Newcastle’s Social Value Approach
We have developed and embedded our Social Value approach in Newcastle in recent years. We’re using it to drive investment in our local economy and beginning to see the real impacts of this. In addition, it is helping us influence other local anchor institutions to keep their spend local and achieve better outcomes for the people of Newcastle. This case study explores some of the lessons we’ve learned and challenges we’ve faced along the way.
For Newcastle, the 2012 Social Value Act represented us with an opportunity to exercise our significant leverage as a buyer of goods, works and services in a way that we hadn’t in the past. To ensure that we were using this leverage to create a place containing the things local people say are valuable to them: like sustainable employment, a decent place to live and equal access to quality local services.
A recognition that these outcomes are often best achieved by supporting local suppliers and providers is central to this approach. We’re beginning to see the results of this, and the impact it is having on our communities.
In 2014, the Council brought together local partners from a range of different sectors to establish a Social Value working group for the city – led by the Deputy Leader for the Council. Guided by community consultation, the group set out what Social Value means in Newcastle, and developed the city’s first ever Social Value Commitment.
The Commitment established the four pillars of Social Value as:
- Think, Buy, Support Newcastle: buying locally where possible, ensuring that local organisations are in a position to bid and successfully deliver contracts, building the capacity of local organisations in their understanding of social value
- Community Focused: listening to what the community wants, ensuring that local people’s voices are a core part of shaping each of our commissioning and procurement opportunities
- Ethical Leadership: seeking to partner with organisations that invest in their workforce, pay their fair share of taxes, who care about the net impact of their organisations business on the society around them, and helping organisations to understand why this is important
- Green and Sustainable: mitigating or reducing the negative environmental impact that our procurements can have on the environment around us. Working with partners and providers to promote green and sustainable practice in the work that we commission and procure
These four pillars came to underpin all Council investment through commissioning and procurement.
Embedding a Social Value approach – creating the infrastructure for local investment
As its Social Value Commitment was being established, the Council brought together two teams into a single function to oversee all commissioning and procurement over £25,000 and embed Social Value as its central focus.
A Social Value Framework was created that enabled staff to work with residents, service users, charities and businesses to make sure that all those with an interest in the commissioning opportunity had a chance to shape its design in a way that is meaningful to them. Staff were trained across the whole organisation, promoting a positive approach to provider organisations and people in the local area, and a new IT system was developed to support the way Social Value is designed and achieved across categories, themes and sectors.
By building this infrastructure gradually with systematic involvement of local stakeholders in its codesign, the Council has ensured that local people are invested in the process and have shaped opportunities that are more likely to be deliverable by local providers.
We are starting to see the impact of our local investment focus, with 67% of Council spend retained in the North East, 67% of Council spend invested in SMEs, and 18% of Council spend being invested in the voluntary and community sector (VCS).
Overcoming challenges and looking to the future
Getting to this point has taken significant structural, cultural and policy change for the Council. Overcoming challenges has also brought learning that can benefit any organisation that wants to increase their local investment.
- Upskilling staff – bringing together separate commissioning and procurement teams meant that staff needed to learn new skills and share different ways of working. New processes and policies underpinned the Social Value approach from the start, and many staff also underwent formal accredited training to support them in their new role.
- Changing culture – embedding Social Value culture across the organisation required significant resource and policy change. Led by the most senior political level by the Deputy Leader of Newcastle Council, political support was a key part of gaining buy-in across Council teams and external partners.
- Maintaining momentum – ensuring that everyone prioritises Social Value requires ongoing capacity and continued focus; creating an IT system to collect the data needed to establish a baseline and understand performance has been critical to Newcastle’s approach. Newcastle has also created dedicated officer capacity to lead the Social Value agenda meaning that there is a central point of contact for support and maintaining momentum.
- Maintaining our ‘Community Focus’ – Ensuring local people’s voices are at the core of this approach and measuring this accurately is tricky. We recognise the need to work closely with our local voluntary and community sector (VCS) to do this and are embarking on a major piece of work to track how our social value supports local action, increases connection in our communities and drives up investment in our local VCS.
- Influencing wider change – Promoting ethical leadership externally requires precious time and capacity. While this has been difficult, we have maintained its commitment to codesign and sharing best practice, so that the approach can be adopted across local anchor institutions within the local area, maximising the amount of Social Value gained across the city.
Newcastle’s Social Value vision is part of a wider commitment to creating an inclusive local economy and to mainstream the things local people say are valuable to them. When used in its most ambitious way, Social Value can play a transformational role in pursuit of this aim. We’re at the beginning of this journey and are beginning to see the impact of an increase in our local spending. In the current climate – of huge financial pressures and rising demand for services – keeping it local is more important than ever.
Keep it Local is brought to you in partnership with Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales which specialises in funding small, locally based charities tackling complex social problems.