Social Value and SMEs
We have been working to support the development and adoption of social value principles by mainly SME organisations. Its been a really interesting project, firstly there are many organisations while for profit have a strong sense of social responsibility. This might be reflected in connections with their local area or communities, support for particular charitable causes or wider civic engagement like sharing experience, mentoring and volunteering. In many cases these actions are driven by personal actions and commitment, occasionally through approaches to social responsibility seldom explicitly directly attributable to social value, The impact of these actions can be considerable in supporting third sector and wider civic society actions, but often they go under the radar, the impact is not recognised or evaluated.
Our aim in seeking to increase the social impact of organisations is not to under value this personal and moral imperative, but to help shape and direct this to become a more clearly articulated business purpose. With support could the impact of the organisations social action be greater, is it targeted at their and local needs effectively, how do you know if its been effective. Can this activity help differentiate your business to deliver more and grow?
When you have these discussions many businesses struggle to balance and align their social impact with their main business purpose. Further they are rightly nervous of mission drift and with limited resources becoming overwhelmed in process. Certainly social value while its principles are straightforward can look daunting in terms of a new language, new economic models and accounting approaches.
Therefore its important to:
- Consider the business case – what is the organisations sector, how can it differentiate itself to its market through social value
- Talk to your service users, buyers, commissioners and other partners what is important to them and if you can help them overcome their issues
- Align social purpose with the broader aims of the business, many of the most impactful social actions can arise through considering the core purpose and present service model that might be revised to increase social value
- Focus social impact actions on core priorities that will maximise their impact – for example in charitable support consider what are the local priorities and the focus grants, volunteering etc to support this
- In measuring social value – be proportionate, don’t be a slave to process – build over time, use a mix of qualitative (inc. case studies) and quantitative measures. But try to use the SVUK principles in building this approach.
- Keep the passion for doing the right thing – celebrate your social impact
If you’re an SME, you might be completing tenders with public sector or larger private organisations that require you to outline your social value offer for example in line with the Public Services (Social Value) Act. If this is the case, think about what you currently do, but might help the tendering organisation meet their challenges and priorities, try to be specific in terms of your offer.
There are lots of organisations and support that can help develop your social offer and align it for competitive advantage.
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