Build it 2019 Speaker Spotlight: Yvonne Gilfillan

Yvonne Gilfillan from Infinite Fusion is no stranger to Build It, and returns to the programme this year to present ‘Constructing our future by delivering true social value in our communities’.

“True social value is when a tangible benefit to society is created from focussed, determined and committed initiatives delivered over time. Initiatives that can and do deflect individuals and groups from the wrong pathways of addiction, criminality, or economic-inactivity (where there is no prohibitive cause). Initiatives that are borne from cohesive and collaborative working of industry and agencies together to address the societal ills (historical, current and future). Initiatives that reduce the burden on the state, taxpayer, and industry at large and help to create contributing, economically-active, empathetic and considerate citizens.”

With a self-described, “eclectic career history”, the experiences Yvonne has had have informed her values of fairness, inclusion, respect, and equality.

“I have had the greatest privilege of experiencing life at both ends of the societal spectrum and at various points in between. Raised in a loving family from a working-class background with limited funds, to becoming a millionaire (on paper) at 27yrs old, holding the platinum American Express card, living in an 8 bedroom house, holidaying abroad to exotic locations 4 times per year; losing it all (house, cars, motorbikes, credit, business, so-called friends); starting again in a council estate known as ‘Little Beirut’; becoming an academic (“Educated Scum” as the Scottish Alternative Bard, Rab C. Nesbitt notes on the back of Margaret Thatcher’s push for higher education for the working class); and subsequently having the ability to work in an array of industries with some fabulous (and not so fabulous) people.

“Throughout my career, like many others, I have experienced discrimination either due to my schooling, class, accent or gender. However, whilst the discrimination hurt, it also spurred me on to give voice to those who are less vocal than I; to help the vulnerable where required; to never judge a book by its cover, and to accept that we are all but human and thus prone to making mistakes. There is so much more to a person than we first see. If we take time to keep our own biases in check, consider the person, converse and act fairly, inclusively, and respectfully, we can gain so much (as can they). It is through those interactions that the brightest stars can be found; where innovation and creativity can spark; where holistic teams and relationships can be founded; and where community spirit can blend and bind to help others.”

So how does Yvonne get her message out to organisations and influence their behaviour going forward?

“There are many challenges to organisations thinking historically and collaboratively. The drive for profit and dividends, a disregard for societal ills and no true concern for society. The desire for PR moments rather than long-term benefits. Corporate competition in terms of deliverables cited in tenders for new business. Pockets of archaic patriarchal dominance in the industry which precludes acknowledgment or interest in what is seen as ‘soft’ issues irrelevant to the working world. Lack of knowledge of what is required to create positive outcomes and how to implement action. And sadly, the push for individual ‘glory’ and awards for short-term initiatives.

“However, the opportunities are immense. Organisations within the construction industry already collaborate in their support for The Sustainability and Supply Chain School, STEM activities, Women in Construction, etc. Where framework agreements are in place, e.g. Scape or Hub, appointed contractors operate together to meet framework KPIs for community initiatives and benefits. There are some pockets of contractor excellence in terms of social value initiatives but these tend to be project-specific and of short duration. What needs to happen is an industry rethink of the community benefit approach, reporting and any necessary adjustments in time to consider the lifespan of individuals, to deal with antecedent behaviours, to work together as ‘one’ with respective agencies. The answer for all – Education, Education, Education.”

Nicola Scott

Campaign Strategist at Mearns & Gill

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