Following on from the roundtable event we held on the 15th January 2014 we held a further event on the 9th June 2014 specifically to look at the progress local authorities are making in evidencing and measuring social value as part of their new commissioning arrangements.
Participants heard from the following speakers [click on the names to view speakers’ PowerPoint slides where available]:
This is what we found
(1) Local authorities have made good progress in putting in place practical arrangements to embed social value-based approaches throughout their commissioning and procurement procedures.
They are clear in the policies and priorities that inform and shape social value for them, and where they ‘look for’ social value as a consequence.
(2) Most if not all are still ‘feeling their way’ as regards the evidencing, monitoring and measuring of social value, however, and there are a number of reasons for this:
♦ It is still very early days. Few contracts so far let under the requirements of the new legislation have yet reached a point at which evidencing requirements can be reviewed or checked for effectiveness.
♦ Providers and purchasers lack a standardised method for reporting social value. But at the present, and perhaps more importantly, they also lack a shared language for articulating social value.
♦ There is still some doubt about what commissioners and purchasers want to know – i.e. do they simply want to count social value ‘outputs’, or do they want to assess the social impact derived from these additional social value outcomes?
♦ Externally, the social value ‘environment’ is very confused, with a proliferation of methods purporting to measure social impact and social value. But in the absence of a clearer steer from commissioners, providers are reluctant to invest in adopting one particular evidencing method in case they are making the wrong decision.
(3) Transferable social value evidencing and monitoring methods may exist in parts of some local authorities, but there is currently such a pressure on time and resources that local authorities are struggling to compare and assess practices across departments or directorates.
(4) There are hopeful signs that efforts in these related areas are beginning to converge. For example, the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance (CCEG) has been asked by advisors to Hazel Blears MP to assess how public authorities are implementing the Act. In order to facilitate this process CCEG is creating a portal to allow public authorities to complete a survey and upload additional information.
As a major piece of work conducted at scale this could be extremely helpful in establishing some shared sense of purpose and method regarding social impact analysis and social value.