Why we care about social value
Author: Swati Patel
- Sector Local government
- Date 02 March 2023
How we’re creating social value for our clients, their service users and our communities.
For anyone — or any institution — true change and transformation is never easy. But it always makes a difference.
After 10 fantastic years in bid management, the time came last year for a redirection in my career. I joined the Purpose team and took up the new and challenging role of Social Value Lead at TPXimpact. Now, as one of the company’s first social value practitioners, I strive to deliver on positive changes for both individuals and communities.
In this article, I’ll provide a high level view of what social value is and its importance to our work at TPXimpact. We’ll take a look at how we’ve put social value into practice with The London Borough of Barnet, and why creating impactful outcomes is so important to our aims and identity as an organisation.
What exactly is social value?
In a nutshell, social value is measured by actions. Officially, it is defined through the Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012), which requires all public sector organisations and their suppliers to look beyond the financial cost of a contract. This means that as a company we need to ensure we assist our customers to maximise the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of local communities when we work together.
As well as being the right thing to do, this is important for us because the UK Government requires that social value is evaluated as part of the tender process. Under the Social Value Act 2012, when scoring bids, government institutions award anywhere between 5-20% of marks for social value. In practice it’s typically 10% — so for us, that margin can make the difference between a successful bid or an unsuccessful one.
How should we be creating social value?
We create social value in lots of different ways, but a few key principles guide our work:
- Not seeing it as an add-on. Social value is more than just a tick box exercise - it’s an opportunity to deliver impactful and engaging commitments where we can make a positive difference to communities and individuals. These commitments should be tailored to suit the customers’ needs and an open dialogue with them throughout the process is encouraged.
- Aligning our core values with the key areas of our business. We look to achieve outstanding social value in all areas of our business: our people, planet, communities, clients and supply chain. In addition to the social value we deliver through projects, we’re maximising social value within our own organisation through specific initiatives.
We’re amplifying underrepresented voices within the business through our employee resource groups, encouraging our employees to pledge 1% of their time to community action projects, and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation by investing in a robust carbon reporting process. It doesn’t stop there - we know we need to be creative and take this work even further.
- Progressing the social value agenda through wider discussions. We’ve previously questioned how fit social value is for purpose in the public sector and we’re actively involved in shaping the social value agenda. We work with organisations such as techUK and The National Social Value Taskforce - a subgroup of the Local Government Association National Advisory Group for procurement - to build knowledge and best practices for managing social value and supporting communities in the most effective ways.
Securing our future through biodiversity
So what does social value look like in practice?
One example is our work delivering Citizens’ Assemblies, where we bring together diverse groups of people — randomly selected from households across a local area — to shape strategy and action on a specific issue.
Working with The London Borough of Barnet, we recently brought together a group of 40 people to learn about, deliberate and come up with actions on climate change and biodiversity. This process encourages participants to share their lived experience, examining the social and economic realities of what it means to deliver on climate action, and making recommendations to make Barnet more sustainable now and in the future.
As part of our social value proposition for this work we also provided:
- A donation of £250 to a community safety initiative Live Unlimited, inspiring Barnet’s young people to thrive and chosen by Barnet Council.
- A place on the Future Leaders 2023 programme and five hours pro-bono support for a Barnet based entrepreneur.
Across the different government department bodies and central and local government there is still a lot of inconsistency in the approach to social value, with uncertainty around what good social value looks like in different situations.
I want to dig deeper and understand this complexity, so we can support our clients, and help them apply social value to their unique contexts. This is what drives me on a daily basis to see how we can make a positive and lasting difference on individuals and the communities we work alongside.
This is a very exciting time for us across the organisation, as we continue to define, deliver and maximise the impactful work we are creating, not only for our existing clients but our new partnerships too.