Early in my sales career, I was introduced to quality management and learned that errors are cheaper and easier to fix the earlier they are found – whether “earlier” applies to time, the stage of a process or anything else. A nice, simple fact that it was easy to get my head around.
When I moved into selling IT application development services, my nice, simple fact turned up as a principle of software engineering. I learned that software bugs are cheaper and easier to fix the earlier they are found. I also learned that software design and continuous testing are critical to producing error-free code.
Fast forward a few years, enter the Internet and, along with it, the threat of people hacking into organisational and personal computers. The new world of cybersecurity opened, and I began selling cybersecurity solutions. I came across a strange phenomenon – in those early days, the security of many systems and the information they contained was often forgotten or, at best, bolted on as an afterthought. This seems crazy; surely it would be better to build security in from the get-go? I wasn’t wrong.
I was fortunate to work with some rather clever technical folk who understood something known as ‘Secure by Design’ – principles developed in the 1970s, which took on new importance as more and more systems got joined up across the tech universe.
Secure by Design means that security is thought about early in the software development process. Security requirements are gathered and analysed with equal importance as other requirements; they inform design decisions, which drive software development. In good software development, tests are designed in parallel with the requirements, so it is easy to check later that what you set out to achieve has been achieved.
So, what’s all this got to do with Social Value? Let me explain.
Demand for companies to operate ethically, protect the environment and support local communities has been growing for decades. The movement has gathered pace in the last twenty years; key milestones include ESG (Environment, Social, Governance, 2004), the Social Value Act (2012) and the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (2016).
The construction industry was the first to get involved in delivering Social Value. Building tangible structures in actual places meant that environmental stewardship, local employment and consideration of the community were relevant, easy to understand and practical to implement. They were also straightforward to measure. Buyers and construction companies got used to dealing with Social Value in every project.
On 1st January 2021, the UK Government boosted the importance of Social Value in the public sector with the publication of Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/20 and associated models and guidance1. Social Value now commands a minimum of 10% in public sector tender evaluation. And, in parallel with the public sector, the private sector has been increasing its focus on ESG.
This means that today, all organisations – large and small, in every industry – need to understand and implement Social Value as a fundamental part of their organisational psyche. This brings us to Social Value by Design .
New concepts, such as Social Value, take time to become established, effective and routine. Sometimes, a simple model can help. Secure by Design helped many people understand that security was a fundamental foundation (not a bolt-on) to keep systems and information safe across the Internet. Social Value by Design could help many people understand that Social Value must be a fundamental foundation (not a bolt-on) of organisations and procurements for it to make a genuine difference on the ground. Figure 1 below offers my straw model for Social Value by Design.
For now, I am floating an idea. I’ve been involved in Social Value for around seven years, and it took me a long time to really ‘get it’. I read a lot and gradually things fell into place, but I did find the “curse of knowledge” popping up regularly - understanding a subject so well that one can no longer appreciate or cater for those just beginning.
These days, I am regularly asked if I can spend an hour explaining Social Value to an organisation that is new to it or is struggling with it. As a sales and bid professional, not a Social Value expert, I give a layperson’s explanation. This invariably goes down well; I don’t yet suffer from “the curse of knowledge”. If an organisation needs further support and/or training, I signpost them to the Social Value professionals, knowing that they will at least have a clear baseline from which to engage.
Based on my experience, Social Value by Design has become my simple way of explaining it. I hope it has legs and goes on to become a useful model for others.
Content by Sarah Hinchliffe
Director - i4 Consultancy and Design Ltd