of investors and developers as they regenerate urban environments, establishing how housing and culture can work together for mutual benefit. 

Vestalia Chilton, director of Kensington and Chelsea Art Week, is looking at innovative ways to use art as a tool for social cohesion. Art will also play a pivotal role in regenerating the high street, driving increased footfall. 

For example, projects such as the High Street Windows, where a series of artworks have been installed in windows of empty shops in Chelsea, are brightening up locked-down neighbourhoods.

However, the question remains: how can the effects of such projects be quantified numerically in order to act as data to secure further funding or planning? 

Wesley Ankrah, founder at SeerBridge, a consultancy that specialises in measuring social value, said that quantifying the impact of a high street art installation can be immensely challenging. While it’s easy to find figures which show how many jobs have been created or how much was raised in corporate donations, the impact of the experience is much harder to measure.

The notion of whether the arts can be appreciated purely for themselves, or if they must always provide instrumental value, is a topic which has long been discussed by arts policy makers. 

Covid-19, according to Ankrah, has helped us rediscover the social value of our communities, and enjoy “art for art’s sake” – rather than just for monetary value or employment figures. 

He added: “There needs to be more incentive and drive from institutions to start coming up with new proxies and new evolution methods to help us capture this impact.”

Shain Shapiro, founder of Sound Diplomacy, which advises cities around music policy and how music can shape neighbourhoods, explained how a similar approach was needed for the music scene. 

The night-time economy requires its “own policy, practice, and budget”, and therefore “needs to be seen as its own economy”, instead of having to be squeezed into pre-existing agendas. 

Shapiro noted that value can be measured through process and instituting frameworks over a period of time. A trial-and-error system can help to really highlight the impact culture has on people’s lives. “We need to introduce a fifth pillar of licensing to recognise culture and cultural value in the licensing system and have a cultural plan in relation to how we are planning towns and cities.”

The panel touched on the way developers should be reimagining empty spaces on the high street for the wider benefit of the community. Chilton called for a different way of approaching temporary use of empty space and believes both artists and landlords can benefit from wavering rates for creative use.

In turn, this is beneficial to developers, who will find it easier to sell property in these locations and help regenerate an area.

Chilton summarised: “We’re finally building cities for people, not just for industry. It was always about driving profit but now we’re thinking about how we make cities where people want to live, stay and enjoy.”

Read the full article on Property Week.

Participants

Shain Shapiro

Founder

Sound Diplomacy

Wesley Ankrah

Founder

SeerBridge

Vestalia Chilton

Director

Kensington and Chelsea Art Week