Creating additional social value for the work we do

additional social value

Guy Battle, CEO of Social Value Portal urges us to take a moment to consider the value of the paper face mask to illustrate the wider point about creating additional social value for the work we do

Take a moment to consider the value of the paper face mask… additional social value

In terms of cost, and before the pandemic, its value was very small, costing just pennies to make. But now as we realise its true value in protecting our health workers, allowing us to travel, and helping us to confidently spend time with our loved ones – this humble piece of paper, and even when taking into account supply and demand pressures, has escalated in price.

Its social value is now recognised and has transformed its monetary value.

Now imagine a world where winning public sector work was not focused solely on price, but also on the wider public good that an organisation can bring to society – the ‘how’, rather than just the ‘what’.

Where the ‘how a service’ is being delivered also brought new job opportunities for those struggling to find work, more support for local businesses to rebuild or supported the delivery of mentoring sessions for school-leavers struggling to find work in post-COVID dominated world.

In other words, creating additional social value for the work we do.

Well the good news, for some at least, is that this is already a reality. The Social Value Act of 2012 made it a legal requirement for all public organisations to consider the social, environmental and economic benefits of a proposal alongside the price.

And this Act is now transforming the relationship between the public sector and its suppliers, with many buyers now including a 15-20% (Manchester City Council is now considering 30%) social value weighting in tenders alongside the normal evaluation criteria of cost and quality. This means that if you want to win more work with the public sector, then you need to start thinking about the social benefits you can deliver alongside whatever your core service or solutions are.

Supporting social value

At Social Value Portal, we have developed a simple menu of over 45 activities that you can do, and that will support your local community and wider society. These activities form the National Social Value Measurement Framework (known as the National TOMs) – endorsed by the Local Government Association and supported by Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and the National Social Value Taskforce, whose members include Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The framework comprises a series of Themes, Outcomes and Measures (hence the name T.O.M.s) reflecting social, economic and environmental priorities such as reducing climate change, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and helping those furthest from the job market to get work and promoting volunteering in the community.

Importantly, the National TOMs help organisations to put a financial value on these additional public and community activities, allowing them to talk about not only what good value they are delivering in the traditional sense, but also their social value.

Social value during pandemic

Our world has been turned upside down and inside out over the past months and almost everything has changed as normal life has been stopped in its tracks, leaving our communities reeling, unemployment rising, and our kids losing vital learning time at school.

However, whilst there has been real hardship during the pandemic, one good thing to emerge is that the notion of the lowest price has been thrown out of the window. We also see this in the value that we place in so many of those lower-paid jobs like being a nurse, a hospital cleaner, a teacher whose stock has risen considerably as we realise that their public value is worth much more than the price we pay for them.

This revelation should provide us all with a chance to rethink how our society works; to recalibrate our calculation of value so that ‘public good’ is considered as an equal partner alongside price and cost. That those who make decisions about how to spend our taxes, do it in a way that adds value to all of us.

But this initiative should not remain in the preserve of the public sector – private sector organisations also buy goods, works and services and it seems obvious (and the responsible thing to do) that even though they are not bound by the Act, they should at least adopt the spirit of the act, ensuring that their own supply chains are encouraged to do their bit and to add new social value.

The pandemic is here to stay and even when we have a vaccine, the memory of this time will and should endure. We must all play our part in a recovery and buyers whether public or private should consider the wider public value of their decision making in how to spend our money and likewise, all businesses, big and small need to step up to the plate and show how the public pound can be used for the public good to help rebuild our communities.

It is only by working together, recognising that we can all contribute that we will be able to Build Back Better, Greener and Fairer.

The National TOMs are helping transform the relationship between the public and private sectors by making it easier for businesses to understand and get involved in delivering social value. Our vision is to develop these to help our communities rebuild themselves and to recover and renew. Please complete our national survey and get involved in the debate here.


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