On 7th May 2019, we hosted Purpose-led prosperity: Embedding social value in local growth. The discussion brought together over 100 senior attendees to explore how businesses can create and strengthen the local economic and social assets which drive inclusive growth.

The event commenced with lightning talks from Chris White, Director of the Institute for Industrial Strategy at Kings College London; Alasdair Ben Dixon of Collective Works; Cliff Prior, Chief Executive, Big Society Capital and Rachel Woolliscroft of BayNel.

The potential of a value-driven industrial strategy

Chris White, Director of the Institute for Industrial Strategy at King’s College London, outlined how supply-side and forward-looking policies can help businesses to play a more significant, useful and value-driven role in society. Speaking from his experience as an MP, he noted that social value has gone from the margins to now being embedded in the work of local authorities and national commissioning, influencing £26 billion of government spending. His current work has involved devising key principles for national policy that focus on the power of consensus in creating trust and the importance of communities in local growth.

A people-centred approach to social and economic innovation

Cliff Prior, CEO of Big Society Capital, spoke about his work creating the market conditions for stronger and more inclusive social economies. Whilst transformation may take decades, using an asset-based approach to community development and engaging with the talents of local people is key to catalyse and augment positive change. There is a difference between changing a place and changing the lives of those in a place, something that businesses and social enterprises must understand when developing purposeful, flexible and realistic action plans for creating and sustaining social value.

The hidden social enterprise revolution

Rachel Woolliscroft, experienced sustainability professional and director of BayNel, described the social enterprise movement as a hidden revolution. Blending positivity and diversity, tackling societal and environmental challenges and representing three times the GDP value of the agricultural sector, social enterprises are providing high social value for the public sector, but could make a greater impact in the private sector. To stimulate and truly deliver positive change for communities today and in the future, the private sector needs clear leadership, place-based commitments and tax incentives.

Four examples of social value in the built environment

Architect and co-founder of Collective Works, Alasdair Ben Dixon, described four London-based projects that excel in their application of social value in the built environment. Ranging from a volunteer-led regeneration effort to cultivate a thriving business and training hub, to a community theatre company democratising access to the arts, what these projects have in common is the way they involve the people living within the communities to increase social value. This should be more widely recognised in contemporary debates regarding social value and the impact on local growth.