Published: 14th Feb 2017

In its Good City Economy plan, Belfast will embed social value across the city’s procurement processes

Belfast is a social city, with a wealth of community and civic organisations involved in the whole range of issues from education and training to housing, energy and social care.

As public sector funds dwindle and government retreats, could these organisations take on more services and play a deeper role in the city’s social and economic life?

A vision is emerging in Belfast of a city that is focused around social value, with its major institutions shifting their procurement and commissioning processes to accentuate the social, and create greater integration and alignment of social and economic aims.

Over the coming six months CLES will be working with partners Belfast Council and Development Trusts NI to create a social value framework for the city, aimed at building social value into the design of commissioning and procurement processes.

At an event in the city last year procurement officers from local anchor organisations in the city including Ulster University and Belfast Council met with social sector organisations such as the Now Group and the Ashton Trust to discuss the challenges and opportunities of a social value framework for the city.

Much work has already taken place in the city, including an assessment of the multiplier effect of local and social procurement, and the insertion of social clauses into contracts, particularly in the construction sector.

But both suppliers and procurers in the city face challenges in delivering social value though procurement and commissioning processes. Procurers often have a limited understanding about what social value means and how it relates to their processes, and are sometimes risk-averse when it comes to change.

Suppliers on the other hand perceive it as an additional cost, while smaller players struggle to understand how the opportunities available to them.

Over the coming months CLES will work with its partners in Belfast to implement a number of key actions based around the city’s community plan, the Belfast Agenda.

Thus, within the Business and Economy section of the Belfast Agenda, an objective has been set to mainstream local and socially just procurement across the city, and develop a network of potential social suppliers.

In the Living Here section of the Agenda, there is an aim to use procurement to support population retention, embed volunteering opportunities into contracts and establish a Belfast time bank.

Within the Working and Learning strand there is an aim to grow employment and training opportunities for the city’s population through procurement processes. And in the City Development section it wants to use procurement to encourage a more holistic approach to regeneration.

This is a chance for Belfast to map and envisage a city that is fuelled by the generation of greater social value not dominated by the race for greater economic wealth.

  • Read a blog on plans for a Social Procurement Framework by Charlie Fisher on Page 2