Winner: Village, Sodexo
‘Village’ is a multifunctional space created to build community, create connections and foster morale for military personnel. It’s a combination of catering, retail, leisure and meeting facilities given the look and feel of a high-street venue and introduced in 2020 at the Worthy Down Station military training establishment in Hampshire – home to a 2,000-strong Army, Navy and RAF community.
The project started when the commanding officer of Worthy Down approached Sodexo to share his vision for a new social space as part of a wider £300m facelift across the estate, his priority being to enhance the living experience for military students on site.
With Worthy Down located over six miles from the nearest town, the key objective was to provide a one-stop, multifunctional space on-site, where the whole force (military personnel, families, visitors, contractors and civil servants) could come together, relax, socialise and create connections – building a ‘home from home’.
To help inform this, DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation) insight was combined with research from IPSOS Mori and Professor Nicola Fear and her team at King’s College London to gain understanding of the most pressing needs of today’s military personnel, the wider defence community and the MOD.
This determined that the key objectives of Village were to build community and foster morale among the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force personnel who live at Worthy Down.
Consideration was given to all aspects of military life, focusing on reducing isolation, low morale and boredom to improve recruitment, retention, wellbeing and the creation of a focused, agile workforce. Village delivers a more positive quality of life for those living and working at the base.
The resulting ‘Village’ is designed to satisfy four key demands:
- People engagement – a dedicated Village manager is visible and available always.
- Physical environment – the core Village environment comprises three key zones (Social Lounge, Gaming Area, Micro Theatre) designed to bring people together, encourage collaboration, boost camaraderie and fight potential boredom.
- Technology enablement – to make the lives of military personnel easier by assisting, informing and bringing people together to foster culture and camaraderie.
- Food and Beverage – Village incorporates the latest high street dining trends, including Starbucks and Crussh. Ranges include hot beverages, food, pop-up food concepts and a full bar.
Since its launch at Worthy Down in July 2020, Village has attracted positive comments on the partnership and praise from those on the base, with anecdotal feedback demonstrating that Village has been received by consumers.
The research proved key to the implementation and played a crucial role in how the concept evolved.
Another important factor was the value of collaborative working as a strategic supplier with the MOD and the military; from the start of this process, this relationship and trust has been instrumental in bringing the vision to life; Sodexo says it will be using this collaborative approach as a blueprint for future innovation development.
Future developments will include more entertainment events organised through the Village manager liaising with the site’s young cohort, with the aim of having the space provide a ‘social sanctuary’ at Worthy Down.
Sodexo is also looking at how it can incorporate this approach at other sites within its government and agencies portfolio.
“We all know the saying an army marches on its stomach, but in a world where the wellbeing of our service personnel is just as important as the food we feed them, we have seen a marked change in the development of new facilities.”
Flight lieutenant Laura Jane Piercy who was heavily involved in the Worthy Down project: “Someone who came to visit said this is going to set [the students] up for disappointment when they get into the wider military world. I said no, this should be the bar that everyone now aspires to.”