We ask readers to share their visions of the industry in 25 years’ time. Here, Durkan’s Kevin O’Connor sees the investment worth of social value

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B175 thought for tomorrow

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Google “social value” and you’re faced with a barrage of complex and often convoluted definitions. Somehow, along the way, something that was intended as a force for good is now perceived as mystical, or even whimsical. Nobody’s sure what it is, or how to deliver it.

Of course, the spotlight is on the delivery of social value now more than ever before. Chris White MP’s Review of the Social Value Act pressed for organisations to account for social value rather than just consider it, and the Social Housing Green Paper has been unequivocal about the issues of community fragmentation and stigma.

Nonetheless, there is still a tendency for organisations to see social value as something detached from the day-to-day running of a profitable business. The reality, of course, is quite different.

What is social value? Well, it’s just common sense. We are all stakeholders in society. We have our own unique requirements and needs but far from being boxed and ring-fenced, these needs are inter-reliant. Put simply, if we help others, we help ourselves.

Supporting society matters now more than ever before. Since the 1960s we have seen the slow but certain decline of the “job for life”.

In a post-industrial era, we no longer have a situation where work offers ready-made communities. 

We need to stop believing that business exists outside of society and start recognising the common space that unites us all. It is only then that our sector will truly understand that social value actually translates as benefits to society. And as an integral part of this society, our organisations stand to profit too.

Kevin O’Connor is head of social responsibility and inclusion at Durkan