Thursday, October 19, 2023

Does social value make us more sustainable?

This is part 2 of a blog chain I started previously, exploring further some of the queries that were put to me following my 'opening provocations' at Social Value UK's recent member exchange conference.

(for the back story see -

This post focuses on the second question that was posed after my opening ramblings: "does social value make us more sustainable?"

Having slept on this one since the event, I'm not sure that I've changed my position on what I said at the time:

- Social value is of interest to different people in different ways, and at different times. For example: if you're reporting your social value to increase your chances of winning contracts, or being awarded grants (to support you be financially sustained), then the social value priorities of those people will be changing every few years. Does this mean that your approach to social value should be constantly changing too? While that may not seem like too much of an initial problem, let me put it this way: what if you changed the way you did your financial accounts and reporting every few years?

- And when do you know you've become 'sustainable'? Statistics show that most organisations don't make it past their first 5 years, so the technical definition/benchmark for your having become 'sustainable' is that you're still going after 5 years. But the world keeps changing around us (see above point); and just because most organisations don't get to their 5th birthday, doesn't guarantee that those that do will always be able to continue riding off into the sunset... 

- For me, sustainability is about the relationships we have with each other (a continuation of my idea in the previous blog/question), and my idea is that understanding our social value, and how its come to be created, means we can better manage, engage in, and ultimately sustain these relationships so that more good stuff can hopefully keep happening as a result of them.

All the other questions put to me at the time, I think I resolved and answered in a way that I was happy with - it's been these 2 questions (about legacy, and sustainability) that made me pause in the moment on the day, and I wanted to revisit to make sure I'd best considered them.

But MemEx2023 was live streamed and recorded - there's a chance that people may yet reach out to me in the future with other questions that the ideas and arguments I shared provoke... And if they do, then this is the place where I'll share what I think might be the really interesting ones.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Is our social value our legacy?

Earlier this month, I was invited by those nice people at Social Value UK to speak at their annual members conference about the promise and perils of how we approach creating a financial value to represent the good stuff we deliver and create through the work we do - suffice to say, not everyone participated in the customary applause when I was ushered off the stage, but others came up to me throughout the rest of the event to thank me...

However, a couple of questions were put to me by the audience in the room, and those watching along on-line, that I wanted to reflect on here.

The first of which went along the lines of "is the social value we create and report our legacy?".

My initial response to this is that I tend to try to not think about how people in future years will remember me (after all, chances are that 50 years from now, no one will even remember my name, let alone what I did or didn't do) - my interest is therefore in the relationships I have today; and my interest in understanding the social value and impact I'm creating in different ways, is in how this helps me to develop these relationships to realise their full potential.

But I realise that that's a very blinkered response, and very biased on my part - after all, as a business, I'm not trying to influence or lead systemic change (get laws reviewed etc), but other people are. And in their cases, then absolutely, their identifying and reporting their social value is a crucial way of helping them to make sure that they're achieving this as part of helping them manage how they work in pursing this goal.

So on balance, social value isn't our legacy, but it can be a critical element of helping us make sure we create the legacy we may be striving to leave to the world after our time is up.

As for what the other question was... you'll have to check back in with this blog later! 

(kudos to Natasha Jolob for snapping this pic of me unawares, hence the lack of usual dramatic posing!