Value or Impact

As we enter 2019’s uncertain times, my suggestion to you is to not just think about social value as only a part of public sector procurement, and an ‘add on’ at that. Think about social value as the right way to conduct your business and manage your organisation, no matter how large or small.

….Inclusive employment practice, great working conditions, a local, social and ethical supply chain, offering trading discounts, sound environmental policies and activities, and supporting volunteering can all create a huge impact – and you don’t need to buy it, you just need to decide to do it.

As someone who has been involved in ‘social value’ since before the phrase was coined, I remain more interested in impact than value. It will be increasingly important over the coming months to focus on the outcomes and impact that are created by the social economy; as the people and communities that we support face increasing financial and social pressures. Let’s not restrict ourselves by measuring value, let’s make the space to make a difference.

I have been reflecting on my work in Salford, and there are 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 rather than an object or set of outcomes. 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 the social value approach 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 impact, 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 as organisations, 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. 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.

However, for all that Salford is creating 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 support better accountability from social economy organisations.
Anne Lythgoe


social accounting, social audit, social value, social impact

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