What is Social Value?

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What is Social Value?

Increasingly, organisations are considering their activities holistically, taking account of the wider economic, social and environmental effects of their actions.

Social Value serves as an umbrella term for these broader effects, and organisations which make a conscious effort to ensure that these effects are positive can be seen as adding social value by contributing to the long-term wellbeing and resilience of individuals, communities and society in general.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are, in effect, a social value charter for the planet.

Public sector bodies can take social value into account through their policy and spending decisions to maximise the benefit for the communities they serve. Businesses can make decisions both about what they do and how they do it in ways that add social value. For businesses with corporate responsibility or sustainability policies, social value reporting is the obvious next step, as it allows them to externalise these policies by tying them to measurable actions and report them in a way that their clients and other stakeholders can relate to.

How can Social Value be measured and reported?

Social Value measurement is becoming increasingly standardised. The National Social Value Measurement Framework or National TOMs for short (TOMs stands for “Themes, Outcomes and Measures”) was developed by the Social Value Portal and launched in 2017. Endorsed by the Local Government Association, its adoption is spreading rapidly through the local government sector.  A TOMs-based approach has also been adopted by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit. Central government is working on a new approach to delivering social value based on very similar principles.

A key benefit of a TOMs-based social value measurement system is that it comprises a series of objectively researched standalone measures that can be extended or reduced without compromising the integrity of the framework, provided a consistent methodological approach is taken.

The TOMs provide the “golden thread” between social value strategy and delivery, as follows:

THEMES – the components of an organisation’s “vision” for social value

OUTCOMES – the positive changes that the organisation wants to see. In effect, what “good” looks like to that organisation

MEASURES – what objective indicators will be used to measure whether these outcomes are being met

The Social Value Portal works with organisations to align their Themes and Outcomes to the appropriate Measures. A large number of these Measures have been developed with “proxy values” which are expressed in financial terms, drawing on a wide range of data sources such as the Office of National Statistics and the Unit Cost Database.

This means that added social value can be expressed in financial terms, allowing comparison with the overall scale or cost of an activity (constructing a new building, for example), as well as between projects and initiatives and between organisations and industry sectors.

The “social value added” expressed in these financial terms is necessarily a prudent assessment and should not be taken as the definitive statement on social value added, because aspects of social value such as wellbeing are subjective and therefore difficult to quantify in this way. However, the TOMs framework does provide the starting point and a common language for measuring social value.

For more information on the TOMs, please click the link below: