One consequence of the pandemic is that embracing ‘social value’ as a way of supporting our communities has grown stronger – Guy Battle, CEO of the Social Value Portal, discusses the importance of becoming Social Value Creators
2020 has been a tough for everyone, with each of us having to bear our share of the burden and pain. For some, this has been urgently procuring PPE, and for others, it has been dealing with home schooling.
But of course, the burden of pain has not been shared evenly, and a few of us have suffered terrible losses that will never be recovered; our hearts go out to you in a collective embrace.
But as the vaccines are rolled out, we can now at last see a glimmer of hope, and it feels like an appropriate time to review what we have achieved and to look to the future and begin to think about how we can work together to Recover, Rebuild and Renew.
One consequence of the pandemic is that embracing ‘social value’ as a way of supporting our communities has grown stronger and has taken on new meaning, not only as a way of speaking about our collective responsibility, but also about ‘doing’. It is becoming the banner under which we all can unite and collaborate across sectors and industries; a movement whose time has come, as evidenced by the largest ever attendance at the National Social Value Conference this year.
Milestones despite odds
2020 saw a major new milestone with the launch of the UK Government’s Procurement Policy Note – Taking Account of Social Value in the Award of Central Government Contracts. There is no doubt in my mind that this new policy is a game-changer that adds momentum to the already accelerating uptake of social value across all sectors of society; public, private and civil. We also saw the launch of the National TOMs for Wales, an initiative driven by the Welsh Local Government Association; a major achievement delivered in under six months. And finally, 2020 saw a real broadening out of social value’s reach across industry sectors – health, IT, education, energy, rail, to name but a few.
Integrating into more processes
While procurement has been the mainstream flowing deeper and wider, it has been joined by some fast new currents that are starting to accelerate, most notably integrating social value into the planning process. This should be obvious to anyone who has read the Civil Society Strategy published in August 2018, that explicitly states that social value has an important role within the planning process. Since then, a number of leading councils have begun to include social value requirements within their Local Plans (for example, Islington and Salford) and many are recognising the benefit of requiring developers to submit their social value proposals as a part of their planning applications.
At a local government level, councils are now getting back on track after being diverted for much of last year to ‘just surviving’. However, many councils are now being faced with the dual challenge of reduced spending AND the need to help communities recover and renew after the pandemic, and this means that it is inevitable that public sector buyers will be asking their suppliers to do more.
How do we move forward?
It is evident that many businesses have struggled over the past months and so it would be unfair to say that it is just down to businesses (or voluntary organisations, for that matter) to solve the problem by doing more. Most businesses also recognise that we cannot just revert to our pre-COVID ways of working where business operates in its own economic bubble. The way they are connected to people and communities defines them and there has to be a new normal for business, which will mean greater engagement with their communities providing support for recovery. It’s not just about investing in social value – it’s more important than that; it’s about becoming Social Value Creators.
As we look to the future, we cannot ignore the looming challenge in climate change, which has not disappeared just because of COVID. 2021, with the rescheduled COP26 in Glasgow at the end of the year is a real opportunity for social value to show how it can contribute to meeting the growing environmental challenges we face. The recovery has to be fair and green – these two goals stand and fall together.
We must recognise this represents a major challenge to our ambition of embedding social value in the procurement and planning chain. But I strongly believe this is a challenge that we all need to face together, not by turning a blind eye, but by seeing it as a mutual problem, requiring joint effort.
And so, to the future
It seems right that the public sector leads the way and sets the direction of our mutual journey, not as a rule-maker dictating a single approach, but as a ‘convenor’ who provides the space and opportunity for the many players in our wider community to become involved and to contribute. Our collective focus should be on innovation, for surely it is only by collaborating across sectors that we will reach our mutual goals.
After a year-long incarceration within our ‘lockdown’ bunkers, and with the vaccination programme gathering momentum, we will at last emerge blinking into the sunlight to find our communities transformed but recognising that we will need to work together to become Social Value Creators working together to rebuild and renew, a greener, and fairer society.
About Guy Battle
Guy Battle is the CEO of Social Value Portal and has been leading the debate on social value across the private, public and third sectors since 2014. Working with the National Social Value Taskforce and endorsed by Local Government Association, Social Value Portal is responsible for the development of the National Social Value Measurement Framework (The National TOMs) which were first launched in 2017 and are now in their 4th edition. Social Value Portal is an online solution that helps organisations measure, manage and maximise social value for communities.
*Please note: this is a commercial profile
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