Putting Social First In Public Service Design



Lindsay EckleyResearcher, Applied Health and Wellbeing Partnership

Gayle WhelanResearch Fellow, Institute of Cultural Capital, Liverpool

Davide Zanoni
: Researcher and CEO of Avanzi think tank

Vincenzo Di MariaCo-founder of commonground




Social value can influence any service provision, from small charities to large corporations.  This session will be focusing specifically on public service provision, using the experiences of four experts from a variety of backgrounds.  Join the session to hear about how social value has influenced the design of a wide range public services including health and wellbeing, environmental policy and creative businesses.

PowerPoint Presentations:

DAVID ZANONI : Social Value of Consumer Empowerment

VINCENZO DI MARIA : Service Design Matters


Session summary:


1. Why are organisations not taking enough account of social value?

Public services often think they have neither the capacity nor the resources for adapting their services around social value and SROI. This stems from a lack of technical knowledge – training deficiency – and a lack of knowledge or examples of best practice. Language can be another obstacle here as well.


2. What’s the solution?

Most of the above challenges for organisations can be ameliorated by improving communications and distributing more case studies, examples, stories of success and mentoring opportunities. The challenge is not with SROI as such; it lies with our communication and access to it. On a related point, increasing the awareness and number of projects that use SROI throughout, as a management tool rather than a post hoc evaluation, as this both increases the use and efficacy of SROI and provides a more persuasive story.


3. What’s your organisation doing?

Gayle and Lindsay from Liverpool John Moores University have completed an SROI on some local, grass roots projects, including The Quays, a peer-led drug and alcohol recovery project which, through an SROI, restructured and streamlined their whole organisation *see slide*. This is an example of a case study that could be widely disseminated. Vincenzo co-founded a design organisation that uses SROI as an assisting tool for designing new services to create social change – again, spreading the word that SROI is not just evaluation, it is design. Avanzi have created a new business model and theory of change from scratch around the principle of social value creation and maximisation.

 Speaker Discussion Points:

Gayle responded to some initial questions before the conference.  See below for her answers:

  1. Honestly, because they do not understand what it means, how it is relevant for them, and how they may go about capturing data/information. There is little supportive evidence regarding how understanding social value can help to inform and support organisations in future planning as well as understanding the impact of what they do. There is also even less knowledge about how they may go about measuring, and what this entails. There is vague understanding of the Social Value Act but not much of how to use it.  
  2. This is not the complete answer, but one aspect would be for greater dissemination of work where a social value approach has been used. Organisations should share their methodologies and findings. Key staff members should be able to easily access training programmes that highlight what social value is and how it can be demonstrated/evaluated etc.
  3. We are an academic unit and we are working on behalf of local authorities and NHS providers to demonstrate and evidence social value impacts as a result of engagement with specific initiatives and projects which aim to have health and wellbeing impacts for participants. The findings are freely shared not only with the organisation but further afield. Feedback has been key to this work – with those engaging with the research, the organisations and the wider community.
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