How an SME Can Win More Work with Social Value

Small businesses aren’t exempt from the need to demonstrate social value when they bid for public contracts.

And an SME that finds itself in competition with the big players is not at a disadvantage. In fact, the Social Value Model goes a long way to level the playing field, giving the edge to SMEs in a lot of areas as well as making it easier to partner with Tier 1 and 2 contractors.


What does the Social Value Model say about SMEs?

The government’s Social Value Model has brought much-needed clarity to the questions of “what counts as social value?” and “how should it be dealt with in public procurement?”

It helps explain the rules stated in PPN06/20 – which specifies that a minimum of 10% weighting be given to social value in decisions to award central government contracts.

SMEs are given particular prominence:

  • Covid-19 recovery
    • MAC 1.3 – “Supporting organisations and business to recover”
  • Tackling economic inequality – under:
    • MAC 2.1 – “Create opportunities for entrepreneurship and help new organisations to grow, supporting economic growth and business creation”
    • MAC 3.1 – “Create a diverse supply chain to deliver the contract including new businesses and entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs, VCSEs and mutuals”

That is, contracting authorities are obliged to give extra weight to bids from organisations of these types when assessing social value – because it is government policy to ensure that they are fairly represented in public procurement decisions.

The wording of MAC 3.1 says this very clearly:

“Whether as prime contractors or within the supply chain, it is essential that [small businesses] have the same opportunity to tender for and, where appropriate, win government contracts as other firms.”

 Indeed, it’s important to highlight that point about “within the supply chain”.

SMEs that embrace social value are in a strong position, even when they’re not bidding for public contracts directly. That’s because they can help large Tier 1 and 2 contractors to meet their social value obligations.

That can be a big plus point when it comes to winning business further down the supply chain.


How does Social Value give SMEs an advantage?

Social value is all about the additional benefits brought to a local community or environment as a result of projects being carried out there. SMEs’ positions in their communities are a big plus here:

  • Small businesses tend to hire locally – and many contracts will specify increasing employment in affected areas as an objective
  • Locally-focused SMEs will be providing all of their employee training, apprenticeships, and work experience opportunities in those areas as well
  • SMEs are frequently deeply embedded in their communities – sponsoring events, engaging with local business associations – making it easier to be responsive and consultative in designing and delivering projects
  • SMEs tend to have relationships with other local businesses – advantageous in diversifying project supply chains

National and international organisations would need to spend considerable time and money to replicate these factors which simply flow from being an SME!

SMEs can win business

Measurement is also harder for huge companies that don’t have immediate visibility over all their activities.

So with contracting authorities required to give at least 10% weighting to social value considerations in awarding contracts (and many giving more), these points go a long way to counterbalance the big players’ strengths when in direct competition.

But when looking for subcontract work, by making it easier for primary contractors to quantify the value of supply chain activities, SMEs that have a clear view of their contribution to larger projects will find themselves singled out as preferred partners.


How The Impact Evaluation Standard helps SMEs win with Social Value

Even so, many SMEs don’t realise just how much the Social Value Model stacks things in their favour. In fact, some see it as red tape – another box to tick – that benefits contractors with dedicated bidding expertise. That’s not the case. The Social Value Model goes to great lengths to help SMEs understand what they need to report on by providing a list of some 52 different metrics.

Even so, some of these can be hard to put into practice. The language used is often quite abstract. It can be hard to see how many of the things your business is already doing could be classified as social value.

That’s where a framework like The Impact Evaluation Standard is invaluable. It digs down further into the Social Value Model’s metrics to give a comprehensive 109 metrics – along with robust proxy values for all of them.

This makes it very simple to translate non-monetary benefits into valid, recognised cash equivalents.

For example, SMEs can report on:

  • Jobs, apprenticeships, or other recognised training places created and/or completed
  • Work experience hours and placements offered
  • Learning interventions (mock interviews, mentoring, CV advice, etc) provided
  • Steps taken to treat suppliers fairly and pay them on time
  • The value of subcontracts awarded to other SMEs
  • Enhancements made to the natural environment in the course of delivering the work
  • Reductions in waste and improvements in recycling

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The social value revolution is a massive opportunity for SMEs to help make their environments and communities stronger and more resilient – as well as to access a bigger share of public spending themselves.

If you’d like to find out more get in touch with Thrive for a free demo of our social value capture, measurement, and reporting software.