Social Procurement Festival 2021: Our Thoughts
We recently attended the Social Procurement Festival 2021, here are some of our takeaways from the event.
Article written by Grace Collins
Operations Assistant, Advice Cloud
Advice Cloud were very excited to attend the “Social Procurement Festival 2021” on the 11th of March, the UK’s first online social procurement festival hosted by Supply Change. The festival bought together buyers from both the public & private sector to learn and share best practice for social enterprise procurement, social value activities and to network with social enterprise suppliers and committed buyers. Our Managing Director Ella Grant and Operations Assistant Grace Collins attended the one-day festival. Read on for their highlights!
The festival kicked off with a policy talk from Samantha Butler, Lead for social value skills development at the Cabinet Office, and Rachel Woolliscroft, Director at BayNel Advisory. Butler kicked off the preliminary session posing the questions question as to why social value is now being highlighted, answering that it was due to the recent policy change. As Butler explained, a significant shift in regard to the weight of social value has taken place. Initially, the Public Services Social Value Act 2012 asked for buyers to ‘consider’ social value. Now, since the role out of PPN 6/20, buyers must ‘evaluate’ social value during the tender process. One key focus during the design of the PPN 6/20, as Butler explains was to prevent barriers for SMES from being restricted or excluded from future opportunities. During the design stage, Butler and team consulted with industry bodies, suppliers, buyers, social value experts, the federation for small businesses and exemplars to ensure they did not create a barrier. Finally, Butler stated that she recommends for procurement teams to encourage conversation about social value. The aim in doing so, is to ensure that social value does not become a tactical change, but creates a shared understanding of social value within their communities.
Following Butler, Woolliscroft highlighted social inequalities present across the UK, highlighting particularly the 4.5 million people living on the poverty line and the rise in mental health issues. As Woolliscroft continued, these social inequalities have been illuminated by the pandemic, presenting the time to act now. Woolliscroft encouraged the procurement community to be reactive and to focus on short time change in order to create long term value, stating that every community can deliver. Focusing on the social value model within PPN 6/20, Woolliscroft noted how the five key themes (COVID-19 recovery, tackling economic inequality, climate change, equal opportunity and well-being) evidence that purchasing power should benefit society. Lastly, Woolliscroft highlighted the TOMS framework as a useful tool for suppliers to employ, since it aligns with the social value model.
What are the main social procurement takeaways?
The second highlight of the festival comes from the plenary the panel discussion on “The future of social procurement.” The panel included Natalie Campbell- Chief Executive of Belu Water, Catherine Manning- Interim CEO of Social Value UK, Emily Davis- Head of Social Impact, Amey and Helen Moore, Managing Director of Orbit Homes, hosted by Kelly Bewers, Founder of Impact Edit.
One of the overriding takeaways from this session was the need to act now. As Campbell stated, “The appetite for social value is stronger than ever, yet I still hear people saying it’s a struggle… I say that’s BS. Targets for 2050 aren’t enough. It’s 2021 now.” Similarly, Moore discussed that social value and social enterprises enable increased spending power, by allowing the power to work harder and therefore is inexplicable for buyers to not take advantage of this power. Building upon this, Campbell criticised the social space as being “too nice” but the disadvantage of this is that it can allow for little progress to be made and postponing progress. “We have been having this conversation for a long time and yet there are still plenty of businesses who have made no progress in reducing inequality. We have to have more of a sense of urgency.
Manning concluded with illuminating the potential problem for the future of social procurement. There is a need to have a shared understanding of social value and a shared motivation. Furthermore, there is a need to measure social value, both quantitively and qualitatively, especially during the delivery of a service. Manning warned that failure to do so, puts the whole social value movement at risk. Failure to meet targets, false claims and zero results will undermine the meaning of social value, and will not address the inequalities that are present in society. Manning suggests that assurance and accreditation are part of the solution in order to build confidence and trust between suppliers and buyers, as well within the whole procurement landscape.
Our main takeaway from the whole festival was the necessity to act now. Whilst the role out of PPN 6/20 has enabled social value to be mandatory as part of Central Government procurement, there is no time like the present to act now!