A new report from the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy & Governance has examined large transit infrastructure projects to provide key metrics for how to monitor, track, and measure their success.
The report, Delivering Benefit: Achieving Community Benefits in Ontario, was commissioned and financially supported by Metrolinx. Authors Jamie Van Ymeren and Sara Ditta provide specific recommendations that can be applied to the transit agency’s implementation of the deliverables outlined in its 2014 Community Benefits Framework.
A number of key lessons are outlined, which include:
- Project systems should be clear and aligned at all levels, from high-level regulatory frameworks to individual contracts;
- Policymakers should ensure that proposed community benefits align with broader policy frameworks;
- As contracts are focused on direct benefits to local communities, terms must be defined, fulfilled, enforced, and reported on so as to ensure public accountability; and
- Simultaneously, procurement processes must not create unnecessary burdens for contract recipients.
Ensuring the success of an agency’s the community benefits requires an understanding of best outcomes for stakeholders, wrote Ymeren and Ditta. As such, they breakdown the desired outcomes of community groups, industry groups, trade unions, and governments. “Each of these groups has different perspectives on the promises and pitfalls of community benefits,” they wrote. Stakeholder satisfaction is important to a project’s viability, because “as key resources, supports, and partnerships are developed and stakeholders gain comfort and experience with the process, transaction costs are decreased.” This increases confidence in ongoing project development.
Another area examined in the report is on how to provide the best conditions for contractors to deliver on commitments. Scope is key to contractor success. Whether scope is articulated by contractors in proposals or through an owner’s contract specifications, “policymakers may choose to narrow the range of benefits that will apply to a specific contract.”
The report ultimately delivers recommendations that include:
- Update Ontario’s procurement directives to reflect social value;
- Develop concrete technical guidance for procurement officials;
- Strengthen the focus on community benefits policies; and
- Define the proposed scope of any community benefit and sustainable procurement requirements early on.
The full report can be found on the Mowat Centre’s website.