At the 2023 Social Value Conference, a panel of expert speakers from the public and private sectors shared invaluable guidance and advice on the Social Value Model. The panel featured an exciting cross-sector of Social Value stakeholders:
- Nikki Rowbottom, Senior Consultant, 7 Step Solutions (Chair)
- Kate Clarfelt, Senior Strategy Consultant, Social Value Portal
- Gary Young, Head of Strategy and Operations, Fujitsu
- Snowia Hussain, Commercial Social Value Lead, Ministry of Justice
The full session with its extended Q&A can be viewed here.
In this article, we will be going through the highlights of the discussion and best practice for bidders under the Social Value Model.
What is the Social Value Model?
Kate kicked off the panel with a run through of the Social Value Model. She explained that, with PPN 06/20 mandating explicit evaluation of Social Value in central government procurement and other in-scope contracts worth over £100,000, the Social Value Model provides guidance to buyers on evaluating bids. It sets out five priority areas (Themes) for Social Value delivery, along with corresponding policy outcomes:
The model is designed to standardise the approach for including Social Value in central government procurement, but commercial teams do retain some flexibility in deciding how and which elements are applied. It provides a qualitative-only methodology for setting Social Value priorities during the tender phase. This helps to create a level playing field for different profiles of bidders, including SMEs.
Kate Clarfelt, Senior Strategy Consultant, Social Value Portal
The model does not, however, measure Social Value delivery. This is why Social Value Portal has created a mapping tool to align the Social Value Model to the Social Value TOM System, which does measure Social Value delivery.
Update your knowledge of Social Value requirements with our new our new Quick Guide to Social Value Legislation.
How is the Social Value Model applied in procurement?
Kate went on to outline exactly how the Social Value Model informs authorities’ bid evaluations. Under the Social Value Model, the procurement process follows three basic steps:
- Buyers choose their objectives: The model includes a ‘menu’ of Social Value objectives for central government procurement, executive agencies, and non-departmental bodies. From this, authorities select the Themes, Policy Outcomes and Model Award Criteria (MAC) that they want to focus on.
- Bidders check their matrix: The procurer will refer to a scoring matrix to evaluate the bidders’ submissions. Bidders can use this to build a compelling narrative and qualitative delivery plan.
- Both parties choose KPIs: Once awarded, the procurer and supplier should decide which MACs and reporting metrics should be used as the relevant Social Value KPIs.
Here is an example of what a procurer’s question, and an appropriate response, might look like under the Social Value Model:
- Identifies chosen Theme: e.g., Equal Opportunity.
- Identifies chosen MAC: e.g., Identifying and tackling inequality in employment.
- Issues instructions to bidders: e.g., Requesting inclusion of a ‘Method Statement’ and details around community engagement.
- Answers question, responding to MAC: e.g., Detailing plans to support disadvantaged or minority groups.
- Shows additionality: e.g., Proposing dedicated staff volunteering time to mentor unemployed people.
- Has near-term timescales: e.g., Proposing activity for first 12 months of the contract.
What are procuring authorities looking for from bidders?
Many organisations bidding for contracts from central government authorities find that they are uncertain of what the buyers want to see from them in their bids. Kate addressed this head on, saying that procurers look for suppliers with focused, relevant, and proportionate plans to deliver social, environmental, and economic benefits.
Based on her experience at Social Value Portal, as well as feedback from authorities, Kate has built a handy checklist for companies bidding for work from central government:
Answer the question: A critical first step in crafting a successful bid is carefully reading, understanding, and ensuring you are responding to question the ITT has asked.
Ask your own questions: Make use of the clarification period – don’t miss the window in which you can question the buying authority.
Adhere to the principles of Social Value: This includes ensuring commitments are attributable to your own activities, and are additional to core contract requirements.
Provide a qualitative method statement on delivery: A robust tender response should include a well-considered qualitative element – this narrative component is an opportunity to make your bid stand out and show quality.
Choose your methodology: Show procurers how you will track and measure progress. Whatever methodology you use, make your plans clear from the start.
Use information released during the pre-tender stage: Align your bid to any information the buyer has released during preliminary market engagement, including adjacent reports or strategies.
Show market experience: Demonstrate how you typically address these priorities, and how you will for this buyer and contract.
