Andrew Morrison of AM Bid explains how to present social value within your bids
Social value is the benefit of a contract on the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the local community. Buyers want to see legacy from the contract – not the circus coming to town, entertaining, then leaving.
If you are bidding for public contracts, then social value will form part of the evaluation. Buyers are legally bound by the (Public Services) Social Value Act 2012 (in England and Wales) and the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to assess bidders’ social value (termed ‘community benefits’ in Scotland) proposals. This can form upwards of 10 per cent of the overall marks – making it a critical area to get right. In fact, there are new measures coming into effect on 1st January 2021 which will place an even greater emphasis on social value in procurement.
What is important to the buyer?
Buyers want to see social value relevant to them and their community. A boilerplate response will not score well; buyers want responses that show an understanding of their specific needs. For example, a deprived area may have a greater focus on education and training for the long-term unemployed.
Most public sector bodies publish a Social Value Plan that sets out their specific goals. You can also attend meet the buyer events, check committee papers, and ask clarification questions during bids to identify key local needs.
What counts as economic value?
The focus is on four main areas:
- Local spending
Can your organisation create jobs, apprenticeships and training opportunities in the local area? These may target a specific group like young people or the long-term unemployed.
Demonstrate your understanding of the barriers faced by these groups. Evidence that you can overcome them and set out clearly how you will do so. Partnering with local schools and community groups is a great way to get this local focus.
Any commitments must be supported by equivalent spend from the client. Be specific – “for every £1m spent we will deliver this amount of jobs, apprenticeships or training opportunities”. If you are the incumbent contractor, state the number of jobs you will retain and the new jobs/opportunities you will create. Be bold, give guarantees and stand behind those commitments. Avoid woolly statements such as “we will aim to,” “we aspire to,” “we will strive to” – this is not the language of successful bidding.
Bring the bid to life and detail what you will achieve at specific stages. For example, in year one, two Apprentices will start, attending a named local college on day release each week. In year two, a further two Apprentices will be employed. Give as much detail as possible on what, when, where, who and how, thus giving the buyer a clear picture of your commitments.
Think outside the box. One housebuilder recognised a dearth of community facilities in the local area, so converted their site office into a community venue at the end of the project.
Social value can also be achieved through the goods and services you buy. Some authorities will now ask for the percentage of your supply chain within a certain radius of the local area. If you are bidding into a new area, engaging with local suppliers during the tender process is a good way to demonstrate your commitment.
Pledge to get a quote from at least one local company for all your needs. Demonstrate a culture that is positive about Small and Medium Enterprises, charities and supported businesses. For example, prompt payment terms and low barriers to join your supply chain.
What counts as environmental value?
Sustainability can be achieved through social value offerings. Talk about what your organisation already does and what it will do to offset its carbon footprint. Say that you will plant a number of trees per ton of carbon dioxide produced. Make use of the various schemes and renewable energy projects that organisations can sign up to in reducing carbon emissions.
State what you will do to meet energy efficiency targets and the renewable energy you will use. Will your vehicles provide good fuel economy and low emissions? Will you plan journeys and hold virtual meetings to cut down on environmental impact?
What counts as societal value?
What pro bono support you can offer to local groups? For example, if you are a construction company, can you help refurbish a local venue?
Regarding charitable funding, you could match-fund employee giving. If you have an annual charity fundraising day, make clear that if awarded the contract, local charities will benefit. You can also provide volunteer days for your staff to support the community.
Collaboration is a great story. Working with local groups helps generate and circulate wealth in the local area – multiplying its positive impact on jobs and the community.
For example, one NHS bidder funded adverts on local radio about health initiatives. This boosted local wellbeing and provided a revenue boost for the community radio station.
How can you tailor social value offerings?
It is vital to submit tailored social value offerings relevant both to the buyer and to their local communities. You may be based in London but bidding in Scotland. Therefore, due diligence is required to establish what is important to the buyer and the local community.
Demonstrate that you have given thought to current issues, such as the economic and societal effect Covid-19 will continue to have on certain groups. Linking with local organisations/groups who are seeking help (e.g. isolation and befriending services) will resonate well. If possible, go and meet local organisations to discuss what they need. This helps you score well and gives you a good relationship and reputation in the local area.
Use a social value calculator (e.g. Housing Association Charitable Trust have a free tool) to work out the pound value and societal benefit of your offer. This will give the buyer a clear and measurable return on investment.
Reporting and monitoring social value
It is critical to have a system for monitoring and reporting on social value. This could include:
- A dedicated Social Value Lead for your organisation who promotes social value among your workforce and helps identify good causes
- Processes for capturing and analysing social value data
- A schedule for producing and sharing social value reports
- Sharing case studies and good news stories on your website
Buyers will want to see that your commitments are not just window dressing. You need to treat social value as a critical Key Performance Indicator and have measures in place to implement it effectively.
Social value offerings that are tailored, costed, measured, monitored, reported, delivered and committed to, will resonate with buyers. Bids will score highly when they address economic, environmental and societal issues, and especially if they leave behind some kind of legacy with long-lasting benefits.
External bid specialists can assist you in designing meaningful and measurable social value offerings that will inspire your target customers.
They spend time looking at what public bodies are doing to achieve social value and can make recommendations to help you maximise your bid scores and positive impact.
Andrew Morrison MSc FCIH CP APMP MIoD Founder of AM Bid is a qualified housing and bidding professional.