As a major housing association, we want to put our size and purchasing power to the best possible use – helping our residents achieve their aspirations. This is one of the ways we create Social Value (SV).
I look at SV with our contractors and suppliers to secure jobs, training and work experience for our residents, who are looking to move into new or improved employment. My personal challenge is to help create and fill all the roles our suppliers provide, as well as challenging them to do even more.
We have amazing residents and often they just need a little support to achieve their aspirational work journeys.
My role is unique in that I’m part of our Communities team, but I’m based with Procurement to build relationships with suppliers, create opportunities and then connect them with our residents.
I’m involved in the whole process. I’m made aware of tendering, score the responses, support the contract formation, work with the supplier and our Employment and Training team and see if there is a resident who could be suitable for the opportunity.
While we’ve had some success with grounds maintenance contractors, cleaning and window contractors, it’s not a perfect science. Every tender is different and sometimes the opportunity may not be suitable for our residents.
Normally, we’ll hear about residents looking to make a change via our close partners, including our internal teams, but we’ve recently launched our Future Opportunities website. This will mean we’ll be able to reach more people and have even more residents ‘on our books’, so we can connect them with opportunities with our suppliers more easily.
For each person, this is a potentially life-changing opportunity to demonstrate their skills to an employer, with something tangible at the end. And the contractors meet quality individuals, so everyone benefits.
One resident told me that this not only provided a step into employment, it helped remind her of who she was following a period of concentrating on your family. She felt lost, unaware of her skills and working is really helping her with her confidence too.
So, while we’ve had some success, we’re at the start of this journey and we’re learning as we go. We can do so much together, but there are some challenges we need to overcome if we’re to really maximise the social value of what we do:
- Housing associations: When I first started I had to Google search ‘social value’ to find out who was doing what in our sector – and we’re all doing things differently. We need to share our expertise and work together to find a common approach. This will help suppliers understand clearly what’s expected when working with a housing association.
- Suppliers: This shouldn’t be a ‘nice to do’. Suppliers should look right across their business and work with us to identify and clearly identify a range of opportunities, with plenty of time to connect these roles to the right residents.
- Housing association employees: It doesn’t matter if you work in housing, development, communications or finance – whenever there’s an opportunity with suppliers talk to our employment teams.
- Residents: Our residents should go and register with us!
Working in this sector, with its financial size and social purpose, means we’re in a privileged position to be able to change the world – and this is just one way of doing it.
We’re pushing ourselves to do more, to try new approaches to maximise the social value of what we do. But we’re learning, so please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested or working in social value, so we can learn together and have an even greater impact on resident’s lives.