Why social value questions can be scored differently – and what to do about it

29th April 2024
Social Values

The scoring criteria for any tender or procurement process will have been meticulously developed to help the client accurately and effectively assess potential suppliers across parameters such as cost, quality and capability.

One aspect, however, that can stand out for its distinct evaluation methodology is social value. Unlike the more traditional procurement metrics, social value questions aren’t scored in the same way and most organisations will have their own approach.

In this blog, we’ll explain why that is and help you work out how to tackle these vital questions.

What role does social value play in procurement?

When we talk about social value, we mean the broader benefits that a contract can deliver to society beyond the goods or services being procured. These benefits may include sustainability, community development, job creation or support for disadvantaged groups.

More and more organisations are incorporating social value into procurement practices. This reflects a general shift towards more holistic and responsible decision-making that emphasises social and environmental impacts.

Why aren’t social value questions scored in the same way?

One reason social value questions aren’t scored in the same way is the inherent subjectivity involved. Unlike more easily quantifiable metrics such as cost or delivery time, assessing social value often involves interpretation and context. This context will vary based on the specific needs and priorities of the procuring organisation and the community it serves. What is likely to deliver social value in one context might not be relevant in another.

For example, a tender issued by a city council for infrastructure projects may prioritise job creation and community engagement, while a healthcare organisation may be more interested in addressing health inequality and service accessibility issues.

As a result, the scoring approach for social value questions will usually involve more flexible criteria that align with the objectives and values of the tendering organisation.

By scoring social value questions differently, organisations are also acknowledging the complexity of social impact and that it can’t be summed up in a simple numerical score. Social value may develop over time, making it challenging to quantify in the same way as traditional metrics.

Instead of assigning a fixed score, evaluators may use weighting systems to capture the relative significance of different social outcomes. This approach can also help to encourage suppliers to focus on how they’ll deliver meaningful social impact, rather than completing a tick box exercise.

Are there any frameworks or models for certain sectors?

Another factor in the scoring of social value is the evolving landscape of procurement regulations and best practices. For example, for public sector contracts, the Public Services (Social Value) Act was updated in 2018 to mandate that commissioners assess and report on the social value delivered by all major contracts.

As part of this, the Cabinet Office worked with commercial and policy teams across the public sector to develop a Social Value Model. The Social Value Model provides a more consistent approach, with social value defined through priority themes and policy outcomes.

Social value is now evaluated based on qualitative responses from bidders which must explain what they’ll deliver and how they’ll deliver it. It’s this information that is assessed in bid evaluations.

Many councils also use a social value matrix to help them decide upon the weighting of responses in line with their key goals and areas of focus.

Another interesting development is the move from a government mandate to accept the ‘most economically advantageous tender’ to the ‘most advantageous tender’. Taking away the focus on economic benefits, this move is expected to help broaden the criteria used in assessing tenders. This means that social value questions will likely have higher weightings than before and be a much more important part of the overall decision making process.

How to approach social value questions?

The unique scoring approach for social value questions in tenders reflects the complexity involved in social impact assessment. By recognising the multifaceted nature of social value, procurers can design evaluation criteria that capture the broader benefits of their contracts.

In responding to social value questions, it’s important to take time to fully understand the needs and priorities of the procuring organisation. By doing this, you can adapt your response to focus on the factors which matter most to them and demonstrate the value you can deliver to society.

If you’re bidding for work for a local council, for example, they will have published their approach to social value on their website as part of their mandate which should tell you everything you need to know. Also, make sure to check if there are any specific scoring models or frameworks in use that can help guide your response.

If you’d like to find out how a specialist tender writing agency could help you navigate the complex nature of social value assessment, get in touch with us today.

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