The Social Value Act & Conference – November 20th 2012

As always Social Enterpise UK are doing great things, I’m intrigued into the previous backgrounds they had (must read up). They seem to be true demonstrators of the power of community, when people have a common cause. They’ve had a recent success playing an instrumental role in SalesForce (shivers as I write it) dropping their ridiculous attempt to trademark ‘social enterprise’.

Social Enterprise UK have also triumphed in making a Private Members’ Bill become law in March, which is a ‘rare feat.’  The Social Value Act (which comes into force in January), in a nutshell, means public bodies now need to consider the social value a company creates, the benefits to the community, when they award a contract. The act should result in social enterprises delivering more public services and getting more budget, as they’re committed to doing more than simply making money from a contract. What a role reversal from the Thatcher years.

Social Enterprise UK will be creating guides, best practice events and training offers, to support social enterprises and public sector bodies to build their capacity to comply with the Act. I’d like to go to the  Social Value Conference next Tuesday, particularly to listen to how people are measuring social value and to dispel some slight cynicism I have:

  • Is the Act really going to create good for communities?
  • The threshold is £173,934 if awarded by local authorities and £113,000 by central government, so this doesn’t really help smaller social enterprises deliver public services?
  • Many aspects of social value and wellbeing do not have market values and are difficult to measure. Will the Act create increased burdens, which smaller suppliers might find difficult to bear?

A Happiness based economy – a new economic model?

For a while now I’ve been interested (and frustrated) by the positive impact that brands could, or should have in our daily lives. Rather than just selling us things we don’t want or need, do many brands have a positive impact for communities? How could brands be measured to force this shift – does a meaningful brand index actually help? I went to a Good for Nothing meet up the other week and there was debate about this as I asked the question near the end  – surely it would help shift the balance to intrinsic good, rather than extrinsic and striving for materialistic things?

Positive News have written about a recent UN event in April this year, which marks a significant step towards governments placing wellbeing at the heart of economic progress. I can barely contain myself reading it but will we ever live in this Utopia? The world is struggling with financial chaos and it has probably crossed most people’s minds that perhaps we should be leading our lives in a very different way.

This UN event has happened after a ‘happiness resolution’ in July 2011, which stated that gross domestic product (GDP) alone is not an adequate measure of human prosperity. A ‘more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing.’

Positive news also detailed that the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan actually introduced the concept of gross national happiness (GNH) back in the 1970s. GNH has been measured from 2008 ‘looking at factors such as living standards, health, education, culture, good governance, and psychological wellbeing.’

A report commissioned for this UN conference shows how a new ‘science of happiness’ is able to measure people’s wellbeing. According to the first ever World Happiness Report which you can read here, the happiest countries are all Northern European countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands – they scored an average of 7.6 / 10 for life satisfaction. The UK was placed 18th behind the US and Ireland and the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country is mental health. You can see the top 20 here.

Will a happiness based economy ever become the new economic model, I hope so.