Written by Isabelle Parasram, CEO of Social Value UK.
It was lovely to catch up with social value leaders last week – some of whom I’d met before and many of whom I had the chance to meet for the first time. I spoke on a panel, alongside representatives from companies such as Suez, CaféDirect, Fair Tax Mark, about ‘Building a coalition to deliver social value’.
One of the areas I focussed on was how to reach out to people and organisations to share our social value message. One way I do that is in showing them that they are already ‘doing’ social value. For example, ROC UK does incredible work in creating strategic partnerships which open up opportunities for crime and disorder reduction and improved community cohesion. At an event I was at with its CEO, she made a comment, that…‘communities don’t always want what we think they want’. That really struck me and I’m looking forward to finding out more.
I spoke about the incredible work that schools do in delivering social value. As a former school governor (one of the most rewarding roles I have ever had), we constantly grappled with the tension between meeting OFSTED ‘targets’ and doing what we saw as best for our students. There were times when there was a conflict between the two. We always chose what was best for our students, rather than working towards ‘box ticking’. That’s what made that particular role so fulfilling – working in an environment that was so values based. And our call, at SVUK, is for social value not to be a box ticking exercise – we want to support and encourage great behaviour. We want to see organisational decision making improve wellbeing, equality and the environment and for organisations to account for that. I had an enlightening conversation with Chris Luck, CEO of The Shaw Trust about this and am looking forward to continuing that discussion with him in the near future.
I also looked at areas where we could do more – in politics, many decision makers follow our key principle of engaging stakeholders, but who are the stakeholders we are engaging with? I recently attended an APPG and it was fantastic to hear from a group of young people addressing Parliamentarians on a variety of political issues. What interested me was not so much those who were speaking – it was those who were not. Where were the voices of those who wouldn’t easily have access to these type of opportunities? Maybe those whose schools are not so ‘plugged in’ to political engagement or whose parents and carers might not provide the environment to enable them to take time off or to facilitate their travel or provide them with the equipment to take part?
The questions we were asked at the conference were very pertinent, especially one from Clare Dove (VCSE Crown Representative) – about how we, as social value leaders, can create an environment where we work together to share our message and support the work we are doing. I think that, in the social value space, we could be bolder. That observation may be influenced by my having come from the worlds of law and politics!
I think that there are creative ways that we can work together. For example, at the National Social Value Conference hosted by Guy Battle, I was on a ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel and one of the ideas that was put forward was a private sector/charity collaboration, whereby the private sector organisation would resource a particular social value project that the charity could contribute to and benefit from. The issue for both parties was in finding each other! And that’s where the incredible brokering work being done by some of our members comes in. Supply Change, What Impact, Social Value Exchange, and Value Match all offer practice and platforms for connecting between sectors on shared values for increased social value provision and meeting public sector contract requirements.
Which links in nicely to the work of Contract for Change, a key project that Catherine Manning, our Operations Director, is spearheading. She is leading the way in embedding social value into organisations first, developing understanding of shared values across the value chain, and creating collaborations for better social and environmental outcomes as well as better contract delivery.
Finally, I talked about the need for us to build wide networks and to invite people from across the board into our conversations on how social value is relevant to everyday lives and topical issues. On 16th June, at a free online lunchtime event (pop in and out if you need to!) we will be discussing The Real Cost of the Cost of Living Crisis. We’re keen to hear from people with a variety of views, political backgrounds and perspectives, so please do send your thoughts in to us by video, audio or in writing (via [email protected]) or be prepared to share on the day. Our panel includes Lord Prem Sikka, Michel Scholte and Jennifer Wallace from Carnegie UK . The cost of living crisis is, indeed, a crisis and, whilst we can’t solve it within a one and half hour slot, we hope to be able to share some of the input and insights gained with key decision makers afterwards.
Posted 23rd May 2022