Make a relevant and proportionate offer: Your offer should showcase boldness, but it should not be reckless or unrealistic.
Identify delivery partners: Make clear that you know which groups and organisations will support you in delivering your initiatives.
Show evidence of capability to deliver: Show that you have the levels of resource and experience needed for delivery: promote your staff’s skillsets, existing systems, and the processes already in place.
Prove knowledge and insight: A winning bid will make clear that the bidder has purposefully researched the needs that their response will address and why those issues are the right ones to be prioritising.
How evaluations work: Spotlight on the Ministry of Justice
Snowia then took the audience through procuring authorities’ processes when evaluating bids, selecting suppliers, and managing delivery – with a focus on her experience at the Ministry of Justice.
She noted the necessity of including all relevant information in the proposal. Evaluations are evidence-based and can only take into account the contents of the proposal; other documents or resources, like media features, will not be considered. The proposal should therefore feature all relevant information, whilst remaining relevant to the question the commissioner has asked.
Another important point raised by Snowia is that proposals are considered individually.
The evaluation process is quite fair in that we are not scoring proposals against each other. We look at each supplier proposal and evaluate them on their own merits.
Snowia Hussain, Commercial Social Value Lead, Ministry of Justice
Writing impactful proposals under the Social Value Model
Writing a compelling proposal is challenging – many bidders struggle to know what constitutes best practice at this essential stage. In her presentation, Snowia expanded on some of the key elements of an effective written proposal.
First, she noted, it is essential to demonstrate your understanding of the Model Award Criteria. Procurers want to see in-depth consideration of the relevant MAC. What kind of research have you done? Have you talked to stakeholders, or looked at your local demographics in relation to the contract? Take this opportunity to explain why your proposed approach is the right one, with the MAC at the centre of your response.
The commitments made in a proposal should also be ‘SMART’ and aligned to expectations. The Social Value Model features a standard set of reporting metrics, set against eight policy outcomes. Government teams, like those at the Ministry of Justice, have built those standard reporting metrics into e-procurement systems to capture the commitments that align with those standard reporting metrics from winning bidders. Think about how the commitments in your proposal align with those reporting metrics.
The next step, Snowia says, is to instil confidence of delivery. Procuring authorities want to be confident that you can deliver on your commitments. This is often a case of focusing on quality rather than quantity. You might show that you have already engaged with relevant stakeholders or done other kinds of groundwork, for instance.
Snowia also emphasised the need to prioritise quality over quantity in your response: the qualitative element of the assessment is integral to the Social Value Model. Within this, authorities expect contract specificity, as well as details on how activities will be reported. This means giving specific, measurable commitments – even if it’s just a single one.
How Fujitsu bolstered its Social Value programme
Gary concluded the session with his reflections on Fujitsu’s changing approach to Social Value. He noted that procurement processes as recently as January 2021 were characterised by confusion and reactivity. With procurers still getting to grips with the concept of Social Value and how its administration would work, customers often asked questions with little direction or specificity, sometimes focusing on different areas, like Corporate Social Responsibility.
Similarly, Gary notes that many bid teams hadn’t realised the need to consider Social Value as an inherent and business critical aspect of tender responses. A part of the transition consisted in recognising that Social Value in reality represents an opportunity to renovate and build customer relevance. He explained that Fujitsu has since put steps in place to raise the profile of Social Value throughout the UK business, ensuring that all teams understood the basis of the Social Value Model and its applicability to the company’s own operating model.
There is also a rising understanding of the importance of capturing, measuring, and assessing the Social Value being delivered. Gary identifies this as a success in Fujitsu’s work with Social Value Portal:
Guy and Social Value Portal really enabled us to accelerate and unlock our corporate knowledge – this support can’t be understated. It enabled us to define and implement our own set of targets, outcomes, and measures, and form a series of company-wide training sessions and associated products and solutions to empower and enable our teams.
Ready to start your Social Value journey?
Social Value Portal works with a range of local and central government authorities, helping them to embed Social Value in their supply chains. Our experts also support businesses looking to win more work by amplifying their Social Value offerings.
If you want to take your Social Value to the next level, check out our Social Value Success Factors Toolkit.
Or, to learn more about how we can uncover your Social Value opportunity, book a free discovery session.