How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?
Five years on from the introduction of the Social Value Act, Alison Ramsey, Frameworks Coordinator, reflects on the key questions that prompted the legislation’s introduction.
The Social Value Act
The Social Value Act was an important landmark. It decisively addressed the need for major public projects led by all public bodies to maximise the value of public investment by delivering wider benefit – social value – for the community. It has meant public investment in new buildings and infrastructure has created new community facilities as well as jobs, training and local spend.
Whilst it is true to say that in the five years since the Social Value Act was introduced, significant improvements have been made in driving measurable community-focused activities within procurement, it is important to reflect upon the key questions that first prompted the Act’s introduction. Perhaps the most important is ‘how do we maximise the social value being delivered through public projects?’
The answer to this can only be found in robust and easily comparable metrics and data. Only then can we begin to understand other key questions: is all ‘social value’ of equal value? How can public bodies – already stretched on resources – remain in control and ensure they are able to identify that they are getting the right results to suit their needs at a local level, when there is already so much to consider on major public projects? What does ‘good’ look like? Most importantly, how do we know that we are delivering the activities that communities really need?
When all potential aspects of social value are considered, contracting authorities can be presented with an extensive array of metrics that can be difficult and time-consuming to analyse and compare. Social value analysis can quickly become a complicated minefield for the public sector, who simply want to ensure they are getting the best possible local community outcomes from their investment.
Contractors naturally want to keep their clients happy, but public sector organisations must have clear and unambiguous objectives and metrics to ensure they are delivering both the maximum social value and the right kind of benefits for their community. Social value cannot simply be an afterthought to a contract; achieving these superior outcomes requires a more sophisticated approach to the assessment of social value impact.
A call for reform
Earlier this year we published our Better Procurement report, a response to the government’s consultation on its proposed Industrial Strategy. We called for the government to provide clearer national guidelines for public sector organisations on social value delivery. We believe this would help to provide clarity and guidance for the public sector as a whole. However, social value is, ultimately, an empowering tool for local authorities, and so it is right that they too are defining what ‘good’ social value looks like when commissioning and delivering major public projects.
Measuring Social Value
In partnership with the Social Value Portal (SVP), we have been working with the public sector across the UK to devise a clear structure of social value deliverables that councils in particular will be able to recognise, measure and prioritise. In addition to using Key Performance Indicators to measure outcomes, such as local spend and labour, SME and Micro Business Engagement, Scape, together with SVP has developed a series of Themes, Outcomes and Measures (known as TOMs), which will be included in all of Scape’s future frameworks and will form part of the quality evaluation. Used for measuring, reporting and valuing social value outcomes, our TOMs will provide greater clarity for all parties on built environment contracts, but will also offer flexibility while maximising quality and local impact in the delivery of social value through public procurement.
It is our view that we need to keep it simple. The key principles for measuring social value should be:
- Jobs and the promotion of local skills and employment
- Growth and supporting regional businesses
- Healthier, safer and more resilient communities
- Environmental protection and improvement
By adhering to these core principles, our TOMs methodology will reduce the number of measures for social value, creating a much simpler structure of relevant measures to value outcomes. Measures and their impact will vary according to time and place. The TOMs methodology enables procuring organisations to focus on where they can add most value and pick key measures to suit.
At Scape, John Simons, our National Head of Procurement and Audit, has set out explicitly how we will embrace TOMs in our own frameworks. He comments: “TOMs is not just a tick box exercise, it is a fundamental and strategic way of embedding social value into procurement policy, ensuring social value is evidenced throughout the supply chain. It is key to achieving truly responsible procurement and to maximising the value of investment and public sector spend.
At Scape, we pride ourselves on being an organisation that is ever conscious of communities’ needs, and so through TOMs we are ensuring that social value will be deeply embedded into our frameworks more than ever before and are intended to complement our existing measures. In addition, the public sector organisations that use Scape’s frameworks will increasingly be able to access the metrics that can better inform on performance and shape decision-making.– John Simons, National Head of Procurement and Audit
Scape’s commitment to social value delivery is clear: we will continue to collaborate with organisations across the public sector to shape and implement social value. Together we can ensure that social value is not just at the forefront of procurement policy, but that we are delivering what communities really need.
On 14 November, the National Social Value Conference will bring together commissioners, social and community enterprises, corporate and measurement experts to highlight achievements so far and to agree on future action.
Alison RamseyFrameworks Coordinator
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