Social Value: for the greater good of the system

Social value as a "force for good" is rarely contested, yet despite near-universal acceptance of its ambition, the reality of implementing a social value agenda in practice can be full of conflict, tension, and challenges. More importantly, it often fails to drive systemic reductions of poverty and inequity. Drawing on research in the social housing sector, we explore the need for organisations to position their social value agenda as part of a wider eco-system (e.g. Northern Powerhouse or the Liverpool Social Economy). The challenges of a collaborative systems approach in practice, particularly around sub-optimisation of the parts to enable contribution to the ‘greater good’, are discussed. Social value demands a wholesale buy-in to the ethos, and a collaborative approach across a region. We illustrate the tensions, challenges and opportunities to drive and sustain positive social impact, through the case of Equity Housing Group, our partner in this research project.

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