Guy Battle discusses how the pandemic has shown the power of the collective and how we can harness that community spirit to make real change and create social value, so we can build back fairer and greener.
Incredible to think that over 21 months ago, on March 23 2020, we were asked to go into a total unconditional lockdown to fight an unseen virus, our only weapons being our ingenuity, fortitude and grim determination. And whilst the crisis is far from over, the worst is surely behind us.
The pandemic has brought several matters to the surface – that the world is uneven, and that our society is, in many ways, even more unequal than we ever imagined. But it has also shown us the power of community, our neighbour ‘hood’. It has shown that by working together, we can achieve almost anything.
Community change has happened
It’s hard to put a precise finger on the nature of this change, but you can sense it; in the news headlines we read, in the way some of our politicians are speaking, and in the way that businesses are now starting to act. Headlines read ‘The climate crisis is upon us; we must do something’, ‘Our communities need levelling up’ and ‘Responsible capitalism is the way forward’.
Our change shows an air of positivity – a readiness to collaborate and a willingness to accept things that have (already) changed – supported by the genuine belief that we cannot go back to the way we were.
And so now, the big question is…how do we take this sense of a change and help it grow into a movement that will deliver a lasting legacy through all the actions we take?
The change we sense needs to continue where it started: in our Place.
Community of place – Our ‘hood’
Much of the change thinking has already been developed by Matthew Brown, alongside the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, who pioneered the Preston Model, a method of boosting the local economy through five pillars of community wealth building.
The model is notable, but it does place majority of the expectation for change on the public sector, in particular the local authority. The local authority is asked to take the lead and set the agenda. However, in the process, it misses the opportunities for collaboration with other public sector institutions and sectors, especially business and the third sector.
And so, the Model needs to be extended upon, to recognise that a ‘hood is made up of many actors. By working collaboratively, all can deliver more, at quicker pace and with long-lasting effect.
This cross-sector, place-based initiative would tap into the community spirit of everyone and every business that lives and works in an area. It would galvanise the power of collective action to help the community to recover, rebuild and renew. Collectively:
- Anchor institutions across the public and private sector
- Suppliers to the public and private anchor institutions
- Real Estate Developers who are delivering new buildings and infrastructure
- Micro, small and medium-sized businesses that are locally based
- Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises based in the local area and who are working within the community
- Citizens of the local area, some who may need help and support, but mostly who feel pride in their ‘place’ and will engage in community social value creation – in the community spirit
How can community social value creation be achieved?
The power of collective action cannot be under-estimated. A place-based strategy must recognise that each member of the community should be allowed to deliver against the shared vision, in a way that is aligned to their own business needs and priorities. This should not be dictated by any one party, but there is a role for a convener who can work to bring all parties together.
The convener can come from any sector and must recognise their pivotal role is one of facilitation and co-design, rather than that of dictating a single approach and enabling activities.
A place-based collaborative approach finds the social value that each organisation creates through its own enabling activities or business levers. These are aligned through a unified Social Value Framework (place-based TOMs). For instance, activities could include:
- Procurement – Embedding social value into both public and private sector procurement to maximise the value created and engage the supply chain
- Planning and new development – Ensuring that social value is part of the planning process and that developers are aligned on social value outcomes
- Grants and philanthropy – Finding ways to influence or promote grant-giving and philanthropy to deliver against the community manifesto
- Social investment – Looking for investors into the community that share social goals and support impact investment targeted to areas of specific community needs
- Business action – Supporting businesses that are useful to the local social economy and internalise profits, rather than extract profits
Unleashing the power of collaboration is key to delivering a place-centred approach to social value creation. It will require a shared vision that is rooted in a collective understanding of local needs and priorities. This approach needs to be inclusive, apolitical and designed to engage all sectors of society; the public and private sectors, and also civil society. It must recognise the vital role that citizens will play to support their own communities.
The pandemic has taught us many things to date. Perhaps its greatest legacy is our belief in community, and our capacity to achieve practically anything by working together.
The power of our ‘hood!
How can Social Value Portal help?
Through this approach, Social Value Portal is working with a number of ‘places’ to develop a place-centred approach to social value creation, with support for:
- Needs analysis and community engagement
- Development of place-centred TOMs Frameworks
- Procurement management for public and private sector anchor institutions
- Micro, small and medium-size enterprise (SME) engagement and training
- Integrating social value into planning
- Social Value Statements for developers
- Embedding social value within a business and its operations
- Social value measurement and reporting
To find out more about how Social Value Portal supports place base collaboration, contact the team.
Article first published in Public Sector Focus July/August 2021 Edition
Read the full edition here.