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Header image for the current page The social value innovator – strategy and tactics for success in a cash strapped world

The social value innovator – strategy and tactics for success in a cash strapped world

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In this blog, Arden & GEM’s Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation, Alison Tonge, looks at the five components of a good strategy and how to demonstrate quantifiable social value impact for the bottom line.

The NHS, and our partners, have a significant opportunity to drive value from the existing resources we use day in day out to deliver services. Our strategy isn’t about additional investment, it’s about showing how our current resources are being deployed in a sophisticated way to drive additional value, real measurable impact beyond the direct care interface.

Our collective duty to deliver triple aim improvements in healthcare quality, outcomes and efficiency is enhanced through maximising impact in three other areas: social, economic and environmental (known collectively as social value). This in turn will provide a circular investment to improve the social determinants of health, advance health outcomes and reduce health inequalities for the people we serve.

We often hear that healthcare can only create a marginal impact on population health and wellbeing as so much is about upstream prevention, education, housing, jobs and the support in families and communities.

We would like to demonstrate and quantify the impact of strategies that use 100% of the NHS workforce, estates and buying power, working collaboratively with our wider health and social care partners. Showing what this looks like when there is a fully engaged workforce from frontline professional teams to board level, demonstrating a strong partnership for social value.

The core 5 strategies

  1. Promoting local skills and jobs: Being a good employer, paying people the real living wage and creating opportunities for local communities and disadvantaged groups to develop skills and access jobs in health and care. Working upstream with education and community groups to promote careers within the NHS and wider care sector. Providing advocacy and coaching support for those who find it difficult to gain access to jobs due to particular circumstances.

  2. Supporting responsible growth: Firstly, purchasing supplies and services only from organisations who consider their environmental, social and economic impact. Secondly, supporting local businesses to get onto purchasing frameworks. And thirdly, asking for evidence of the local social value impact suppliers can add for your organisation, or the project or service you are procuring.

  3. Supporting healthier, safer and fairer: Widening access to community spaces, working with partners to support high-quality, affordable housing and supporting the local economy. Multi-agency partnering with the voluntary and private sector to reduce homelessness.

  4. Decarbonising and safeguarding our world: Taking action to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, reduce consumption and reduce waste. Protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

  5. Driving social innovation: Mobilising action between public, private, voluntary and third sector agencies, working with communities to identify key problems and challenges. Developing and enabling collective energy, and problem solving solutions which will require different ways of working. Use of resources to provide a new scale of positive impact.

But a strategy is only as good as the solutions, commitment and leadership generated, and the ultimate impact delivered. Three approaches may be considered to gain more traction and bring social value goals into mainstream planning, business accountability, systems and delivery structures.

3 approaches to get traction

  1. Recognising existing value. A simple and effective place to start is to use the strategic value framework to engage and ‘bank’ the work already being done. And from this start you can ask the questions, ‘do we measure this?’, ‘what’s the baseline and how much further do we want to go?’, ‘are there other initiatives in this space that we want to do and have not yet achieved?’. Use those who are champions to give case studies on what they have achieved to encourage others. Use light touch competition between teams, places and directorates to showcase their achievements and foster pride in their work. Use any internal awards and recognition processes to put a spotlight on social value and break into the strategic themes.

  2. Accountability for impact. Develop and use the social value measurement framework to overlay an existing business plan objective that the organisation is committed to achieve. For example, within an elective recovery plan for a particular service we could ask relevant questions and include them in performance and accountability reporting:

    a. Does the elective plan have a jobs or workforce component? If so, how can we work together to target more local employment. Is there any measurement we can agree to identify key communities to draw this workforce from?

    b. Is there a supply chain element to the plan? For example, when working with the independent sector can we question the social value elements of their delivery? Are care pathways adopting digital solutions which reduce travel and estate use? Are there community based diagnostics or elements of the pathway, and is there a focus on waste reduction?

    c. How are we addressing any inequalities within waiting list management and targeting underserved groups? How are we ensuring discharge, community and social care services maximise the support available in the community? How are we supporting vulnerable patients to maintain health and not deteriorate while waiting?

    d. How are we measuring the use of our estates, theatres, outpatients and beds to demonstrate reduction in carbon through better pathways, energy generation and management, reduced waste and improved productivity? How are we enabling green travel for the workforce and patients? How are we planning for adverse weather events to protect staff, patients, communities and service delivery?

    e. How are we encouraging innovation in the pathway with primary care including optometrists, dentists, pharmacies and GPs? How are we adopting best practice that others have demonstrated to reduce waste such as digital innovation?

    Using a measurement and impact framework to demonstrate the financial benefits of social value approaches enables this information to be included in annual reports and submissions to funders and stakeholders, so it can be compared to other organisations.

  3. Innovation through challenge and hackathons. Convening community leaders, patients and users alongside subject matter experts, resource and decision makers as part of an intensive fast paced innovation processes. Initial research has to be undertaken in advance of hackathons on the problem statements and challenges with comparative data to demonstrate the challenge such as the primary care 8am rush, or homelessness, or lack of access for a particular group. Hear from others about what they have achieved and be inspired while ensuring there is cross fertilisation of working between groups. Then work through the problem or challenge and drive the day through a process of inspiration, ideation, feasibility and ranking of solutions, to a ‘pitch’ to the room. Enable voting and choice of solutions for the problem.

At Arden & GEM we use a six-stage innovation process, with each stage having an independent focus that must be completed before moving to the next.

Taking the next steps

Deploying the right strategies and tactics to enable your organisation or system to maximise social value impact requires time, resource and relevant experience. Arden & GEM has developed expertise and support in social value innovation and we would love you to access our advice and skilled panel of partners as part of a powerful network of members to drive forward social value.

You can learn more about how to drive additional social value through existing resources at our webinar 'The role of relevance of social value in transforming the NHS' on Wednesday 6 March. Click here to learn more.

Picture of Alison Tonge

Author: Alison Tonge |

Alison is Executive Director of Strategy and Innovation at Arden & GEM and is responsible for ensuring our organisational strategy, innovation process and planning approaches are robustly developed and delivered. With over 30 years’ experience in healthcare, she has held senior leadership roles within NHS England, provider Trusts, a Canadian integrated care system and the private sector. Alison has a passion for enabling quality and cost improvement through evidence-based innovation, mobilising action at scale, and a focus on analysis measurement and accountability.