Speak to an expert social value advisor now on: 0203 355 0530

  • 7 minutes
  • 14/12/2022
16085

SV People: Carol Glenn, Social Value Programme Manager, at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Read how Carol Glenn inspires her council to take social value seriously with an award-winning embedded process that has delivered over £11.6m of social value to date.

Hi Carol, tell us a bit about the work you do for Solihull Council 

I am the Social Value Programme Manager in the Procurement Team at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) in the West Midlands. I have been in post for three and a half years, and it was created by our previous Procurement Manager following her involvement in the National Social Value Taskforce and the creation of the National TOMs.  

My role was created to embed social value into the procurement process within Solihull MBC, and at first, it was just that, but as time has gone by, I have been involved in all aspects of social value, including contract management, project matching, policy, procedures and more. 

And how did your career progress to this point? Where does your drive to create social value come from? 

I have been in the Procurement team at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) for 13 years. During this time, I’ve worked in various roles to support the team, and when this position was advertised, I was ready for a change of focus. I didn’t know what social value was, let alone how to include it in a tender process! But I was drawn to the role because I knew it would give me a unique opportunity to make a difference to the residents of Solihull.  

Solihull has a reputation for being quite an affluent part of the country. However, we have an ageing population that suffered heavily during the pandemic. We also have areas of deprivation and underfunded schools. As a Solihull resident, I know first-hand that there are a unique set of difficulties across the borough, which we now tackle as part of our Inclusive Growth Outcomes Framework.  

Everyone has the same goal, regardless of where they are based.

It was a real struggle to find any resources to learn how to implement social value at the time. It was a very steep learning curve. But as my knowledge has improved, I’ve learned that the important thing is to be flexible. It’s about evolution – you can change things that aren’t working as you gain experience and data.  

It took a while before we saw any social value being delivered, which made me more determined. I wanted to understand why there was a delay. We soon realised we needed to review our processes. We had to ensure our suppliers were delivering the value we needed and that they reported it in the right way. Fortunately, as this is a new role, we’ve been allowed to try different methods and learn as we go.  

What are some of the challenges you face when you’re looking to create social value? 

When I started this role, I had to convince my colleagues internally that this was something we could do. I had to prove that many suppliers want to create social value with us.  

Colleagues were sceptical about whether contracts would cost more if we included social value. Many wondered whether suppliers simply wouldn’t want to respond to our tenders if we asked them to include social value. Thankfully this is not proving to be true.   

Certain sectors are not as mature in social value as others, and there have been a few learning curves as we tender more contracts. It has been difficult in some cases to educate suppliers.  

There is no right or wrong way to do social value – everyone does it differently. You can learn so much from others. Just pick what works for your organisation. 

To counterbalance this, we now hold monthly social value and National TOMs awareness sessions to help suppliers during the tender and contract management stages.  

But the best conversations start after a contract is awarded. Suppliers soon realise we are not expecting the earth and are just following up on their commitments. 

We have spent a lot of time working with our contract managers to help them understand what social value is and how they can monitor the progress suppliers are making. This approach has been instrumental in helping us boost our delivery of social value. We now regularly ask suppliers about their progress in performance meetings. 

Can we pull out/highlight key quotes to help the reader? 

What highlights do you have from a career creating social value? 

The biggest highlight for me was Solihull MBC being awarded the ‘Embedding Social Value in Contract Management: Project Award’ at the 2021 National Social Value Awards. This justified our commitment to social value within the organisation. It proved that we get results and are moving in the right direction.  

I have been honoured to speak at several conferences and events about how Solihull MBC have implemented social value. I am grateful to have become a respected member of the social value community. The people I have met across the country have been fabulous. They are supportive and happy to share experiences. Everyone has the same goal, regardless of where they are based. 

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start creating social value?  

You may seem like you are on your own, but you are not. Join your local Social Value Taskforce and keep an eye out for networking opportunities. Reach out to people you see speaking at conferences, especially those whose words have resonated. Go to any training that is available. 

There is no right or wrong way to do social value – everyone does it differently. You can learn so much from others. Just pick what works for your organisation. 

What do you think the future looks like for social value? What will the movement look like in the next decade? 

The movement has grown so much since I started almost four years ago. The future for social value looks very exciting because it can contribute to so many government initiatives. Now that Central Government is mandated to include social value in its procurements, I hope there will be more structure, guidance and innovation.  

Why wouldn’t you do social value? Supporting a community project or promoting and including local SMEs in the supply chain will give you a warm glow and the sense of making a difference.

What is really interesting is that young people are leaving university with qualifications in sustainability and social value. They want to have a career in these areas. I wish those opportunities were available when I was younger.  

Why should people focus on social value? What do they stand to gain? 

Why wouldn’t you do social value? Supporting a community project or promoting and including local SMEs in the supply chain will give you a warm glow and the sense of making a difference.  

People think that only large companies can provide Social Value, but that is wrong. Small, local companies and social enterprises deliver social value because they are more likely to employ local people, support other local businesses and know what the local community needs. Social value forms part of their ethos and identity without them even trying, meaning they can compete against the large corporates based miles away.  

Who inspires you when you’re creating social value?  

I look at all the wonderful people I have met through my social value journey. They all inspire me with their passion and enthusiasm to do good.