• ClaireLouise

Culture eats Social Value strategy for breakfast.

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Social Value is a methodology which enables us to quantify* social ‘good’. Indicator sets including the TOMs assign financial proxy values to social actions, and monitoring and measurement of these is encouraged through online reporting portals.

In this way, generally speaking, Social Value delivery can be structured and accounted for in the same way as any other business activity. It is a clear process which can be implemented within business structures.

Many organisations are unfamiliar with Social Value, but once the concept, methodology and indicators have been introduced, there’s a clear process for a company to embrace and action these social behaviours.

So what’s stopping us from all being Social Value ninjas? Nine years after the Social Value Act, why aren’t we seeing wholescale uptake of social value practices within organisations?

The Influence of Culture.

I believe that culture causes a significant barrier. We can introduce all the metrics in the world but culturally, if we feel uncomfortable or challenged by new working practices, they will fail to be adopted.

Social Value is a methodology which requires us to evaluate our business practices through the lens of inclusion and equality. It asks us what we are doing within our own organisations to create a world which welcomes difference and opens opportunity to everyone.

And this is difficult for many people. Not because we don’t care, but because it means we have to fundamentally shift many of our individual beliefs and business practices.

We naturally fall into our ways of working with people we find comfortable to be with, generally those with similar backgrounds and experiences to our own. In a recent interview, anti racist activist Janett Walker talks about growing up as a black female in white dominated Cumbrian society. She describes how, as a young person she didn’t see anyone ‘like’ her, how her ‘difference’ was perceived negatively by others and how casual racism has been insidious in her life and employment experience. IWD2021 - From courtroom trials to tackling racism in Cumbria | ITV News - YouTube

There’s an old saying that we buy from, and recruit people in whom we see ourselves. The best salespeople have learned to naturally reflect our own behaviours back at us in order to build rapport. This represents an ever-decreasing spiral of diversity (both in whom we recruit and buy from!).

What does this mean for an organization which is now asked to attract and retain a wide range of people, of different ethnicities, beliefs and life experience? Because that is what Social Value is asking us to do. It’s asking us to leave our judgement behind, to take people at face value, to be curious about change, and welcoming of those who are different from us.

This requires authentic cultural change, not just box ticking to comply with legislation, and for some organisations, it feels too much. It’s frightening, stepping into the unknown, even though it’s been evidenced that diverse teams are more innovative and creative.

So ask yourself, do you value difference? Do you encourage team members to be authentically themselves at work, without ‘surface acting’ to fit in? Do your staff feel that they belong in the organization? Have you ever asked them? Doing so, and listening to their responses will stand you well in paving the way for Social Value.

building-inclusive-workplaces-report-sept-2019_tcm18-64154.pdf (cipd.co.uk)

Leading a double life? Emotional Intelligence and Authenticity in the Workplace (thesharedvaluebusiness.co.uk)


he process and ethics of this is a whole different discussion for another day.

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