'If your business values are about driving social good, you're already in a great place to benefit from the Act'


Will Nixon, deputy chief executive of the Aspire Group and chief executive of its social enterprise arm, Enterprising Futures writes about the Social Value Act.

There has been a flurry of interest in social enterprise in recent months, sparked by the 31 January implementation of the Social Value Act.

I declare straight away a vested interest in stoking up that commentary. We want to generate more income for the businesses that sit in the Aspire Group’s social enterprise arm, Enterprising Futures. More interest among public service organisations and private businesses will mean we have a better chance to make our case.

The Social Value Act is undoubtedly a good thing and I have been among the people who have offered advice to housing providers on to best to implement the legislation. However, on its own the act won’t put a single contract the way of any social enterprise. What social enterprises and, more broadly, businesses that are committed to investing in their communities need to do is to stay focused on their business strategies. If the business values and purposes are about driving a social good, then they are already in a great place to benefit from the requirements of the Act.

For a business such as ours it is nothing new and it certainly doesn’t mean we can get lazy about providing a high quality service. Our training company PM Training has been getting disadvantaged young people into work since 1982. Our furniture reuse charity Furniture Mine has been redistributing donated items to people in need since 1980. Social Enterprise West Midlands, our newest acquisition, has itself become a community interest company after losing public funding.

I think it is more helpful to use the concept of “social value”, rather than social enterprise. Does the business you are entering into a contract train local people, does it provide job and contract opportunities in its supply chain? Does it have ways of helping small businesses without tendering teams to win work? Does it provide ways for individuals without experience or qualifications to gain them?

These are some of the ways PM Training and Aspire have been creating social value. We have also encouraged many other companies to join with us by forming partnerships with our local councils, police and big private companies. By opening a routes into the supply chains of our partners we have been able to create many more opportunities and in turn more social good.

So, we hope the Social Value Act will do a lot of good. But the best it can do is encourage the many great businesses that produce social value to continue doing a great job.

Will Nixon is a speaker at the Social Enterprise Conference - an event designed for social enterprises and housing associations to come together. Tickets available | London | 23 April 2013.

A growing number of housing associations are setting up their own social enterprises and many more are buying from and capacity building their local ones. The Social Value Act, which came into force in January 2013 means this trend is likely to intensify greatly in the next 12 months. This is where social enterprises are looking for the next phase of growth and diversification. Housing associations could be the next big customers, collaborators and champions of social enterprises.