Over the last couple of months, I have had the pleasure of speaking at several events where ‘social value’ featured strongly on the agenda.
In Liverpool, the Social Audit Network Annual Conference examined how social accounting can support civil society organisations to tackle poverty….
In Edinburgh, at an event convened by Community Enterprise, social and community enterprise organisations debated the changing practice of social impact measurement….
In Manchester, the Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Network launched a strategic vision which will mean that these organisations will need to better understand and ‘manage’ their social value….
The following week, again in Manchester, the 2-day National Social Value Conference brought together policy-makers, civil society organisations, business sector and public sector in a ‘social value fest’ so intense that I was starting to feel overwhelmed with the possibilities which social value could bring in our uncertain world.
I had been asked to talk at the Manchester National Social Value Conference about my work in Salford over the last 8 years and draw some conclusions and top tips for those who are new to ‘social value’. Looking back through the many documents and presentations that I have on this subject, there are some clear pointers towards success.
- Take control of social impact – better understand the difference (or impact) that your whole organisation can make using ‘social value’ as an approach. Talk to staff, Board, service users, funders and the wider community and understand what is important to them (but don’t just align the measurement around the funders, measure what matters to you and all your stakeholders).
- Believe in values – having strong organisational values, such as equality of opportunity, honesty, accountability, fairness, etc, makes achieving social value so much easier because people care and want something positive to happen and they can see the benefit rather than being driven by a blind need to comply with procurement law.
- Be a leader – there can be a feeling that ‘leaders’ are CEOs, politicians, campaigners… but to maximise social value, everyone can be a leader. From the smallest community group to the largest multi-national organisation, the social value movement needs leaders at all levels to make good things happen.
[I have recently been introduced to colleagues from Park Run where volunteers lead increasingly popular events which are both breathing life back into our public parks and having a huge population health benefit.]
- Work with others to create partnerships and alliances – this is where Salford has had such a success. Social value is not seen as just a feature of public sector procurement, but an intrinsic element of what they do, and this has been embraced by all sectors. The 10% Better Campaign identified 11 target outcome measures for social value in Salford, with the public, business and VCSE sectors all working together to create a greater collective impact. Having many organisations involved increases momentum and confidence – Salford really believes in social value!
- Give social value the space and mandate to flourish – above all, social value is something which shouldn’t need express permission… and this became a key milestone for Salford when the City Mayor embraced social value, asking about it in large-scale procurement, in planning and development, and from the Council itself. Once the Chief Financial Officers of the Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group had embedded social value in their medium-term financial planning, it gained significant credibility. Now social value is an essential part of grant-giving, commissioning, local strategy and the way a huge number of key organisations do business in Salford.
As a footnote, returning to social accounting and audit, it is an undeniable fact that funders and financial people need accountability from their ‘investees. For all that Salford is doing to create a ‘social movement’ around social value, focussing on the issues, not the measurement, and being able to understand, monitor and report on the difference that social value can make will be critical to its success in the longer term.
The Social Audit Network will continue to campaign for better accountability from social economy organisations and Salford City Council has shown the way by publishing the first local authority Social Impact Report which has taken social accounting theory to report on supply chain impact and its contribution towards the 10% Better Campaign.
In Salford, we have the mandate, and we are indeed flourishing!
Social Audit Network