From considering social value to accounting for social value – the importance of maximising our resources
We are all familiar now with the Social Value Act’s requirement to consider the social value of public sector commissioning services. A positive development is evidence from Social Enterprise UK that shows increasing numbers of organisations that regularly include the consideration of social value in their commissioning.
However, we foresee a change on the horizon, where we move from considering social value to actively accounting for it. So, what does this mean? Why would we want to account, rather than consider social value? Well, that is a lot of questions, so it’s only fair that we provide some answers to these….
To account for something is to communicate the impact of an activity – but it is not just information that is sent out into the world without an intended audience and purpose. So why do organisations account for financial value (sorry, another question)? I bet you are all shouting out the answers right now – and yes, you are correct – it is to improve different stakeholders’ ability to make decisions – of course it is!
There are different audiences of course – it may be providing information to investors or funders, so they can decide where to invest and gain the return they seek – it may also be for internal decision-makers to better understand where they can make more value. Whoever the audience, the purpose is to improve decision-making – providing information that shows how more value can be created.
So, what is the difference if we want to account for social value? To be honest, not as much as some might think. Accounting for social value is not about ‘proving’ how good we are – it is about having information about the impacts we have on people and communities, and using that information to make decisions that can increase the value of our activities.
So, yes, we can communicate the social value of what we do – but – and it is an important but – why wouldn’t we also want to use this information to make the most of our resources? Doing more with what we have means moving from just measuring social value, to an approach where we use the information to manage, and even seek to maximise the use of our resources.
Sound interesting? I hope you think it just sounds like common sense – and it is. There are of course challenges to being able to have the necessary information – and at the moment we do not have the same standards that financial accounting has. But we do have the Principles of Social Value. These 7 principles are recognised internationally as an effective framework for us to account for social value by taking into account the views of those affected by activities.
Social Value UK is the membership body that represents individuals and organisations that want to learn more about social value – and we are the home of the principles that can help you to measure, manage, and yes you guessed it, maximise the social value of your activities. Get more information at http://www.socialvalueuk.org/