The Social Value Act - is it working?
Well if you read the government's recent publication 'One year on', then everything is just tickety-boo. But here in the real world it's hard to tell the difference. Of course there are honourable exceptions, Birmingham has done a lot of work on implementing the social value act in a meaningful way and NCVO has just published case studies of three more authorities that are doing interesting and beneficial work. However, on the whole these are big metropolitan authorities and there is very little sign of activity in the East of England.
There are two big weaknesses in the act. The first is that commissioning authorities are only required to consider social value "Hmm, social value…. Right, considered that, it's not relevant here, next."
The second is timing. The Act is being implemented when the only thing most politicians are interested in is cutting costs. They seem unable to recognise that generating social value could make their money go further. The role of political leaders is vital because the evidence suggests that without the personal commitment of elected members, it is very difficult to use social value to make a difference through commissioning.
Here in Norfolk we have set up a Social Value Working Group, which consists of third sector organisations who are getting together to get to grips with these issues. Our first step was to identify what are the key issues and to agree underlying principles, so that we can engage commissioning organisations in a dialogue. These are:
Social value enables commissioners and providers to assess the best quality and best value services
- Social value needs to be linked to high level strategic aims
- Social value captures economic and environmental as well as social impacts
- There is no single approach to measurement - methods should be appropriate and proportionate
- Commissioning organisations need to identify what changes they are seeking to achieve within contracts
- Social value enhances organisations' ability to meet their equality duty
- Providers need to measure the full impact of the services they deliver
- Measurement should be transparent and robust
- Measuring impact can appear to be complex but there are tried and tested approaches
- Measuring social value is more than cost/benefit and should take into account what changes for end users of the service
In all this, the golden rule for third sector provider organisations is - you must have evidence of the social value you create. Don't wait for someone to ask for it or to tell you what needs to be measured. Be proactive and tell your own story.
Discalimer: The views contained in this blog are not necessarily shared by SEEE.