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  • 4 minutes
  • 04/09/2023

How the County Durham Pound project is championing collective power through place-based Social Value

What happens when a group of influential organisations come together to create better social, environmental, and economic outcomes for a whole county? The County Durham Pound project shows us what is possible.

Leading organisations across County Durham are taking a pioneering approach to Social Value with the new County Durham Pound (CDP) project. The partners in the initiative have recorded over £305 million of Social Value to date, also winning the Best Public Sector Project at the 2023 Social Value Awards. 

The innovative partnership is driving positive social, economic and environmental change across the region, impacting over half a million people. Social Value Portal is enabling this transformation through a programme of engagement and training, alongside the creation of a dedicated reporting framework, using the proven Social Value TOM System to accelerate measurable impact. 

 Changing lives, driving action 

The County Durham Pound initiative encompasses 11 key organisations:  

  1. Believe Housing 
  2. Bernicia 
  3. Business Durham 
  4. County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service 
  5. Durham County Council 
  6. Durham Police and Crime Commissioner 
  7. Durham University 
  8. Karbon Homes  
  9. Livin 
  10. New College Durham 
  11. Northumbrian Water 

With the goal of improving the lives of their communities following the global Covid-19 pandemic, the partners realised they could generate much greater impact if they acted collectively. County Durham Pound approached Social Value Portal about making this ambition a reality. 

Darren Knowd, Head of Procurement, Sales and Business Services at Durham County Council, commented:  

As a collective, we can make a difference by building local supply chains and purchasing more local products and services; by considering Social Value during planning so communities have more control over their areas; and by increasing awareness and the Social Value of every pound we spend.

What are County Durham Pound’s 6 key objectives? 

To provide a structured approach and set clear goals, County Durham Pound has laid out 6 key objectives across a range of areas. The partners will collectively aim to: 

  1. Create more jobs for local people 
  2. Reduce impact on the environment 
  3. Support with meaningful training and upskilling 
  4. Help community groups and charities 
  5. Prioritise better health and wellbeing 
  6. Focus on equality, diversity and inclusion 

We quickly realised we could have a significant impact by increasing the Social Value of every pound spent in our county and by rethinking what it means to be responsible organisations. 

Darren Knowd, Head of Procurement, Sales and Business Services at Durham County Council 

The power of place-based Social Value 

For County Durham Pound, Social Value is generated in a number of ways. It could be in the tendering and procurement process, in the actions of the partners themselves, in the allocation of grant funding, or in another area all together. 

The success of place-based Social Value depends on the collection of local insights and data, and their incorporation into a comprehensive reporting and measurement framework. This is where County Durham Pound’s partnership with Social Value Portal became an essential enabler of success. 

With areas and communities across County Durham facing different challenges, Social Value Portal first undertook a local needs analysis. This ensured that partner objectives were clearly aligned to the needs of County Durham’s communities and would deliver true and long-lasting value to them. The requirements were then reflected in County Durham Pound’s tailored Social Value TOM System. 

Developed in response to the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, and a widely recognised Social Value measurement and reporting tool, the Social Value TOM System assesses the Themes, Outcomes and Measures desired by an organisation – or, in this case, a large-scale partnership. 

To date, County Durham Pound has reported over £305 million of social local economic value for the region. 

“It has been so inspiring to witness the Social Value that County Durham Pound has delivered so far,” says Anna McChesney-Gordon, Director of Consultancy at Social Value Portal. “The partners have the tools to generate long-lasting Social Value for the people of County Durham, and feel empowered knowing they can accurately measure and report on its impact. 

“What’s more, it’s clear to see that working as a collective has real power. Partners can collaborate and learn from each other, realise new efficiencies when commissioning and delivering products and procurement, and avoid duplication and a siloed approach. All of this only serves to benefit the people of County Durham.” 

Keep an eye on the County Durham Pound website for all the latest success stories and case studies on how the partners have achieved positive outcomes for their residents, businesses and environment. 

“This is the first collaborative, placed-based Social Value project of this scale that we have been involved with,” adds Anna. “However, due to its success, we certainly don’t foresee it being the last. In fact, we expect the methodology and learnings from County Durham to be taken and rolled out to many other regions throughout the country. 

“Together, we can make good go further, enacting tangible and enduring change for people and communities across the UK.”