Social Value Matters 2017

Social Value Matters 2017

Posted 17th May 2017


Today Ben Carpenter, Operations Manager, Social Value UK shares updates from Social Value Matters 2017.

On the 10th-11th April Social Value International (SVI) teamed up with Turkish member Koç University Social Impact Forum (KUSIF) to deliver their annual conference; “Social Value Matters” in Istanbul. This year the conference title Social Value Matters (SVM17) carried the tag line “More Than Ever”. The backdrop being a world with rising inequality and a collective feeling that we must all act now and quickly to reverse this trend. The conference had a distinct emphasis on Maximising Social Value and Amplifying Stakeholder Voices; empowering the views of the vulnerable – the very people that many of us are providing service or products for. How can we make sure that we are maximising the value we create for these people? I was delighted to see that these themes ran deeply through all the sessions I attended.

This was the third SVI conference I have attended and each one leaves me feeling motivated and inspired. They bring together talented professionals from diverse spheres – united in their desire to see social impact information being used to inform decision making and make the world a better place. SVM17 was no exception; over 250 delegates came from over 25 countries representing the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. Cross cutting these sectors there were investors, delivery organisations and advisors. Throw in the stunning setting of Koç University overlooking the banks of the Bosphorus and it’s a heady mix.

 “It’s great to have so many people from all over the world working together to improve the way in which managing impact can reduce inequality.”

Jeremy Nicholls, CEO Social Value UK and Social Value International

The format of Social Value Matters was extremely participatory – there were no lectures or ‘expert panels’, instead there was always several workshop options, interactive in their delivery and the majority of the conference consisted of small roundtable discussions. Plenary sessions were kept to a minimum with high quality keynote speeches to start both days and then delegates taking to the stage with an open mic session to reflect and summarise at the close of each day (with a live jazz sound-track too!). You can check out some conference highlights and the conversations attendees were having on social media on this STORIFY.


What I personally learned from the conference?

The one thing that struck me was that, we should all (regularly) take a step back and ask ourselves why we are collecting this information about social value in the first place? The answer is surely: “So that we can maximise the social value we create”. So, rather than focussing on the measurement of impact as an exercise in itself – and getting caught up in the complexities of ‘empirical evidence’ or ‘formative evaluation’ – we should focus on collecting the information we need to improve our products and services. Or, in the case of investors/governance; “Is that organisation collecting the information it needs to improve it’s products or services?”

I have written before about an emerging shift from impact measurement to maximising impact. This conference reaffirmed that it is definitely time to stop nit-picking about methodologies or metrics. More important is creating an organisational culture of listening to stakeholders and responding which means designing services or products to meet their preferences. This involves all of the complex and geeky things we love to discuss and are necessary to practice (such as stakeholder involvement, valuation techniques, counterfactual, materiality) but doing it proportionately and with a clear raison d’etre: to maximise the social value of our activities.

As our conversations shift more towards ‘managing impact’ and ‘maximising value’ there are more references to subjects such as ‘design thinking’, ‘social innovation’ and ‘customer profiling techniques’. These are exciting topics and practices – arguably more exciting than ‘measurement’ and ‘accounting’ (but ssshh don’t tell the accountants I said that!). The truth is, accountability and maximising value are two sides of the same coin; if you are being accountable to your stakeholders then you are relentlessly innovating to provide the best services for them. I can’t wait to bring in more experts from these fields to help develop our movement!

What happens next, ACTIONS?

We hope all attendees and also people who couldn’t attend can stay in touch using Social Value International social media.

Join the movement, by becoming a member today, and see you next year!