Social Value

The definition for Social Value is still emerging; interest in the term has increased with the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act which states:

“The Public Services (Social Value) Act requires public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes”

The Act requires certain public authorities at the pre-procurement phase of procuring services to consider how what is being procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of an area and how the authority might secure that improvement in the procurement process itself. There is also a requirement that authorities consider whether to consult on these matters.

The Social Value Guide: Implementing the Public Services (Social Value) Act produced by Social Enterprise UK in association with Anthony Collins Solicitors (Nov 2012 suggests that as a starting point, contracting authorities should devise and adopt a social value policy and that this should cover specific social value outcomes and benefits the authority is seeking to promote rather than loose commitments.

Ideally, says the guide, this should cover:

  • A description of the purpose and remit of the relevant contracting authority.
  • A list of areas in which your organisation will pursue social value within its core purpose (considering the benefits set out above).
  • The other organisations in the public sector that your organisation works with to achieve these ends.
  • How your organisation will reflect these commitments in its procurement processes.
  • Some targets that your organisation will adopt as desirable outcomes.
  • How your organisation will enable SMEs and social enterprises to participate in its public service commissioning requirements.
  • How your organisation will report on its social value every year.

The Social Value Business

“The Social Value Business simply believes that social value is different for anyone and as such every organisation would benefit from clearly demonstrating what it means to them through a series of social pledges”.

(SVB 2014)

Social Enterprise UK, states:

“Social value is a way of thinking about how scarce resources are allocated and used.  It involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract and looking at what the collective benefit to a community is when a public body chooses to award a contract.  Social value asks the question: “If £1 is spent on the delivery of services, can that same £1 be used to also produce a wider benefit to the community?”

Whilst NACVA states:

“Social Value is about maximising the impact of public expenditure. It looks at what is created, and sometimes what is forsaken, through a commissioning process. It is therefore also about what we value in the public realm. Social value considers more than just the financial transaction.”

It includes:

  • Happiness
  • Wellbeing
  • Health
  • Inclusion
  • Empowerment

These types of value often accrue to different people, communities or organisations and are not always easy to measure. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be part of a commissioning process”

The political perspective of Social Value specifically relates to Public Service Commissioning.

The Stakeholder Perspective:

There are a range of definitions that link particularly to the Stakeholder perspective of Social Value:

“Social value as a concept has additional implications beyond those of measuring the outcomes of a particular project or organisation. In theory, it is an attempt to measure what is ‘valued’, and therefore, prioritised by different stakeholders… There seems to be recognition that value is subjective and requires discussion between different stakeholders and agreement on what is to be valued in particular circumstances”
(Westall, 2012)

“Social Value is the relative importance of changes that occur to stakeholders as a result of an activity”
(SROI Network, 2013)

The stakeholder perspective of Social Value relates specifically to the ‘value’ that those who have a stake in the organisation award to the organisation.

The Value Perspective:

In a recent publication for the Pioneers Post “What is Social Value and how do we Account for it” it is argued that the definition of Social Value lies within the Oxford Dictionaries definition of ‘Value’:

“The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something… … Value only exists by comparison, it is, unfortunately relative. Value is a way of thinking about relative importance; the relative worth of different things. To have meaning for something to be ‘Social Value’ it has to be different to other sorts of value. For some it means ‘Societal Value’ – of value to society in general or of value to people in society – and can be compared to environmental and economic value”
(Matter & Co. 2012)

The value perspective defines Social Value as “of value to people in society” – The Social Value Business adopts this definition in their own perspective of Social Value.