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15-17 OCT
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Social Value in Action.
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Guy Battle

Takeaways from the Social Value Conference 2023: Guy Battle, CEO of SVP

"Social Value is fast becoming standard practice across the board - now is the time to let it fly.” Guy Battle, CEO of Social Value Portal, rounds up his thoughts following this year’s conference.


This is the sixth annual Social Value Conference where we have worked with the independent National Social Value Taskforce to take the Social Value movement forward and break new ground.

Our aim, as always, was to generate thought provoking and insightful content for professionals from all sectors and organisations - and we certainly delivered this year!

Following the National Social Value Taskforce's recently launched whitepaper, ‘Delivering A Social Value Economy’, the event provided the perfect platform to take a more detailed look at this concept, understanding how we are going to make it a reality.

Taking Social Value beyond procurement

We all recognise that Social Value has made great strides since the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which the public sector has fully embraced and spearheaded.

What has become more evident this year, however, is the growing interest and enthusiasm from the private sector. In order to continue the momentum, we now need this hugely influential sector to shoulder the responsibility and carry the Social Value movement forwards.

Procurement is a critical area where Social Value has thrived, and continues to do so. But organisations now need to embrace opportunities to deliver Social Value beyond procurement. For instance, how can businesses manage their own employment strategies? How can they build corporate strategies that deliver for the Social Value Economy in all areas, including marketing, production, sales, people and culture, as well as supply chain management?

The focus on delivering transactional Social Value in projects is proving successful, but it became apparent as the conference progressed that there is a need for organisations to embed Social Value into their overall strategies, focusing on leaving a positive lasting legacy and solving wider societal problems.

Accountability and collaboration are key

Accountability is undoubtedly under the spotlight - and rightfully so. Measuring, evaluating, and reporting performance is key to our success, and the numbers really do matter. As we discuss in our 'Power up your Procurement with Social Value' report, behind every number, there is a life; a person, a family, and a community.

I talk often about ‘radical collaboration’, and indeed, we had several breakout sessions that explored how we can collaborate on topics such as mission net zero, place-based approaches, sustainable procurement, and rebel ideas. These sessions provided a great deal of food for thought and it is clear that radical collaboration is what will make our goals a reality.

We also need to work more closely together moving forward, joining efforts with like-minded organisations, as well as local and central government, sharing our goals and collaborating.

Social Value needs to become strategic

It has become clear to me - and was a key message arising from the conference - that we need to think more strategically and longer term. For some, this means moving away from project-based Social Value. I don’t agree - project-based Social Value is the principle mechanism by which suppliers are engaged and contracted, and often the only means by which SMEs can engage.

No, what we need is for buyers and suppliers on long-term contracts to think strategically, considering how to target Social Value across multiple contracts to form part of a wider strategic approach. In this way, we can solve bigger and longer-term challenges.

For instance, how do we ensure that apprenticeships can be shared, so that a nine month contract can lead to a follow on six month contract, then a final nine month contract and qualification? Or, how do we promote social mobility across a community via multiple organisations coming together with a shared objective?

This will need buyers and suppliers to be more joined up and for businesses to share ideas with their competitors - now that IS what I call radical!

The roadmap to delivery

During the conference, I outlined the four step process which the Taskforce believes can deliver a Social Value Economy:

  • Step 1: Make Social Value core to your business
  • Step 2: Be accountable, set targets, measure and report, be bold, and be transparent
  • Step 3: Build capabilities and capacity to deliver Social Value, including within your supply chain
  • Step 4: Work across traditional boundaries and embrace radical collaboration

These are, on the face of it, simple, incremental steps. If embraced properly, they will challenge all organisations to ask key questions: why do we exist, what is our purpose, and how do we support communities and society as a whole to thrive?

This is about more than 'shareholder (financial) returns' - it is about social impact and Social Value creation!

Our movement is growing

We are a bottom up movement and I am convinced that much of the success of the Social Value Act is down to all of us, our boldness and our willingness to just go on and do it!

We need to stay focused, finding new energy so we can build on the momentum that we have created and the successes that have been achieved. And so it was really encouraging to see the continuing levels of enthusiasm, passion and drive in the room, especially from the younger professionals attending the conference.

Watching the next generation of leaders and professionals engage with the Social Value movement we’ve spawned reminded me that these events really matter if we are to build a stronger, greener, and fairer society for everyone to benefit from.

So now, enough of the backslapping and congratulatory chat, it’s time to get on and deliver - less talk and more action!

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About Social Value Portal

Since 2017 Social Value Portal has been at the forefront of the Social Value movement. As creators of the endorsed Social Value TOM SystemTM, hosts of the annual Social Value Conference and founding members of the independent National Social Value Taskforce – they set industry standards and lead the business agenda.

Their unique mix of consultancy, cloud platform and programmes offer organisations the complete solution to accurately measure, manage and report Social Value – and create lasting impact.

In 2022, SVP achieved B Corp status, scoring above average in all assessed. The company’s aim is to promote better business and community wellbeing through the integration of Social Value into day-to-day business activity across all sectors.

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