Social value became a feature of public sector contract awards following the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act in 2013. It’s becoming an increasingly important factor that sometimes tips the balance between evenly matched bids.
It’s also an area where SMEs have many strengths they can play to. The challenge is to identify what those strengths are and present them persuasively in tender submissions.
Social value will only work in your favour if you can demonstrate tangible and quantifiable actions and benefits. Relying on mission statements and bland policy documents will not give contracting bodies what they need to see.
Social Value and Local Roots
For an SME, being rooted in a local community is often a significant advantage. Even though large organisations may have an officer with a specific social value remit they will lack the direct links to the local community where the project will be delivered.
National players may well have some impressive numbers and stories around social value that reflect the scale of their business. What they might not be able to show is a direct impact on the community where the project will be delivered.
Your local knowledge of the area, its issues and its needs should give you a real advantage. You can talk from a position of first hand knowledge about how the way you will implement the project will be beneficial to the local environment and people.
Specific = Persuasive
The secret is to be as specific as possible. Say, for example, you are tendering for a school construction project. The easy (and ineffective) option is to say that you will seek to engage the school community during the project.
A more persuasive option would be to say that you are going to build on your existing (evidenced) links with the school to run a series of projects that will promote construction careers to underrepresented groups. The projects and the objectives will be clearly outlined and there will be buy-in from the school leaders and teachers.
The point here is that if the awarding body decides to award the contract to a competitor there is a clearly defined social benefit that they are opting to forgo. The more clearly you can spell out the social value in your proposed solution the harder it is to resist.
In one recent bid we supported in the healthcare sector the submission included in detail how our client support the following:
- Recruitment, training and work placements for economically inactive people in the area where the project would be delivered.
- Working with the local voluntary sector council.
- Environmental measures to reduce energy use and landfill.
- Careers education and work experience for local schools.
- Contributing to Community schemes and Donations of equipment or-in kind labour.
Our client also spelled out the support they provide to charities in terms of donations and volunteering time. The point here is to identify the indirect social benefit that comes from awarding contracts to organisations that actively support community based charities.
Remember, bodies that award public sector contracts have a legal responsibility to consider the social and environmental impacts of how the project is implemented. This is another opportunity for you to make the decision about something other than the price.
You can find more information on the gov.uk website.
If you need advice on how to present a compelling case for the social value you offer we’d be happy to help.