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What is Social Value?

It is increasingly becoming the norm for organisations to consider their activities in terms that go beyond the financial, taking account of the wider economic, social and environmental effects of their actions. With concern about the climate crisis growing, considering environmental impacts is more important than ever, and sustainability is no longer a buzzword but a necessity. Much of this pressure comes from consumers, with Edelman research suggesting that a huge 74% of people say that a brand’s impact on society is a reason brand trust has become more important. The term social value encompasses all of these wider impacts.

Measuring social value not only offers organisations a way to communicate the ways in which they are considering their societal impact to consumers and stakeholders, but also pushes them to change for the better. We are also seeing the concept gain credence with the government. Until recently, companies’ success in gaining work would be based largely on cost, time and quality – while the Social Value Act was introduced in 2013, the latest updates mean that as of January 2021, companies are required to demonstrate the social value delivered on contracts. The construction industry has been at the forefront of this wave, with organisations such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme and the Social Value Portal creating a structure around social value in practice long before it was a requirement.

How is it measured?

The very nature of these impacts means that they are difficult to quantify and, as such, their value can get lost. It is essential to find a reliable way of measuring and communicating them that is more meaningful than simply measuring financial outlay. 

Over the last few decades, different organisations have worked to create metrics for measuring and communicating social value. Measuring is becoming increasingly standardised, with organisations and bodies creating set frameworks. It is important, however, to remember that while we can use frameworks to translate social value into a more relatable figure, social value is not objective, fixed, nor stable, but subjective, malleable and variable. Rather than letting this stand in the way of creating clear and communicable metrics, allowing for this flexibility allows us to calculate social value figures that best reflect the broad and varied impact of Building Pathways’ work. 

Social Value at Building Pathways

Social enterprise is at the core of our work at Building Pathways and, as such, it is important to find ways of communicating the benefits that we provide to wider society, individuals and the economy. Over the last year, we have started to record the work we do in a different way in order to account for the social value that we create.

As a starting point, we are working with the National TOMs (Themes, Outcomes and Measures) Framework as a baseline for measuring our social value, which allows us to use proxies to assign a financial equivalent to social impact. Developed by the Social Value Portal and launched in 2017, the National TOMs was created to provide a minimum reporting standard for measuring social value. By assigning proxy figures to certain outcomes, the TOMs framework allows us to assign a tangible financial figure to the impact of creating social value. Implementing these measures is a work in progress as we aim to find a way of measuring that is rooted in reliable facts and figures and also communicates the full breadth of our impact on society.

Social value is certainly not solely about ‘money’, but these figures offer us a metric that allows us to quantify the scale and breadth of the impact of our work. This allows us to assess not only the impact we have already had, but also to create aims and goals that will guide us in our future work in order to create the maximum social value for the communities with which we work. 

To date, we estimate that we have created over £890,000 worth of social value through our work, from providing training and mentoring, to supporting people into employment. You can see the breakdown of these figures here: http://buildingpathways.org.uk/social-value/

We are just at the start of this journey and are excited to see how we can create even more social value for the communities we support and beyond. We look forward to hearing about what others are doing to grow and measure their social impact.