This year, the government set out their vision for ‘levelling up’ the UK. Guy Battle, CEO, Social Value Portal, provides a response to the white paper and some words of wisdom for anyone looking to reduce inequality in their community
Earlier this year, the government released their paper detailing its new ‘levelling up’ agenda. The gov.uk website refers to the paper as ‘a moral, social and economic programme for the whole of government’. (1)
The paper lays out the government’s approach to tackling the combined ‘wicked problem’ of social mobility and inequality. These are core to our ambitions for the National TOMs. We recognise that it is only by working together across sectors that the UK will solve inequality in their local communities.
We were excited when we heard the government had published a detailed white paper focusing on how they were moving to create a more level society. And we were keen to see their vision for Great Britain in 2030. Whilst the 332-page report includes some left field references – a focus on Renaissance Florence grabbed our attention – the principles of ‘social value’ underpin many of its proposals. Here are some thought-provoking ideas that are worth dissecting further.
Devolution: Making social value a core principle
The paper sets out a clear vision for a change in the structures we use when choosing where to spend taxpayers’ money. It also sets out the best way to implement this change.
This government wants more regional decision making, spearheaded by more mayorships. This means one thing above all else; strategic planning is back on the map. Throughout the pandemic, mayors of cities like London and Manchester have been increasingly vocal when representing their constituents. According to the government, this chorus of voices is going to be louder than ever by 2030.
A huge benefit of this change is that, if we move now, social value can run through any new structure of planning and decision-making. Each region will vary, with different challenges and opportunities. Decision-makers need to carefully work with communities to ensure needs are met and opportunities are unlocked. This means working with other anchor institutions to ensure that social value sits at the core of all decision making.
A strategy is only as good as the plan for its delivery, otherwise, it sits on the shelf gathering dust. A shared vision that becomes a mission can galvanise a movement and deliver real change. Whilst the paper offers new mayors the power to bring about this change, it fails to recognise the inherent power that sits within all our communities.
In our view, levelling up is not the sole responsibility of our public sector. Instead, this responsibility must be shared across the public, private and third sectors. Mayors should look closely at how they can unlock the power of this cross-sector collaboration.
We call this Radical Collaboration – the power of all sectors of our society aligning to a single goal.
Data at its heart
When building out their strategy, the government set out a framework that uses data to address social disparities between different regions of the UK. This is a good starting point. But there is a danger that by relying solely on data, real stories and cultural challenges might be overlooked.
The levelling up agenda needs to engage with local communities. It needs to ensure they are listened to and their needs are met.
This will be complicated. Resources are limited, and this means there will be hard decisions about where to spend and what to invest in. This presents a danger of going back to square one – how do we ensure that all communities benefit equally and none feels left behind?
We need to eliminate inequality by tackling it in all communities, not just a few. We want to make sure that social value is always a priority, no matter where your community is.
The paper is right to highlight the divergence of equality across the country. There is certainly a gap between the wealth in London and the wealth in Liverpool. But both cities have issues and problems that need to be addressed. We need to be doing more good throughout the UK.
Within the paper, London is used repeatedly as a yardstick for success. On page 120, we are told ‘If underperforming cities in the North and Midlands were as productive as London and the South East, UK GDP could be boosted by around £180bn per year’, while on page 173, we hear about a ‘Package of powers [that] will allow more parts of England to benefit from London-style transport systems with simpler fares’. (2)
If our work across the UK has taught us anything, it is that comparisons to London aren’t always helpful. No two places in the country are the same, and we must work with communities directly to reduce inequality and, ultimately, level up. A needs-based approach to investment and regeneration is vital.
Communities need to decide what is right for them. By using the National TOMs framework, and tailoring it to your place, you will be able to create a common language and approach. You’ll get a clear picture of the social value you are creating, and what you can build on in the future.
Is it enough?
Social Value Portal whole-heartedly supports the government in their aim to ‘level up’. We’ve spent years working with communities across the country to do just this.
We understand that the journey to reducing inequality is as worthwhile as it is complicated. Whether it’s building a community garden or a 332-page document, there’s always plenty of thought and hard work behind doing good.
However, we’re concerned that the levelling up paper might not do enough. A response to the extraordinarily complicated set of challenges facing communities today needs more detail, more rigour, and ultimately, more action.
We have already taken the steps to leverage the government’s levelling-up journey. Mapping the government’s vision for Britain to our National TOMs, the established methodology for analysing and reporting on social value means a level playing field is achievable.
We have a long- and well-established track record of creating tangible change in communities across the country. This change can be measured, reported on, and monitored. And our journey is only just beginning. Find out how you can join us and start levelling up today.
Please note: This is a commercial profile
© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.
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The Social Value Portal – creating more value for communities
The Social Value Portal is an online solution allowing organisations to measure and manage their and their supply chain’s contribution to society.
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