This is the sixth annual Social Value Conference where we have worked with the independent National Social Value Taskforce to take the Social Value movement forward and break new ground.
Our aim, as always, is to generate thought provoking and insightful content for professionals from all sectors and organisations – and we certainly delivered this year!
Following the recently launched white paper: ‘Delivering A Social Value Economy’ by the National Social Value Taskforce, the event provided the perfect platform to take a more detailed look at this concept, understanding how we are going to make it a reality.
Taking Social Value beyond procurement
We all recognise that Social Value has made great strides since the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which the public sector has fully embraced and spearheaded.
However, what has become more evident this year, is the growing interest and enthusiasm from the private sector. In order to continue the momentum, we now need this hugely influential sector to shoulder the responsibility and carry the Social Value movement forwards.
Procurement has been a critical area where Social Value has – and continues to – thrive. It’s undoubtedly a good place to start but organisations now need to embrace opportunities to deliver Social Value beyond procurement. For instance, taking a look at how a business manages its own employment strategy, or building a corporate strategy that delivers for the Social Value Economy in all aspects of the business including; marketing, production, sales, people and culture – as well as supply chain management.
Delivering transactional Social Value on a project is proving successful but it became apparent as the conference progressed that there is a need for organisations to embed Social Value into their overall strategy, focussing on leaving a positive lasting legacy and solving wider societal problems.
Accountability and collaboration are key
Accountability is undoubtedly under the spotlight – and rightfully so. Measuring, evaluating and reporting performance is key to our success and the numbers really do matter. However, we must remember that behind every number, there is a life; a person, a family and a community.
I talk often about ‘radical collaboration’ and indeed, we had several breakout sessions that explored how we can collaborate on topics such as; mission net zero, taking a place-based approach, sustainable procurement and rebel ideas. These sessions provided a great deal of food for thought and it is clear that radical collaboration is what will make our goals a reality.
We also need to work more closely together and this year, we must make sure we join efforts with Social Enterprise UK and Social Value UK, Local and Central Government in sharing our goals and collaborating.
I mean, it’s crazy that the Taskforce launches our paper, Delivering a Social Value Economy just 2 weeks before SE UK launch their own version ‘The 2032 Social Value Road Map’. I really like it, but please, please, please can’t we be friends and more joined up?
Social Value needs to become strategic
It has become clear to me – and was a key message arising from the conference – that we need to think more strategically and longer term. For some, this means moving away from project based social value – I don’t agree – project based social value must stay as it is the principle mechanism by which suppliers are engaged and contracted – we also need to recognise project based social value as the only means by which SMEs will be able to engage.
No, what we need is for buyers and suppliers on long term contracts to think strategically and consider how the social value targets multiple contracts to form part of a wider strategic approach, solving a much bigger and longer term challenge.
For instance, how do we ensure that apprenticeships can be shared so that a nine month contract can lead to a follow on six month contract, to a final nine month contract and qualification? Or, how do we promote social mobility across a community by multiple organisations coming together with a shared objective?
This will need buyers and suppliers to be more joined up and for businesses to share ideas with their competitors – now that IS what I call radical!
The roadmap to delivery
During the conference, I outlined the four step process the Taskforce believes need to be taken in order to deliver a Social Value Economy:
- Step 1 – make Social Value core to your business
- Step 2 – be accountable, set targets, measure and report, be bold and be transparent
- Step 3 – build capabilities and capacity to deliver Social Value, including within your supply chain
- Step 4 – achieve success by recognising you will need to work across traditional boundaries and embrace radical collaboration
These are, on the face of it, simple, incremental steps. If embraced properly, they will challenge all organisations to ask the question – why do we exist, what is our purpose and how do we support communities and society as a whole to thrive. This is about more than ‘shareholder (financial) returns’ – it is about Social Impact and Social Value Creation!
Our movement is growing
We are a bottom up movement and I am convinced that much of the success of the Social Value Act is down to all of us, our boldness and our willingness to just go on and do it!
We need to stay focused, finding new energy so we can build on the momentum that we have created and the successes that have been achieved. And so it was really encouraging to see the continuing levels of enthusiasm, passion and drive in the room, especially from the younger professionals attending the conference.
Watching the next generation of leaders and professionals engage with the Social Value movement we’ve spawned reminded me that these events really matter if we are to build a stronger, greener and fairer society for everyone to benefit from.
As Glastonbury has just closed, I can’t help thinking what the legendary Elton John may have said, (if he had been a part of our movement); ‘Are you ready for [Social Value] love? springs to mind!
So now, enough of the backslapping and congratulatory chat, it’s time to get on and deliver – less talk and more action!