Social value lite?

The Public Service (Social Value) Act is a constant theme at the recent events that I have attended up and down the country to promote the 50in250 campaign. What will it mean? How do we prepare ourselves to demonstrate it? Will it have teeth? Will it be more lip service? Is this social enterprise’s opportunity to rise to the occasion?

One thing I am certain of… you can be sure that the corporates are gearing themselves up to demonstrate social value in bucketloads. My inkling is that there will be social value departments springing up all over the place; an industry will be created and methodologies for measuring it will grow exponentially (which is saying something as scarcely a week went past before the Bill without someone telling me that they had found the holy grail).

It’s great to see that one of our certified social enterprises is already maximising this opportunity: Connection Crew will soon be launching their CSR Account. The Connection CSR Account offers their clients statistical certification of the social impact that their business dealings with them have affected. This kind of activity – together with the guarantee and reassurance that the Mark’s criteria provide – is exactly what businesses signing up to the 50in250 campaign have told us they value and need.

I have also heard that social value is the USP of social enterprises. This is not true of course, as social value is created in many ways: for example, through providing employment opportunities or making ethical buying decisions. What is unique to social enterprises is that their social purpose is their very reason for being in business. Their social and environmental values are central to everything they do including their business practices. The combination of these factors make the essence (USP) of what it means to be a social enterprise.

We need to get our act together! If we’re not careful, we’ll miss the boat on this one. The sector needs to demonstrate how these things fit together, differentiate ourselves, grow up and stop squabbling. We also need some powerful allies that share and demonstrate our values and can help us with this challenge so that we are not seen as ‘pink and fluffy’.

I still believe that we can change the world, but we need to be proactive and find the right and trusted people to help us grow as a sector, in the right direction.


3 responses to “Social value lite?

  1. Lucy
    As always changing the world will depend upon wit & will. While many of the corporates will demonstrate social value…

    We need to be clear that those gatekeepers (be those who say ‘how I help you through my gate’ -wit & will, rather than those who say ‘before you can get through my gate you have to demonstate X or y, or you have to clear hurdle 1 or 2’ neither will nor wit) we encounter are clear about getting the ‘best’ for their users & customers, The best is not only measured in the price offered.We need to capture (or have captured) hearts & minds re. getting the best be they social, economic, environmental & increasingly cultural outcomes. Both for users/customers & the wider community/neighbourhood because thats where pople live.

  2. Beanbags admin

    I agree. I think the removal of the words ‘social enterprise’ from the Bill during its journey towards becoming an Act was significant but not necessarily in an entirely bad way. It provides an opportunity for social enterprises to make the case for what they do that’s specifically better than what corporates do (even when they’re theoretically focused on social value). Hopefully we’ll be able to meet the challenge.

  3. Pingback: Smoke, mirrors and social value | Lucy Findlay

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