7 Steps to Understanding Social Value

We’ve been talking to organisations across public, private and third sectors about what social value means for them. The overriding comment is one of wariness. There’s a worry about starting on a road that adds complexity or cost to your operation with nothing to show for it. It’s not helped by people who promote complicated and unclear policies and reporting mechanisms as potential solutions.
We tend to try and look at things more simplistically. And we don’t mind sharing our thinking. We’ve set out our 7 steps to understanding social value – it’s the first in a series of articles aimed at removing the fog that lingers over social value. If you need more info or just want to talk things through please feel free to get in touch.

1) Don’t be put off by the term. We hear a lot about ‘social value’ causing a panic. It’s not helped by our contemporaries who will try and convince you it’s an industry in itself. It may sound big and a bit grand, but scratch the surface and it’s about understanding the needs of the people and communities around you and how you interact with them. From there simply identify the areas where your reach can make a difference.

2) Don’t be afraid to think small. Yes big programmes can have a significant impact on entire communities. But if that’s beyond your reach think about how you can change one thing at a time. Try close to home and look at what you can influence now and in the future.

3) It doesn’t have to mean extra cost. What many organisations have started to report is that embracing social value actually results in financial savings and offers better value for money. We’ve heard about a health agency in the midlands saving around £800,000 a month by encouraging their suppliers to think about their social value.

4) It’s about change. Positive change. Lasting change. So understand where change is needed – and remember communities can be complex beasts and not all change is necessarily good. The lack of guidance around social value is intentional to make you think about where help is most needed.

5) Work with others and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look at who else is doing well and use their efforts to inspire you. Contact your local CVS or Council as they are likely to have someone that can offer information or guidance. Or contact us, we can either point you in the right direction or look to help you ourselves.

6) Think ahead. Consider what is important to you and your organisation now and in the future. The same applies to the communities around you. Think about the support you can offer now, and importantly how long it can be maintained. Plan for what happens after your support stops and be transparent from the start. It’s fair to you and the people you’ll be working with.

7) Put a number on it. Create targets for what you want to achieve – even if they change soon after you start it will demonstrate your intentions. Measurement is also good. The more stats and stories you create the more people will listen to and relate to what you’re doing. Use this information wisely and you’ll unlock extra value – social value for the people around you, and commercial and reputational value for your organisation.

We hope that’s helped make things a little clearer but please join the conversation @futureproofcic or at www.futureproofcic.com

Posted: April 25, 2015