Social Value

I’ve been out and about the last couple of weeks attending various industry and non-industry events on social value and thought I’d provide our readers with a snapshot of what’s happening around social value and what we can expect to see in 2016 and beyond.  For those of you new to social value, social value is having regard for the social economic and environmental well-being of communities in the procurement process.  This means that public sector clients are now using their procurement power to unlock millions of pounds of added value to local communities.  The public sector have always been able to consider the additional benefits to a community through procurement however, the Public Services or Social Value Act (2012) means they now have to do so as a matter of course.

Not much has changed in the social value landscape, however there were a few key pointers of note I took from the various events I attended (see below).  Whilst not much has changed however, one thing is for sure, social value is here to stay and will only become more and more important in public sector procurement as clients try to get better value from their spend.  Social value is also a very good way to strengthen relationships with your public sector clients, working with them to achieve the best outcomes for the communities which they serve.

Key Points:

Social Value is something Local Authorities are going to have to take account of

Greater Manchester Social Value Network have developed on line module for Local Authorities

New EU Directives support Social Value to be applied

New EU regulations encourage more pre tender discussion

Social Value will be embedded into contract monitoring against KPIs

Social Value is helping to form and develop relationships with public sector

At all the events I attend it’s needless to say that the majority of people there are already advocates of social value.  For most, what they want and need is advice on how to go about implementing and creating social value.   Many organisations do lots of social value with it being at the very core of their business.  In many of the workshops I have delivered, people respond saying ‘but we do that’.  The question they need to be asking however is “is this what the client wants”.  Understanding what your client wants can be a tricky task and sometimes it might feel like we wish we were blessed with the powers of Mel Gibson in ‘What Women Want’!   On the basis that this is not going to happen however, there are other ways we can understand what the client wants.

An insight into the clients mind…

In a recent meeting with a public sector client, the feedback in relation to a failed tender was that “you need to make sure your response responds to our core values”. In this respect, more pre-tender discussions need to be taking place so that contractors can adequately respond to clients’ needs.  As the saying goes ‘I’m not a mind reader!’.  If it’s not explicit in the memorandum or the tender then it’s unlikely to be responded to.

Failing this, another way to suss out exactly what it is that the client wants is to research the client.  Look on their websites many now have social value policies and frameworks in place that set out the objectives and outcomes that they ate trying to achieve.  This is how I work with my clients when supporting them through the bid process.

Another tip (and again from the horses’ mouth) evidence, evidence, evidence!   If you can’t demonstrate that you have done it before with demonstrable outcomes then your competitors who can will inevitably win the bid.  A lack of evidence is a common issue I find when working with clients.  Evidence gathering it seems is not a practice on the radar.  This has in most cases lead to a rather time consuming exercise of scrambling around for evidence last minute.  Social value should be something that business do as a matter of course.

Responsible business is not about how a company spends its money, on philanthropy or good causes. It’s about how business makes it money and in the process, how it treats the planet, employees and suppliers and operates fairly and inclusively to all.  But the key here is capturing all this along the way to ensure that when it comes to bid time, you have all the information you need – Business in the Community Chief Executive Stephen Howard

As with any new process, this will take some time and planning.  But once you have a social value/CSR strategy in place, the time saved will be worth the initial outlay.  At the recent Social Value Summit, CEO of Interserve Adrian Ringrose stated “We can’t achieve sustainable growth without CSR.  We have to ensure that social value is woven into the outcomes that we deliver as businesses”.  Social value is not about short term, box ticking thinking, we need to think long-term…

I’ve seen 3 northwest frameworks come out in the last 6 months that focus heavily on social value and CSR as part of the award criteria and building it into performance indicators.  There is a greater call for transparency with social value influencing the scoring and decision making process.  The quality aspect of tenders has been creeping anything up to 70% in the last 18/12 months with social value constituting a good chunk of this.  Making a start now will ensure you are ready when the next tender hits your desk.

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