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June 30, 2015

Website adds social value to gov't suppliers

Website adds social value to gov't suppliers

By Dan Ebank
SEiSMiC partner Firesouls, of the UK NaNet, recently won funding to develop a website concept that would bring together traditional government suppliers and local civic projects with the aim of adding social value to publicly tendered products and services.

The idea, called the Social Value Exchange, seeks to exploit opportunities created by the UK’s Social Value Act. Passed in 2013, the law encourages public authorities to require social and environmental benefits, along with economic value, in their public tendering and procurement processes.

Firesouls received investment funding to develop the concept from Innovate UK and Bethnal Green Ventures. The latter is a tech start up accelerator, and Firesouls plans to work with BGV over the next three to six months to get the Social Value Exchange to the next level.

Firesouls is a social innovation business that builds digital products that help people improve where they live, work and socialise. It became involved with Seismic by making a contribution to conferences in London and Brussels this past spring.

Firesouls helped design a workshop in preparation of the conferences, and eventually chaired a session which included a discussion with former UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears, one of the driving political forces behind the Social Value Act.

Firesouls aims to get more resources into local communities and small community-based businesses. While the UK government has pared budgets and cut back social services in urban areas, the demand for such services grows. More and more people live in cities and the proportion of service-dependent older people gets higher and higher. Firesouls believes part of the answer lies in getting resources to community-based organisations and letting them decide how those resources are allocated — a new form of urban governance.

Small civic organisations can be innovative and responsive to local needs in a way that local authorities cannot. Community based organisations are close enough to the people they serve and small enough to tailor their services and offerings in response to new needs. Local councils, by contrast, are structurally biased against social innovation. The Social Value Exchange seeks to channel private sector resources straight to these local innovative organisations.

Dan Ebanks is a co-founder of Firesouls