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The 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value: Bringing social value into the discussion

All members of Social Value UK are welcome and encouraged to contribute to our blog in whatever way possible. Today’s blog comes from our member Guy Schmid at Perfect Circle.

Guy Schmidt, social value lead at property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Perfect Circle, recently presented at the 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value, which focused on the problems, potential and real life uses of value creation. Here, he discusses his time at the event, which took place in New York in May.

After being mentioned and discussed across several presentations in varying contexts, it is clear to see that social value and shared value – its American equivalent – were key topics at this year’s conference.

Social value – which can demonstrate social, economic or environmental benefits to the end user – has grown in importance over the last few years in the built environment, particularly in the public sector following the introduction of the Social Value Act 2012. Organisations are now making a conscious effort to ensure that their projects contribute to the long-term wellbeing of communities.

Insights from conference speakers

The conference featured some key speakers. One of which was Nicole Licciardi, global design thinking senior manager at family-owned food company Mars Inc, who presented on how the company uses user centricity to introduce innovative approaches and disruptive techniques.

Some of the key components of the approach’s success was a focus on a continued sense of community, champion empowerment, and training – all of which relate to community engagement and promoting local skills and development – to deliver shared value.

The keynote speech was delivered by Professor Philip Kotler, of Northwestern University, who is also known as “the father of modern marketing”. Professor Kotler has had more than 60 books published in marketing, including the 15th edition of Marketing Management, the world’s most read book with this title.

His speech was based around brand activism, where the emphasis is on organisations and brands choosing an active stance on key topics and supporting these in their projects, activities and actions.

Professor Kotler defined brand activism as:

“business efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, and/or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to promote or impede improvements in society.”

His belief is that there is a transformation from organisations engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, to societal-driven brand activism as stakeholders (customers, employers, employees, the supply chain etc.) are far more informed and have the platforms to voice opinion and support causes that are important to them.

Interestingly, there are some common links between brand activism and social value. Both have a clear focus on society/community and relate the actions of organisations through social, political, economic and/or environmental activities to the benefit – or detriment – of that society/community.

Social value creation

I was a presenter in a paper session focused on value creation and social/human value. The presentation was aimed at a high level at social value practitioners and those looking to find out more about how to engage with social value. The aim was to generate discussion about social value, how it is currently being achieved and what, if any, is the ‘best’ way to approach generating and measuring social value for projects and activities by an organisation.

The context was a review of top-down and bottom up approaches – two different approaches to realising social value. The key differentiator between the two approaches is the level of stakeholder engagement and type of stakeholders engaged. Both approaches are valid methods of realising social value but each has a different impact on the type of social value created.

During the post-presentation questions, some key factors emerged. These being that it is vital to engage as much as possible with stakeholders in order to deliver greater value to them.

A final discussion point emerged, which was how procurement methods are being implemented in order to realise social value delivery across projects. There is a range of levels of adoption by local authorities and local government – some embracing it fully by setting out social value policies and frameworks to sign up to, and others fulfilling the criteria of considering social value but with no real adoption.

Best practice to take forward

The key takeaways from the conference, in my view, are epitomised by the messages from the key speakers mentioned previously to maximise the value created by an organisation for itself and the community.

There must be a combined approach of internal innovation and development for an organisation driving a culture of community and involvement and external action of that community in the projects and activities of the organisation.

The impact for social value creation of implementing both the internal and external aspects is the involvement of the relevant stakeholders, key to creating social value impact, and delivery of added value where it matters most.

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