We use cookies.

To make your experience the best it can be, we use cookies and similar technologies on our site. We need your permission to allow these technologies, which will maximise browsing experience. For more information on how we use cookies and how to change your cookie settings, please see our cookies and privacy policy.



Please complete this short form to get in touch with a member of our team and we will get back to you as soon as we can.



Sign up to our newsletter by completing the form below.

Header image for the current page Social value: Why it matters and the path to success

Social value: Why it matters and the path to success

Share this page

Social value is one of the four core aims of the NHS which Integrated Care Boards have a duty to deliver.

It is already woven into every new procurement with a minimum 10% weighting and goes hand in hand with net zero targets designed to minimise the impact of anchor institutions on the environment.

In the face of increasingly urgent climate concerns, rising costs and spiralling demands on public services, Arden & GEM is facilitating information sharing across the country to help fast-track learning and innovation that will enable ICBs to accelerate social value, sustainability and economic regeneration. In our most recent webinar, ‘Understanding the importance of social value in the public sector’ we brought together NHS, local authority and voluntary sector leaders to share their expertise.

Why co-production matters

We heard from Cheshire East Council about the importance of co-production in developing social value. True co-production can be uncomfortable for organisations as it requires a different approach, creating equity across sectors and delivering mutually beneficial outcomes for all. But getting the right people ‘in the room’ is essential in understanding and delivering better outcomes for our communities based on what they need, and how and where they need it. This requires meaningful engagement, taking time to reach people in their own communities and providing ways to communicate and collaborate that meet a variety of needs.

Harnessing support from the voluntary sector

The voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector (VCFSE) already plays a significant role in delivering social value in our communities – it’s in their DNA. There is a huge amount of energy within communities, and anchor institutions can deliver more impact, more quickly by harnessing the existing work already being led by VSFSEs who are, by definition, already part of their community.

The Chief Executive of Wellbeing Enterprises (a social enterprise connecting VCSFEs with commissioning organisations) argued that devolving decisions to communities is crucial. As we prioritise social value, we need to give VCFSEs the opportunity to deliver on the ground. Part of that is about providing a procurement system that is proportionate to the ask and offering greater levels of security which allow these organisations to attract and retain staff. We should be asking ourselves, for example, whether lower value contracts need to be retendered annually and whether a £20k project really requires a 20 page tender – both of which put a strain on limited resources and create uncertainty for these organisations.

Embedding social value throughout the supply chain

It was clear from the discussions that delivering social value and meeting our net zero targets is not just a legal or financial requirement but a moral one too. And linking these different aspects together creates a virtuous circle which improves wellbeing for individuals and communities while reducing demand on public services.

As major employers and purchasers, ICB partners have a role to play both in delivering their own social value and in providing leadership for others by requiring those they work with to meet common values through a Social Value Charter. In doing so, commissioners need to be prepared to reassess what is being commissioned and how. Are we, for example, making it possible for suppliers to commit to paying a real living wage? If not, we risk just moving the problem further down the supply chain rather than solving the issue we’re seeking to address.

Working together to accelerate change

NHS England took us through the tools and guidance available to help ICBs develop their social value strategy and embed net zero commitments into procurement, which provides a clear framework on which to base some of this work. As this webinar showed, there are already some great examples of social value being embedded within different systems and a lot of learning to share.

We need to work at pace to meet our net zero commitments and enable positive change within our communities. That’s why we have set up the Social Value Network – a not for profit network hosted by Arden & GEM and designed to help NHS and public sector organisations share learning, develop skills and seek guidance to define and achieve their social value ambitions.

To find out more visit the Future NHS workspace: https://future.nhs.uk/SocialValueNetwork

Watch the webinar

The 'Understanding the importance of social value in the public sector' webinar is available to view below, together with the slide pack, featuring contributions from:

• Alison Tonge, Director of Integrated Service Development, Arden & GEM CSU
• Alastair Clay, Social Value Lead, NHS England
• Shelley Brough, Acting Director of Integrated Commissioning and Social Value Programme Lead, Cheshire East Council
• Mark Swift, Co-founder and CEO, Wellbeing Enterprises
• Dave Sweeney, Associate Director of Partnerships and Sustainability, Cheshire & Merseyside ICS
• Becky Jones, Social Value Specialist, Arden & GEM CSU

You can download the slides here.

You can view the webinar recording below: