Social Value - 10 Top Tips

Since January 2021 there has been a mandatory requirement for Government authorities (and increasingly in the private sector) to incorporate Social Value in their evaluation and procurement decision-making process. The bidding and capture professional community has been on a journey to understand and respond to this Social Value requirement by developing compelling Social Value solutions[1]. One year into this journey, working with peers and mentors in the industry, I have listed my top 10 tips for capture and bids teams[2] to consider when responding to Social Value in procurements.

1. Develop a Social Value solution at the earliest stage of the capture process which is managed as a separate workstream throughout the capture and bid process

At a foundational level, Social Value offers wider societal benefits than the core product and/or service that the buying organisation is procuring. A key part of this is to establish a mutual understanding of the Importance of Social Value at the start of the capture process. Whilst it is good to understand this as a concept, it is important for each bidding organisation to align their Social Value solution to the customers’ organisational ecosystem and hot buttons.

Government and public sector organisations are likely to select outcomes from the Social Value Model[1] or the TOMs[2]. It would be sensible for bidders to tie in their Social Value solution to the elements of the Social Value outcomes which are most relevant for the customer. The Social Value outcomes which the customer is looking for will be directly linked to their Social Value mission.

To further strengthen and shape the Social Value solution it is vital to understand the customers’ motives – the why. Why has the customer chosen the outcomes they have? What is the significance to them? Now that we understand the outcomes (the what) and the drivers (the why) for the customer, we can really answer the question which links the Social Value solution we have developed with the customers’ Social Value mission - How can the organisation get a step closer to achieving the Social Value mission with this procurement? To do this effectively, giving it the attention required, Social Value must be managed throughout the capture and bid process as a separate workstream.

By answering these questions and weaving these answers into the golden thread of the Social Value solution being developed by your bid team, you are on track to giving the customer the wow factor when evaluating the Social Value solution as part of the proposal submission. 

2. Holistic and integrated Social Value solution development – noting that there are different levels of Social Value solution development

This is an obvious claim which is often missed. When we create a Social Value solution in our bids, we think about it at an opportunity level – the bid response for the specific tender response. Whilst this is effective to “score highly on points”, the very heart and purpose of Social Value is to go deeper than this and to look at the Social Value offering at a customer level – what other work are we doing for the customer? How can we propel the customer in achieving their Social Value mission? How can we holistically provide another Social Value solution which does not contradict previous solutions used in previous bid submissions but rather complement previous submissions?

In addition to thinking about Social Value at an opportunity level and customer level, each organisation aspiring to be a supplier should have a clear set of key capabilities within Social Value which are non-customer related. They are the areas that make sense for the organisation, they are developed independently of opportunities to win work and they are commitments that the company wants to make, outside of won work.

Doing all the above will strengthen the bidding organisations’ reputation in Social Value solutions.

3. Prioritise the voice of the customer by requesting feedback from the customer and utilising the lessons learned process at the end of the procurement

As capture and bid professionals we know the importance of requesting customer feedback at the end of each procurement - win or loss. When doing this it is beneficial to have a set of questions focused on Social Value to home-in on what the customer really liked and disliked about our Social Value solution.

As with any information we gain during the bid process, it is vital for this information to be organised into knowledge by putting it into a database that is customer-specific so that over time this can be turned into intelligence to be incorporated into the next pursuit kick-off. Another example of turning this data into intelligence would be for bid teams to work with their client feedback function to develop a set of standard Social Value questions. Over time the bidding organisation can benchmark how customers are viewing their commitment, understanding and capabilities within Social Value.

4. Promote (situation-specific where there is no damage to losing information to competition) continuous feedback throughout the customer procurement process i.e. by scope clarification process

The most well-received Social Value solutions are developed early in the procurement process and are tested with the customer either through clarification questions or scope clarification meetings or supplier days.

 A customer may show interest in a ‘try before you buy’ approach, with key buyers attracted to the idea of road-testing workshops. From the suppliers’ perspective, this can be a good chance to then use this type of platform to push co-creation or further clarification. Preparation for the scope clarification meetings Is key – go in with an open mind. Ask big power questions as well as go into the details. Doing this will be mutually beneficial as you will both understand the larger problem from the customers’ point of view and the details that matter to them.

5. Implement a robust estimating method and sign off process for the Social Value solution – resulting in a competitive and deliverable Social Value solution

A bottom-up estimating technique is an effective and accurate way of understanding the cost basis to deliver an end-to-end Social Value solution – this includes all internal costs for resources (effort), materials and external costs, for example third parties.

As with any pricing, it is vital to think about risk – even if we are not including a risk provision in the pricing. So, for the initial cost basis, a risk workshop (as a meeting or email exchange) to understand the risk involved will be useful. The risks can then be quantified and included in the cost basis.

Where appropriate it is important to think about any inflation and other miscellaneous costs which are involved in the delivery of the Social Value solution. Another element of the Social Value solution is to get approval from the person responsible for the delivery of the solution should we win. During this sign-off process, it may be worthwhile to consider if a similar Social Value solution has been delivered in the past that could be used as a benchmark and challenge, for example, the cost build-up.

The most resilient Social Value solutions have a robust estimate behind them which has been signed off by the responsible individual.

6. Ensure the Social Value solution is a line item on the Commercial Pricing Model

As a Segway from point 5, we now have a cost basis with an understanding of the risk and inflation allowance, which has been signed off by a responsible individual. This estimate can be inserted into the commercial pricing model – where how the costs to the customer will be discussed.

Having the Social Value solution as a separate line item really supports traceability and makes it easy to change control. Not to mention it sets up the bid for any negotiation and challenge during the contract signing stage and enables the project team to mobilise and initiate the project at the handover to contract stage. The perceived extra work to do the bottom-up estimate reaps rewards as the team can be more responsive to clarification questions from the customer, as progress is made through the different stages of procurement post bid submission.

7. SMART Social Value

The development of a Social Value solution can be underpinned by forming SMART[1] objectives at the brainstorming stage. The Social Value workstream must be real. Too often, Social Value elements of bids are either:

  • Vague, unstructured and pie in the sky. They do not offer practical steps and outcomes. There is no understanding of linkages back to the customer and what Social Value means to them.
  • Too ambitious, suggesting a huge change in short periods and not based on the ability or appetite of the organisation. Making Social Value a workstream during the Capture and Bid process and using SMART approach to shape the solution will keep the solution aligned to customer needs.

Using the SMART objective approach will also be advantageous in making sure that Social Value solution commitments are aligned to internal processes, are commercially viable and deliverable. Planning the SMART Social Value outcomes should sit underneath a Social Value delivery plan (just the like how we plan out the technical offer to the customer). Not only will SMART outcomes help us demonstrate impact to our customers, but we should also start to get the view about if our delivery plan and suggested outcomes are actually realistic and can be delivered.

From the customers’ perspective, it is important to make it clear what the return on investment on Social Value will be. This highlights the need to get very close to the customer, to know what they are looking to achieve in their Social Value mission and then to work out and make a direct link to how your Social Value solution will contribute to that mission – what is the customers’ return. If the benefits from your Social Value solution can be mapped onto the project timeline, this is a valuable way of building trust in your delivery of Social Value.

Communicating a return on investment, linked back to the customers’ Social Value mission, and plotted on a project timeline, proves to be the foundation to Social Value proposal response excellence.

8. If it is not in the contract, it does not exist

The measurement, monitoring and reporting of Social Value benefits must be in the contract- including the acceptance criteria. To give the customer confidence that we will do what we say we are going to do and then to ensure that we manage the commercial risks, we need to make sure the Social Value solution is defined in the contract. If we are going to offer a workshop, for example, we need to be clear about the scope of the workshop, detailing assumptions. If there are any Key Performance Indicators for the workshop, such as the number of attendees or attendee satisfaction rating post-workshop, this needs to be defined in the contract too.

9. The Social Value solution must be relevant for the customer and for the supplier (the tendering organisation) – i.e. on par with the size, scale, and volume of the scope of work.

The Social Value solution needs to exceed the customers’ hot buttons and help the customer achieve their Social Value mission. In addition, we need to make sure the Social Value solution is relevant and scalable to the size and scope of the project we are tendering for. For example, if we are responding as part of a framework then the Social Value solution needs to be on par with the scope we are bidding for – potentially a framework with an undefined value would require a high-level indicative overview of the Social Value solutions we could offer, to be made a specific commitment at each competitive tender for contracts under the framework. Alternatively, if we are bidding for an entire project, call off or task order, the Social Value solution must be relevant in size to the scope under that specific contract.

We need to make sure we identify the size and scope of each contract so that we can mirror and develop a Social Value solution that is relevant to the contract scope.

10. Love it, embrace challenge and continuous curiosity to improve your Social Value solution development skills

To some extent, this is the most important tip because it is the fuel for the journey. The best Social Value solutions are those, where the Capture and Bid team have collaboratively come together in a curious way to develop solutions that really got under the skin of the customer and broke the boundaries. Social Value is an imperative part of competitive tendering and requires involvement from diverse perspectives to develop the most compelling Social Value solutions. The very drive to do this is fuelled by curiosity, is welcoming of challenges and wanting to solve customers’ Social Value mission challenges. What will your next Social Value solution entail?

Start the conversation. What is your favourite tip?


Content provided by the Georgina Wilson Ayilara

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