Friday, 25 November 2011

Why Social Value Ethos and its doers matter

Introducing Sir Stephen Bubb and Nick Hurd. Photos Max Miansarow

Published by the Transition Institute
This week the Transition Institute (TI), which I have the privilege to chair, launched its first research document, Social value ethos. This piece comes firmly from the TI philosophy that it is possible to increase social value in the implementation of new forms of public service.

Working in partnership with Nesta, the champion of innovation, and many other leading organisations active in the space of public service outsourcing or spin-outs, the TI is providing the framework to debate and produce evidence such as we see in Social value ethos. Key players in the TI are those that share the view that social value can be optimised in public service through such means as employee ownership, social entrepreneurialism and mutualism. They are Co-ops UK, the Employee Ownership Association, Local Partnerships, Social Enterprise UK, 2020 Public Service Hub the Office for Public Management, our old friends, ACEVO, and many, many more.

This well-organised event (thanks to the wonderful TI team member Jillian Oxenham), was held in the successful spin-out GLL, in fact, ironically in one of their spinning rooms, where we had some stunning contributions from our expert panel, ably orchestrated by TI interim Director, Dominic Potter. Our panel all featured in the case studies in Social value ethos; they are Siobhan Clarke  of Your Healthcare, Andrew Burnell, City Health Care Partnership CIC and Brendan O'Keefe from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Youth Services, supported by Sabina Khan, Director of Policy and Research at SEL and the lead author of the research. The panel described the way in which they tackled the challenge of change, the importance of staff engagement, the added social value they had achieved and why that was important, and the need they all had for more support and information at the time of transformation. The report has been well received with some great comments from, among other social commentators, Cause4, read here.

Another successful public sector spin-out, NAViGO led by Kevin Bond, was also featured as a case study in the research and I am delighted to say subsequently won the Guardian Public Service overall award later on in the week at the Gala dinner held at the InterContinental and which I attended.

Andrew and Brendan tell it like it is
At the launch we heard from Sir Stephen Bubb of ACEVO, and the famous Bubb Blog, who made some really interesting points about the current imperative for new forms of public sector delivery. One thing he remarked on which really struck me was the contrast between the approaches of Blair and Cameron. Blair really liked the idea of independent service delivery, to the point of introducing well funded programmes like the Social Enterprise Investment Fund to support their growth, for him it remained all about improving standards of management. While for Cameron, it is all about community engagement and making a more meaningful connection between service providers and consumers. This really rang true for me and made me wonder what we could achieve if that second vision was underpinned by the kind of investment that systemic change received from the last government.

Then Minister Nick Hurd arrived to swing the proverbial champagne bottle at Social value ethos and in launching it he declared his support for the TI and all who sailed in her. He said some very nice things about me, which modesty dictates I may not repeat, but I liked the bit about being a doer.

When I was a little girl I agreed with my Mum to clear out a corner cabinet in our playroom. Coming home and finding I had done no such thing she wasn't cross, just aghast. She explained her reaction by saying, "But you always do what you say you're going to!" And so it has always been, a doer like our valiant public sector trailblazers, nice of Nick to notice.

Social value ethos delegates including the fantastic Siobhan Clarke (centre)

6 comments:

  1. Yes, congrats on the launch, and enjoyed redaing the report. I thought Brendan, Andrew and Sinead were an excellent panel: real, genuine, honest, open but also constructive and forward-looking. Would like to bottle their insight + experience and share it round....

    Social value is critical, and thanks also for plugging the Social Value bill we've been pushing at Social Enterprise UK with much sector-wide support (see more here) at the event. Delighted that it has just passed the next stage today, and will now go on up to the Lords.

    We hope that will play a part, along with those impressive doers, in putting social value ethos at the heart of public service delivery.

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  2. I enjoyed the launch event and agree that the panel were impressive. My concern, though, is that the spin-out agenda is currently struggling to move beyond some fairly technical discussions.

    Leaving aside my professional interest in social enterprise, I think the arguments about why - as a citizen using public services - I should want as high a proportion as possible of public services to be run by social enterprises aren't entirely clear.

    While outsourcing to social enterprises may be a viable response to absurd bureaucracy in state agencies, an equally important one is 'reduce absurd bureaucracy within state agencies'.

    And, structually at least, it's not clear how social enterprise health spin-outs are necessarily more accountable to patients/service users than Foundation Trusts.

    Current spin-out leaders seem are impressive individuals doing a good job but I'm not sure that, as yet, they're a movement representing anything more than that.

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  3. An interesting view David, and I agree these are questions that need to be answered with a clearer rationale than we currently deploy. I think that is about understanding more about the real added social value, focussing on the relationship between consumers, staff and leaders and really examining why those that have done it this way are convinced it is better. In any event I think our job at the Transition Institute is to provide the platform for those important conversations to be had and also to enable a degree of association for those that are looking to spin-out or have. If our experience of social enterprise is anything to go by we know those things will be essential to a growing movement. Only when those jobs have been done will be able to answer your big question of why?

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