LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND. Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson at the Cunard Building on 21 May 2021. Picture: Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council.
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“We have a responsibility to the people of Liverpool to put them first” – Mayor Joanne Anderson on the transformative benefits of embedding social value into council contracts
Mayor Joanne Anderson outlines more about her vision for making sure all council contracts deliver economic, social and environmental benefits for residents…
Back in 2000, I was a board member at the Furniture Resource Centre (FRC) – the group of Social Businesses that Bulky Bob’s was born out of. At the heart of their work was a social mission to end furniture poverty and create sustainable employment for long-term unemployed people while making a positive impact on the environment.
Social business like FRC measure themselves against the triple bottom line; profit social impact and environmental impact. I set up the first Black social enterprise in Liverpool around the same time, which was an equality, diversity and inclusion consultancy.
Reflecting on all what I have learnt over the years led to the inclusion of a Triple Lock in my manifesto. It is a philosophy that ensures people, planet and equality are central to everything we do, with social value-informed decision making at its heart.
Businesses makes a valuable contribution to our productivity as a city and region. They bring high value jobs, which leads to economic growth and improves the life chances for those in our area. I believe all businesses have the potential to be good businesses.
In my professional experience and as an equality, diversity and inclusion consultant, I have worked with hundreds of organisations over the years from all sectors – who want to do more than just business.
They want to make a difference and create opportunities for the most disadvantaged. They want to do more than give people a job, they want to improve people’s lives, maximising their impact with their commitment to corporate responsibility.
I am really proud that Liverpool City Council has developed a social value policy as part of my triple lock. It represents a step-change in the Council’s approach and will ensure that everything – from our activities to our resources to our influence – are used to maximise the social, environmental and economic benefits to our city and its people.
One of our jobs as a local authority is to support business and encourage them to move to and invest in our city and region. We want to make it easier for them to deliver on social value. This helps us in one of our other key roles in making sure our residents and those who are the most disadvantaged have access to opportunities that improve their quality of life.
We know that when someone who has been long-term unemployed is given a life changing opportunity it has a much wider impact. Not only does the economic benefit help the individual and contribute to our economic productivity, but in some cases the social impact is so much more.
For example, if someone has been unemployed for a long time, they may suffer from anxiety or depression. Having a job could make a difference because they now have more social connections and a routine that impacts positively on themselves and their families. It may mean they take better care of themselves and exercise more because they are more motivated. This can also mean that they are less reliant on other public services such as doctors’ visits, which all impacts on the public purse. These are the kinds of things we measure in social value impact measurement because it really is more than just a job.
Since being elected as Mayor in May 2021, we have had a focus on social value. A couple of contracts have come past my desk and I was able to ask for more under the social value requirements.
I asked PWC about what more they could do for us. They have an apprenticeship programme which is typically accessed by children from the best schools. We helped them target the most disadvantaged schools and they delivered a development programme which lifted the confidence of these young people. They were given a computer to keep, a pathway to paid work experience and the opportunity to apply for the apprentice programme.
One of the problems we struggle most with in disadvantaged areas in Liverpool is a skills gap and low aspirations. This opportunity meant that the belief of what is possible and what is available was made visible to these young people. The social value produced from this experience has far reaching consequences, particularly in addressing the skills gap in the longer term.
Feedback from staff and PWC and from my own experience of working with other organisations on similar programmes, is that the staff also find it hugely personal rewarding.
Before I became Mayor, I delivered a large contract for a public authority. As part of its social value obligations, I committed to mentoring young people for the duration of the contract. I still mentor those young people now, which is hopefully of benefit to them but is also personally rewarding for me.
Another example of a contract that passed my desk was one we initially felt social value didn’t apply to as the monetary value was low. The firm said they would donate to a national charity, which is all well and good – but it doesn’t help us a city.
I asked if the firm could take on a work experience placement from a school in a deprived area. This was a small thing for the firm, but resulted in a greater impact for the young person who may not otherwise access an opportunity like that.
And there are many other ways in which businesses can make a difference. A youth centre in my ward has a building that needs a lot of work and maintenance. A private firm offering a corporate community impact clean-up day would have a transformative impact by painting it and tidying it up. It would be a small action for the business but would have a big impact on an organisation that supports lots of young people on a shoestring budget with insecure funding.
We want to codesign our framework further by working with those people who can deliver social value and those who contribute to making social value happen. This will make it easier for everyone to understand what each other needs. We want to make it simpler for contractors and business to deliver on social value so to do this we have compiled a list of people and projects to work with. This means identifying contract delivery for social value will be much easier.
Social value is core to our decision making and will form the basis of delivering our City Plan and Council Plan. We will aim to also create a ripple effect, encouraging and challenging our partners to deliver positive social impact for Liverpool’s communities.
It means our decision making is value-informed and as a major anchor organisation we have a huge opportunity to impact lives across the city. We have a responsibility to the people of Liverpool to put them first, to continue listening and to never stop asking questions about how we can improve and what we can do better.
I feel privileged to be able to embed what I have learned about social impact on a large scale and see it change lives across the city. This policy is the first step of that vision, and what I hope will be my legacy for years to come.