Social Value Explained

For the People, by the People

The London 2012 Olympics was a big deal for the UK, a time to shine and showcase the very best of British to the world. At the heart of this huge undertaking was a commitment to legacy - to leave the UK with long term usable assets that would enhance the lives of its people. Six years on, the Olympic Stadium itself has been re-used as the new home ground for West Ham United Football Club, partly offsetting the cost of the initial build.

Of perhaps more significance is the fact that the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which surrounds the stadium, is now a top London tourist destination, which enhances the local environment with much needed inner city green space. Even more significant to the nation as a whole is a strong volunteering legacy, with a ‘Join In’ initiative supporting 10,000 local events across the country in summer 2013 alone. These two factors exemplify a new kind of value that’s being given increasing significance, particularly amongst public sector projects - social value.

What is Social Value?

It’s all about the value we place and importance of the changes we experience in our lives. These are not monetary values, such as the cost savings to health provisions from healthier lifestyles. These are the values we place on, for instance, living close to green spaces or from learning new skills, like first aid or growing vegetables, which can support and enhance individual’s quality of life and those of their communities. Whilst we might often overlook social values, they can be the difference between happy fulfilled lives, versus a life filled with depression, loneliness and ill-health.

The UK public sector is placing increasing importance on social value in the way they plan and implement projects. Why? Well, making social value central to improvements not only increases the efficiency of public services, but can also provide added value such as healthier, happier, community-focussed citizens. In these days of continuous public sector cuts, social value can contribute to decreased demands of public finances and long term sustainable outcomes.

Adopting social values at the heart of public projects makes good business sense for those developing services and solutions. By taking social values into account, developers can set out clear and tangible objectives in their project proposals that define positive outcomes for people, society and budget management. What’s more, collaborating with end users provides more assurance that projects will deliver what people actually need.

What are the Benefits of Applying Social Value?

Social value ensures that projects and plans have society at their heart, delivering results which are focussed on communities, ensuring every possible penny is spent to benefit the service users: people like us.

If your project takes social values seriously, it will take on board the views, opinions and requirements of the people who will benefit most from the project outcomes - sometimes called stakeholders or service users. Gone are the days when decisions are made behind closed doors. Organisations are increasingly realising the benefit of listening to stakeholders and service users, bringing them along for the ride, to help shape and steer projects which ultimately deliver what people need and want. This is a practice that has long been used in the commercial world, where manufacturers recruit target members of the public as a matter of course, to test and offer opinions on products and services long before they reach shop shelves. Why risk spending good money on a product that might not be appealing or desirable?

Service providers also feel more connected to the customers and communities they serve. By working side by side with end users, providers obtain a greater understanding of the challenges, needs and desires of their customers. They might gain an acute understanding of the little things that can make a huge impact on people’s lives. As a result, providers can feel more confident that they are getting it right for their customers, making for happier employees who deliver more and feel their work is valuable and relevant.

How do we Apply Social Value Principles at Hitch?

Social Value UK have set out the following principles which define an effective social value project:

  • Involve stakeholders

  • Understand what changes

  • Value the things that matter

  • Only include what is material

  • Do not over-claim

  • Be transparent

  • Verify the result.

Wherever possible, Hitch adopts the seven social marketing principles in all our projects, originally developed by our strategic partners at the National Social Marketing Centre. A key element of this approach is posing the question: ‘Do I really understand my target audience and see things from their perspective?’.

At Hitch, we look to reach out to the target audience to understand their needs, barriers and challenges. In the case of a recent project for Camden and Islington Councils in London, we collaborated with the local target audience and commissioners throughout, to develop a smoking cessation service and supporting campaign: Breathe, which was defined and co-developed by representatives from local hard to reach communities. The result was a campaign centred on a choice of tiered solutions aimed at specific groups in the Borough, designed by people in the Borough with their communities firmly in mind.

Get in touch to find out more about our social value centred projects.

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