Putting business at the heart of the Levelling Up agenda
Addressing the entrenched regional inequalities that have been a feature of the UK economy for decades is a daunting task. In fact it is a task
that successive governments have sought to tackle going as far back as the 1930s and the National Government’s Special Areas Act. It is also striking that many of the areas that we hope to see levelled up today, are the same areas that policy makers and industry leaders sought to revive nearly a century ago.
But just because this is a long running challenge should not mean that it is something that we should shy away from addressing. On the contrary, there is an unprecedented opportunity today to help to revive the fortunes of communities that have experienced decades of relative decline. As social value becomes an integral part of everyday business practice, this is providing a new route through which business can make good on the promise to level up the UK economy.
A partnership with policy makers
Social value has been a feature of business in the public sector for some time, with those commissioning public services required by law to consider how they can use this power to secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits.
Today key institutions, such as local authorities, the NHS and housing associations are expected to articulate the social value priorities for the communities they serve.
If the ambition of levelling up is to be achieved, business needs to work proactively with the public sector to develop plans that mobilise the expertise and resources of all involved.
If you are a supplier in the public sector, you are acting as an extension of government, so your values should be focused on society and citizens, as well as on delivering your services efficiently.
Policy and Procurement teams have a powerful role in setting requirements which will determine how suppliers invest in the future. And when both get it right, the impact will be significant. All administrations, large and small are dealing with long-term social, ethical and environmental challenges.
As a global organisation Atos sees good practice emerging around the world, particularly in countries like India and the Netherlands whose administrations are also formalising key areas of social inclusion. However, the UK is leading the way in terms of structure and application in procurement. And it’s the breadth and engagement of the private sector that makes the difference.
Social value will support these long-term challenges by:
1 Future-proofing the UK’s skills to be competitive in a global market.
2 Supporting employment opportunities to improve wellbeing and prosperity now and in the future
3 Meeting increasing expectations from citizens and employees on climate and equality.
Prioritising quality over quantity
Recent years have seen a shift away from low cost as the prime evaluation criteria in Government tenders.
The increasing focus on quality and social value is encouraging businesses to invest locally and contribute to the economic social and environmental prosperity.
For example, the technology sector is a priority area for the UK to develop high-growth skills and it is also a sector that can do more still to increase diversity in representation and social mobility.
Companies like Atos are now:
- Investing in local economies, opening delivery locations close to our client local offices
- Investing in young people – broadening apprenticeship opportunities, engaging with local schools to inspire young people to see STEM as a pathway for everyone and redesigning recruitment channels to increase diversity and social mobility
- Investing in people who face barriers to employment, working with niche organisations to retrain people in digital skills, for example targeting people with neurodiverse conditions or armed forces veterans
We are embracing an eco-system of suppliers to help us deliver locally.
SMEs often have fantastic social value credentials. They contribute significantly to local communities and economies but often need a partner to collaborate with to access new business and grow in the public sector.
Atos is working to support start-ups, SMEs and VCSEs, and sees them as an integral part of our success:
1 They help us deliver services locally and scale up in response to our clients’ needs
2 They diversify the services we can offer to clients and are great innovators
3 They help us deliver social value outcomes as part of local levelling up
Delivering for communities
Delivering social value that can contribute to the cause of levelling up also requires that this activity can be effectively measured and evaluated. Unsurprisingly, as social value has emerged as a key priority a number of different measurement systems have emerged that seek to gauge the social value of specific activities. Here it is important that all those committed to delivering social value work to measure impact rather than simply outputs. Through this approach it becomes possible to build initiatives around specific communities, changing and adapting them as the needs of the community evolve.
The levelling up agenda has reinforced the central role of social value at the heart of the public sector’s contract award decisions. Looking to the future social value outcomes will become ever more important in assessing the success of such contracts. This remains a daunting task, but one where it is imperative that all parties work together if the goal of rebalancing the UK economy and turning back decades of decline are to be achieved.
Innovating Up – Further Insights
From across Atos and beyond, find out more about digital transformation, jobs of the future and skills