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How to ensure social value is meaningful

January 19, 2022

Social value has long been a requirement in public sector procurement but how can organisations ensure they are delivering genuinely beneficial outcomes for the communities in which they work? The Echelon Group’s Head of Commercial Jack Dolden outlines how our Social Value Builder can help clients to provide impactful initiatives, when procuring services.

In a nutshell, the Builder provides a tool for evaluating social value which enables contractors to provide bespoke bids that are consistent with clients’ desires.

It is fed by an Excel-based Social Value Matrix, which is essentially a database of over 100 social value items, based on information collated from previous Echelon-run procurements. Utilising this existing database, the client selects a smaller list of social value items, and then agrees values for each, depending on their priorities and ranked importance, and applies a weighting.

The client team is encouraged to sit down at the beginning of the scoping process and think about the type of social value that the work stream being procured can deliver. The idea being to align their corporate social value objectives with the opportunities provided by the contract and to make the social value attributed to the contract realistic.

Because there is a weighting to each social value item, the Builder provides the contractor with a total social value ‘budget’ which includes the client’s minimum and maximum acceptable spend on social value. This offers the contractor a bandwidth enabling them to provide more of the client’s preferred items and fewer of their less preferred. The contractors then pitch their offer accordingly, within the chosen parameters, with the contractor that offers the most getting the highest points for that part of the evaluation.

The benefit of this approach is the active stakeholder engagement in designing a bespoke social value offer for an individual workstream, rather than just applying a blanket one, so for example, requesting an apprentice on a £10,000 contract for six week’s work, because apprenticeships are part of your general social value offer, when the contract could not sustain an apprenticeship.

The Builder is also designed to enable flexibility within the social value offer, so that weightings can flex to accommodate changing circumstances, as long as the overall social value figure remains the same. Importantly it can be applied to both the procurement of frameworks and regular procurement.

The whole Social Value Builder, which can bolt onto pre-existing social value tools such as HACT and TOMs, is focused on making sure that the process develops a bespoke set of outcomes based on the individual client’s needs, as well as offering a reality check on what the contract can realistically afford to deliver. It can also be adapted in a way that allows clients to utilise the Builder without the assistance of echelon for future procurements

Also, the contractor can take the initial bespoke-to-the-client bid and make it their own to take advantage of the items that they feel they can deliver better value on etc. For example, they might have access to an apprentice academy, or specific programmes for local residents so what you get is an offer that is bespoke not just to the client, but also the procurement and the individual contractors as well.