Key themes from our NSCG Consultant’s 3 days at UKREiiF: Emphasising Collaboration, Leadership, and Placemaking

A few weeks ago, three of our colleagues Cise Kilic, Guy Garnett and Jake Bush attended the UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF). Throughout the event several pivotal themes emerged, highlighting the future direction of the industry with the discussions focusing on partnering and collaboration, visionary leadership, community engagement in placemaking, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).


Partnering and Collaboration

A central theme at UKREiiF was the critical importance of partnerships and collaboration between various service providers and government entities. Speakers emphasised the need for “adult-to-adult” conversations, advocating for mature and respectful dialogue aimed at fostering long-term relationships. Key issues such as risk-sharing, efficiency in procurement, and reducing bureaucratic red tape remain significant challenges. A collaborative approach is essential for moving beyond the sector’s trying years and overcoming these challenges. However, discussions often lacked a focus on the practical aspects, particularly the internal work required to ensure these collaborations are truly effective and mutually beneficial. Without a deep understanding of individual (how we show up for work) and organisational differences and needs (the context within which we work), as well as those of the people we are communicating with, how can we expect to be effective in these collaborative efforts?

Time also became a focal point of a lot of the discussions, calling for a more joined up process throughout the whole public sector supply chain. Interesting initiatives involving the Royal Town Planning Institute, Aviva and the government seeking to raise further funding to support in this area in relation to planning. A further theme related to time was devolution of certain responsibilities, allowing each function to do what it needs to do without excessive crossover to speed up the process.


Generational Differences and Community Engagement

Generational differences in the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and eco-focused solutions were prominent topics. This sector faces the challenging task of bridging a significant gap between the needs and values of different generations. Addressing these disparities is crucial for creating a unified approach that leverages technological advancements and meets diverse social values, ensuring that all generational needs are effectively met within the sector.

Additionally, engaging communities in decision-making processes was emphasised as a strategy for future-proofing businesses. By involving community members, organisations can ensure that developments meet local needs and gain broader support. While this is by no means a new venture for most in the sector, it shows a greater need to get this right and the question being asked is – do we have the right people in these roles? All residential assets appear to be here to stay but there is a need to be much more customer-centric in their approach, with a call for more investment from the private sector into affordable homes. Moreover, there were great discussions around intergenerational communities, now that affordability is a challenge, can student accommodation be integrated into the community or instead, can we have big campuses that are built for a variety of purposes (such as for students, co-living and BTIs), where you can be in the same site for many years, helping to build and be part of a community and foster a stronger sense of belonging.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Good progress in DEI was showcased at UKREiiF to that of 2023, with more employee-led networks, such as Neurodiversity in Planning, making appearances. In addition to this the need to evolve to incorporate younger talent was a hot topic. Broadening the talent pool through initiatives like Regeneration Brainery (which attracts young people from diverse backgrounds into the sector) is crucial for enhancing the sector’s overall productivity and innovation. While there was substantial focus on diversity in recruitment and talent attraction, there was less emphasis on the organisational structures and practices necessary for retention. Mentoring was mentioned as a key strategy, but more work is needed to create environments where diverse talent can thrive once they have been recruited. Which leads to another regular discussion point: addressing productivity concerns from the perspective of older generations. Bridging this gap requires a lot of work but organisations that are successful here will reap the benefits in years to come.

Currently, the focus remains on gathering demographic data to set and achieve DEI targets. This data-driven approach is crucial for measuring progress and ensuring accountability. However, beyond data collection, there is a need for tangible actions and cultural changes to foster truly inclusive workplaces and all that this offers the business.


Placemaking and Social Value

Discussions also covered the impact of social value and how to measure it effectively. Effective leadership competencies are essential for guiding organisations to focus on both commercial success and social impact. Leaders must ensure their organisations balance profitability with positive contributions to society, emphasising long-term, sustainable growth.

In discussions about placemaking, it was noted that many leisure centres are over 40 years old and in need of substantial maintenance and investment. The emphasis was on ensuring these facilities are adaptable and versatile to maximise the efficient use of space. Furthermore, the topic of later living around planning was discussed, noting that local authority placemaking strategies often allocate insufficient resources for later living. However, examples such as the retirement villages in West Byfleet illustrate successful placemaking with later living at the centre.

The critical need for clear and visionary leadership within the industry was evident. Effective and emotionally intelligent leaders who can articulate a coherent vision are essential for guiding organisations through complex challenges and ensuring alignment towards common goals (which have both commercial and societal impacts). There was a strong call for leaders who can collaborate, inspire confidence, and drive strategic initiatives forward.


Looking Ahead

With the announcement of a general election on day two of UKREiiF, there was a renewed air of optimism that some stability is on the way for Q3 and Q4 of this year. Coupled with the anticipation of falling interest rates, there is a real sense that the second half of 2024 could be more promising than the first.


Didn’t get a chance to catch up with the team at the event? Get in touch to arrange a call.


Share this: