Writing a good social value response is not an exact science, as each client and each opportunity is unique. Based on my experience of writing and improving social value bid responses, I’ve identified nine top tips to help create a strong response.
What is Social Value?
Social Value International defines social value as: “understanding the relative importance that people place on changes to their wellbeing and using the insights we gain from this understanding to make better decisions.”
Put simply, social value is the positive change a company can affect for the local economy, community, and society as part of their delivery of a contract.
Why is Social Value Important in Bidding?
UK government legislation has made the assessment of social value a mandatory requirement in all large public sector bids (over £180k). The social value score must account for at least 10% of the overall evaluation. In some cases, I have seen this as high as 30%. Many private sector clients are also now mirroring this approach.
It is therefore vital, as part of your win strategy, to demonstrate a clear understanding and commitment to delivering social value in your bid response.
My Nine Top Tips for Creating a Good Social Value Response:
Read the question
Take time to read and understand the question. What exactly is the client asking for?
It can be easy to fall into the trap of listing all your best social value activities, but this is unlikely to gain you points. It can be helpful to underline the key evaluation points in the question to keep your response on track.
Do your research
Show your client you have taken the time to understand their key drivers for social value and align your response with their objectives.
Research areas may include:
- Policies, such as social value, environmental etc.
- Sustainability reports
- News stories
- Supplier engagement events
- Chats with your client, e.g. to raise clarification
Additional to the contract
Remember social value is in addition to the contract you are delivering. For example, if you are contracted to deliver careers advice to school leavers, you cannot claim this alone as a social value action.
However, you can count additional activities such as volunteering to carry out a mock-interview clinic or donating goods, such as stationery or laptops, to assist the students.
Offer social value you can genuinely deliver and is proportionate to the contract. Your proposal for social value often forms part of your contract, so failing to deliver could result in financial and reputational damage.
- How much revenue the contract will generate for you.
- How long the contract will last for.
- How much it will cost you in time and money to deliver the social value activity.
There is no hard and fast rule about how much social value you should provide, but a common-sense approach will result in a much more credible offer.
Play to your strengths
For example, if you employ in-house experts, can their skills be used to train others or deliver school career talks? If you manufacture goods, can you donate these to a local charitable cause?
If you have previous experience in delivering your suggested social value activity, this will build the credibility of your offer. For example:
- How many times have successfully delivered this activity in the past?
- Can you quote feedback from those who benefitted?
- Can you provide pictures to bring the activity to life?
- Can you report on the positive impact the activity has had?
Make a SMART commitment
This is key in presenting a realistic and strong proposal to your client. For each activity you commit to, ensure you provide detail under each of the SMART headings:
- Who will do it?
- What exactly will you do?
- When will you do it?
- Where will the activity take place?
- How will you ensure it happens?
- Why will you do this – what is the benefit?
- How will you measure the impact? Your client may specify a measurement tool they use. However, if they don’t – explain how you will measure the impact. There are useful templates available online such as this Social Return on Investment (SROI) Value Map provided by Social Value UK.
- Is this something you can reasonably accomplish?
- Do you have a back-up plan if things change? For example, if you commit to a specific member of staff delivering a school talk – is there an alternative member of staff who can step in if required?
- Does your activity align with your client’s objectives?
- Does it give them what they’ve asked for in the question?
- When will you start the activity?
- How long will the activity last?
- When will you complete it?
Be clear on how you will measure the impact of your activity. Whether this is a client-specified tool or your own.
- Who will be responsible for reporting this information?
- How will you report to your client and how often?
- Will reporting form part of your contract KPIs?
- Do you have mitigating measures in place should reporting go off track?
Build a library of examples
Document each of your social value activities. Include who delivered them, what was involved, the location, pictures, and the impact. This will act as a handy record of previous experience and as inspiration for future bids.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in responding to a social value question as each client and opportunity will have different drivers.
However, you can take steps to help build a strong response by ensuring you read the question very carefully, so you understand exactly what the client is asking for. Align your proposal with their objectives and set out a clear plan for delivering on your commitments ensuring they are SMART.
Lorraine O’Donovan, CIM, MSc, BSc, CF APMP has over 15 years’ bid management experience in the environmental consultancy sector.
She currently works for SLR Consulting Ltd where she manages the Bid Support team and is Community Champion for the European region.