What does ‘social value’ mean for Voluntary and Community Groups in Tower Hamlets? This is a question that needs an answer as increasingly we are being asked to demonstrate our social value.

The need to demonstrate social value is increasing since the introduction of the Public Service (Social Value) Act in 2013. The simple explanation is that the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 requires public authorities such as Councils and CCGs to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being when procuring and awarding contracts. In their Guide to the Public Services (Social Value Act), Social Enterprise UK describes social value as:


“A way of thinking about how scarce resources are allocated and used. It involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract and looking at what the collective benefit to a community is when a public body chooses to award a contract. Social value asks the question: If £1 is spent on the delivery of services, can that same £1 be used, to also produce a wider benefit to the community?”


They also quote from The Department for Communities and Local Government’s new guidance which states:

“Under the Duty of Best Value [...] authorities should consider overall value, including economic, environmental and social value, when reviewing service provision. As a concept, Social Value is about seeking to maximise the additional benefit that can be created by procuring or commissioning goods and services, above and beyond the benefit of merely the goods and services themselves.”

If Commissioners are to demonstrate that they are taking Social Value in to account, they should be looking for the most economically advantageous tender not just the cheapest. Commissioning and grants should seek evidence of social value as:

“Social Value is the broader social, environmental and economic outcomes an organization or project can bring to the community they are operating within. It not just about the commissioned service it’s the ripple effect of for example, employing local people, recruiting volunteers and sourcing local resources. To measure Social Value an organisation needs a clear understanding of their outcomes. They need to clearly understanding of how users are affected by their activities.”

Commissioners need to be able to clearly understand evidence and measure all their outcomes:            Intended → unintended →positive →negative

They also need to recognise whether their outcomes are short term, medium term or long term and to be able to map the journey of change experienced by their service users.

In order to demonstrate Social Value not-for-profit organisations need to demonstrate a board range of outcomes:


By recording outcomes in all these areas not-for-profit organisations should be able to produce a “Triple Bottom Line” demonstrating their Social, Economic and Environmental impact.


Theory of Change

Organisations are more likely to understand their outcomes if their work is underpinned by a “Theory of Change”. An organisation needs to know what social change they are trying to achieve. An organisation needs to have in place clear aims and objectives and activities, that impact on that area of change. If they know what they are trying to do they are more like to be able to prove they are doing it. More information regarding the Theory of Change is available at:


Outcomes Measuring Tools

The theory is that if you know the difference you are making then there will be a tool to measure that difference. There are various tools available to support groups identify outcomes linked to Social Value. There a number of documents that describe a variety of different tools that organisations may be able to use to measure outcomes.


The Young Foundation have produced a document for organisations working with young people


The New Economic Foundation have also produced a document called Tools for You


The NCVO Charities Evaluation Service has also had an extensive range of information around outcome measuring and outcome indicators on their site.


Another useful source of information is the Prove and Improve website: Charities Evaluation Service and NEF


Specialist impact measurement tools

There also a number of tools available to capture impact in particular areas.These include:


Eco-mapping - Tools that support organization to look at environmental impact from water use to waste. There appears to be a number of eco-mapping tools available. An example of a free eco mapping tools is on the ECO-Mapping website


LM3 – Local Multiplier 3 - A tool for assessing how the money you spend works in the local economy and how to improve your impact which has been developed by the New Economics Foundation


Volunteering Impact Assessment Toolkit - The Volunteering Impact Assessment Toolkit is suitable for helping organisations in any sector to measure that difference that volunteering makes. Volunteering England members receive a 20% discount on the toolkit, paying £23.99. Non-members pay the full price of £29.99.


The Outcomes Star - Developed by Triangle Consulting in Brighton, Outcome Stars  are an assessment tool that enable  organisations to map  users progress  There are  Outcomes Star covering a wide variety of different service  areas  including Work, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Older People. It is free to download paper copies of the stars themselves and guidance on their use can be found at:



Once you started to measure your outcomes you need to have a framework in place in order to help organise the information you collect, analyse it and communicate it to others. There are a number of Frameworks available to organisations.


Impact Measuring - A relative simple starting point may to use an Impact Measuring Map such as:


Social Return on Investment - The most acknowledged framework for measuring social value is Social Return on Investment (SROI). SROI is an extension of cost benefit analysis → which incorporates wider social, economic and environmentally impact. A cost benefit analysis combined with social analysis. It places a monetary figure on an organisations impact. A guide to Social Return on Investment is available from the SORI Network at:


Social Audit - Another well know framework for measuring Social Value is Social Accounting. If differs from than Social Return on Investment in that it does not seek to “Monetise” social value. Instead its unique selling point is the idea of external verification. A good source of information on Social Audit is:


Online Systems

There are also a number of online systems that might help organise and demonstrate your outcomes and social value evidence.

(These systems do incur licence fees.)


The outcomes your organisation delivers and the social value you realise will be critically important to you in the coming years. Your CVS is always here to help you with issues around recording reporting or realising the social value you generate. Just drop us an email or call us to learn more. We are here to help, especially with the hard stuff!