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Showing off your wider impact: Answering the social value question

2016 and 2017 sees many public service spin-outs face the prospect of re-tendering for their core contracts. To mark this milestone, we are publishing a series of articles on bid writing and business development. Read the seventh in the series below

Since the Social Value Act came into force at the start of 2013, we can argue about how much it has really changed public sector procurement.

Whatever view you take on that, what can’t be denied is that most large tender documents now include a ‘social value question’.

This will usually be phrased something like the following: ‘demonstrate the ethos of your organisation in relation to social value. Please include in your answer any economic, social and environment benefits you will bring to the area in which the service is provided’.

Our experience is that the social value question usually accounts for around 10% of the bid scoring, although it’s fair to say that this can vary considerably.

Answering the social value question is a relatively new skill and the responses we’ve seen vary widely, but let us share some of our experience.

The first thing to do is not to get mixed up between ‘social value’ and ‘social impact’. Social impact is a general catch-all for the effect you have and can be used to describe all or some of your services. Social value is very specific – it is the impact you have in addition to the contractual services you will be providing and will impact the wider community. In practice this distinction can be hard to pin down but you need to show that you understand it.

The second piece of advice is to structure your answer. If it asks for economic, social and environmental impacts then divide your response as such. Economic benefits might include any trading with local suppliers or employment created in the area. Social benefits could be anything that strengthens social capital or community relations. Environmental benefits may be your carbon footprint or recycling.

Third, commissioners are struggling with how to define social value. If possible, translate the outcomes you identify into indicative financial savings. This doesn’t need to be complicated but it helps to express impact in the language they understand. Tell them how much money you are going to spend in the local economy, how many jobs you are going to create and how much tax revenue that will generate.

To show that you mean it, social value must go beyond what you write in bids. To show its place in your organisation, a good start is a whole-organisation social value statement. It’s something which can be there to signal your ‘value add’ and exactly what your organisation is all about.

As commissioners’ familiarity with social value grows, it can be a way that you can differentiate yourself in the market. So invest now and start as you mean to go on.


For more articles in this series click here.