Testing the Theory

“Economics as if people and the planet matter.”

Testing the Theory is an early piece of work by the Salford Social Value Alliance produced with support from Social Enterprise UK and their Health and Social Value programme. The Alliance recommended that this learning was embedded into mainstream practice and has underpinned the work you will see on this website.

Equity of Social Value

There is a risk that the application of Social Value tends towards a focus on economic benefit. It should apply equitably to social, environmental and economic value.


Social Value should be applied not only in commissioning and procurement of services. It should be applied to:

  • purchase of goods and supplies
  • investments
  • regeneration activity
  • delivery of services
  • construction and physical development

The practical application within each of these will vary. For example, social value in contracts for goods will probably be less about direct benefit for the locality and more about wider social, environmental and economic value (for the good of the planet).


There is widely variable understanding of Social Value amongst organisations, across all sectors and size of organisation. Initial research suggests that those organisations that are good at demonstrating Social Value are also generally good providers of services. Organisations could be asked to evidence their claims for producing Social Value as evidence of the quality of their service provision.


A standard set of questions to reveal Social Value could be developed, which may include:

  • how the organisation balances contracted outcomes with wider delivery of Social Value
  • a narrative description of the Social Value achieved rather than a tick box approach or numeric measures
  • an explanation of what is useful and meaningful Social Value in Salford
  • the organisation’s compliance record as assurance that Social Value is being delivered
  • a record of the organisations learning as to how Social Value was developed

The resource produced from this learning went on to produce Salford’s Social Value Toolkit.

Commissioning and Procurement

Social Value must be actively addressed in every stage of the commissioning cycle, including planning, procurement, contract monitoring and quality assurance.

There must be clarity about what should be sought at pre-qualification (PQQ) and tendering (ITT) stages. Questions at ITT stage should be  specific.

Contract Monitoring

It is critical that Social Value is explicitly included in contract monitoring. There could be a Social Value element in all contracts (annual assessment) not just in large contracts (quarterly self-assessment).
Any Social Value commitment stated by providers should be incorporated into the performance management framework for a contract.

Contract monitoring should be proportionate to the:

  • size and vulnerability of service
  • type of organisation
  • capacity of commissioner and contract monitoring arrangements
  • risk


Every agency should produce a regular report on added Social Value produced by it either as a self-produced publication and/or as a product of contract monitoring.