In August this year, we supported a client with a large central government tender, which featured the social value model as part of the evaluation process. So, what were some of the challenges and how were they overcome?
Project overview – how was social value represented?
With the publication of procurement policy note PPN 06/20, the UK government’s Social Value Model is now mandatory in all central government contracts. In August, we were approached to support an award-winning national debt and advice provider bidding into the Money & Pensions Service (MPS), an arm’s-length body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions.
This was a large submission, requiring around 25,000 words of compelling and convincing responses to the quality questions. It also demonstrated how the government is using its buying power to drive social value, which in this instance accounted for 10% of the overall weighting, and 4,500 words of the quality narrative. It also included a separate scored element in the pricing submission on expected spend on new businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups, small and medium enterprises, voluntary, community and social enterprises and mutuals.
The commissioning authority prioritised three social value themes for delivery under the contract, related to the service. These included tackling:
- Economic inequality – through increased supply chain resilience and capacity
- Equal opportunity – specifically workforce inequality
- Improved health and wellbeing
Four of the model evaluation questions were included, together with the references to the model award criteria and supporting guidance. Details of all evaluation questions are available here, and are worth reviewing in advance if you are expecting a central government tender any time soon.
Organisations who regularly tender for public sector contracts will be familiar with social value questions and the need to provide proposals which are realistic and pick up on the priorities of the commissioning authority. One of the benefits of the social value model is to provide consistency in the way social value is evaluated. However, as it only came into effect in January this year (June for some procurement teams), the approach will be new for many bidders. So what are some of the takeaways?
- Integrated approach – procurement teams are looking for social value proposals which are related and proportionate to the service being delivered. Following an initial review of the questions, the client put together a team to brainstorm ideas, with representatives from its business development team, operations, training, human resources, external relations, IT, and quality and compliance management. This might seem excessive, however, having input from all stakeholders was incredibly valuable in identifying meaningful initiatives. The core service is providing advice, which is delivered by trained individuals in-house, and to address criteria such as increasing supply chain resilience and capacity meant thinking about the wider business supply chain. For example, the IT team work with a number of local, specialist software developers and hardware providers, and were able to come up with strong, tangible proposals of how implementing and developing (there were clear technological development milestones over the contract duration) the service could be used to support this priority, and clearly identify the benefits that co-developing the service would bring to both organisations.
- Action plans – with 4,500 words assigned to the social value responses, there is a clear indication of the level of detail the commissioning authority was looking for. In addition, they also asked for timed action plans, what metrics would be used, the tools/processes for gathering data, how information would be reported, feedback and improvement, and transparency. By having input from across the bid team, it was possible to identify from the outset who would have ownership for planning, implementing and deliver activities, what would be measured to monitor delivery and success, and what business systems would be used to capture and report data. As part of this, we looked at what third party tools are available for measuring and monitoring social value, and which could be used for contract management.
- Stakeholder engagement – another key theme which came up was how staff, suppliers, customers and communities would be engaged and influenced through the delivery of the contract to support each social value outcome. A useful exercise was developing a stakeholder engagement map for each initiative, identifying who the stakeholders were, what communication formats were best suited to engage them, and how this would change over the delivery of the initiative, for example, face-to-face discussions to get their input on initiatives at the start, and a post event questionnaire to evidence outcomes.
- Quantitative values – the social value model takes a qualitative approach, with procurement teams assessing proposals based on the quality offered in the tender against the selected outcomes at evaluation stage. However, when developing and comparing initiatives, the client found it useful to look both at the outputs of the initiatives being proposed and to value these, enabling a comparison of where the biggest benefits could be achieved against the priority areas, which could be used later to monitor and evidence the value delivered to the MPS.
Social value support
The introduction of the Social Value Model for central government contracts is a major step change from when the Social Value Act came into force. If you are considering tendering (or re-tendering) for central government opportunities, or those of their executive agencies and arms lengths bodies, it is well worth making yourself familiar with the format and requirements so you can be fully prepared.
More information on the model, evaluation question and model award criteria is available here. For more information on responding to social value tender questions, visit our dedicated division The Social Value Practice, contact us free on 0800 612 5563 or email email@example.com.