With a backdrop of rising inequality and climate emergency, the theme of this year’s National Social Value Conference was ‘Time to Act’. The 2-day event, hosted by Social Value UK and Social Value Portal, convened over 650 delegates to discuss the pressing issues and developments within the social value movement. Below we’ve highlighted 10 takeaways from the conference which we hope can help shape the strategic discussions of the SEUK’s Social Value Leaders Summit in March.

  1. Definition of social value: Multiple definitions of social value can and do exist. In a positive sense, this allows social value to feel like a movement. Despite various definitions, social value is ultimately it is about tackling inequality and improving the wellbeing of people and our planet and should always be viewed within this lense.
  2. Scope of social value: Based on a broad definition, social value incorporates a wide range of topics including (and not limited to): decent work, public sector procurement, inclusive economy, impact investing, community development, corporate sustainability and the social and environmental value created through our core products and services. Social value is therefore relevant and important in all sectors and industries. 
  3. Accounting and reporting: There is a growing consensus globally that accounting for social value can be done using the Principles of Social Value, which is helping to shape best practice. There is a recognition that different social value data (and metrics) are needed by different audiences for different types of decisions. 
  4. Credibility and Assurance: There needs to be greater focus on capturing negative impacts to ensure accountability and provide the information needed to minimise harm and maximise positive. Big numbers lack credibility without transparency and verification. 
  5. Public Sector Procurement: The LGA’s TOM’s framework is proving a useful starting point for measurement of social value throughout the procurement cycle.  Central government is yet to publish their framework for evaluation of social value.
  6. Valuation and Social ROI: Monetisation of changes in social and environmental wellbeing are becoming more sophisticated as well as other non-monetary valuation techniques such as weightings and prioritisation. Value is inherently subjective and is ‘in the eye of the beholder’, meaning stakeholder voice is critical.
  7. Amplifying voices: Social value is about tackling inequality and can only be achieved through amplifying the voice of those with little or no power. Without this we cannot achieve meaningful change. 
  8. Sustainable Development and Partnerships: The UN Global Goals for sustainable development are an important framing for all sustainability issues. We must broker more partnerships between public, private and third sectors. 
  9. Data and Technology: Advances in technology and the increased availability of data about people’s lives provides opportunities, but also risks. This needs to be managed effectively.  
  10. Mainstream finance: In 2020 we can all make a big impact by questioning where our money is going specifically through our pension funds and asking for more information about the impacts these investments are having on people and the environment. 

Right now, everyone should be feeling a sense of urgency. We are running out of time, in every sense. 

We need to broaden our definition of value beyond cost and price to include measures of well-being to tackle the issues society is facing. Whilst practitioners are developing the technical tools to measure, leaders can help by creating the organisational culture that supports meaningful behaviour change and alternative ways of decision making.

To hear about more inspiring social enterprise stories, sign up to our monthly newsletter.