Managing new social procurement imperatives in the Australian construction industry

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 2020, ahead-of-print, (ahead-of-print)
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PurposeThis paper responds to the need for more construction project management research in the emerging field of social procurement. It contributes by exploring the potential value of cross-sector collaboration and project-based intermediation in meeting new social procurement imperatives.Design/methodology/approachA thematic exploratory case study analysis is presented of seventy-three interviews undertaken with stakeholders involved in a unique project-based intermediary developed by a major Australian construction company to leverage the power of cross-sector collaboration in response to social procurement imperatives on its projects, based on semi-structured interviews with 33 disadvantaged job seekers, 40 organisational stakeholders (employment agencies; not-for-profits, Indigenous, disability and refugee support organisations; training organisations; subcontractors; government agencies and departments; community organisations) and observational and documentary data over the duration of a unique project-based intermediary called a Connectivity Centre, developed by a major Australian contractor to deliver on its emerging social procurement requirements.FindingsThe results show that cross-sector collaboration within the construction industry can produce highlight numerous cognitive, behavioural, health, situational and affective social impacts for the project community and shared-value benefits for the range of organisations involved. However, it is found that cross-sector collaboration through project-based intermediation in a construction context is challenging due to the fragmented and dynamic nature of construction project teams and the communities they have to engage with. Encouraging people and organisations to collaborate who operate in industries and organisations with different and sometimes competing institutional logics and objectives (even if they are linked by common values) requires a set of knowledge, competencies and relationships not recognised in current global project management competency frameworks.Originality/valueThis research contributes new insights to the emerging but embryonic body of research into construction social procurement by demonstrating the value of emerging theories of social procurement, social value, cross-sector collaboration and intermediation in enhancing our currently limited understanding of the complex challenges involved in responding to new social procurement requirements in the construction industry. It explores and documents the potential value of project-based intermediaries in developing and managing the new cross-sector relationships, roles, relational competencies and practices, which are required to effectively respond to and measure the impact of emerging social procurement policies in the construction industry. These findings have a potentially significant social impact by providing new insights for policymakers and the construction industry, to optimise the industry’s response to emerging social procurement policies.
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