The Surrey CC marketplace "empowers communities". © Jack Taylor/Getty Images
The Surrey CC marketplace "empowers communities". © Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Social Value Marketplace became a 'hub of innovation'

A Social Value Marketplace set up by Surrey County Council has become a “hub of innovation”.

Speaking at the Local Government Procurement Expo in London, Cindy Nadesan, contract and supply manager at Surrey CC, discussed the benefits of the marketplace, which was set up in 2015.

The marketplace was created on a publicly accessible online platform as part of a pilot to increase transparency around contract opportunities. 

Nadesan said: “It's an open platform which doesn't just operate within procurement, it is a website that anyone can access. This aims to become a single point of contact and a hub of innovation.”

She said benefits of the marketplace included: 

1. Communication

The marketplace helps to keep open dialogue going with the local businesses so councils can work on areas of social value that best address the community's needs, said Nadesan. 

“A key driver of the social marketplace was actually understanding what the real need of communities was, because they differentiate.”

There’s a messaging system for suppliers and buyers to communicate throughout the procurement process. Nadesan said this shows how the public sector is supporting organisations to work in partnerships.

“When both parties have provided feedback confirming delivery [of service or goods] a bridge is built between those organisations.”

2. Partnerships

Nadesan said: “We were looking for a way to bridge that silo thinking and start to promote partnership working, not just internally with us as an organisation but with the rest of our public sector partners.” 

It’s a lot more advantageous and sustainable if public, private and social sectors in the same locality work together to contribute and combine resources, so they can be marketed to the people and places that need them the most, said Nadesan.

“In a nutshell, it's like if you're planting trees, you're digging up the ground, you're trying to create a new playground – what if we came together and looked at coordinating it.”

3. Transparency 

Nadesan emphasised that the most important message to suppliers in the public sector is that when local government commits to delivering social value, it is not the local authority or public sector that is benefiting, it’s the community.

As part of a move towards a transparent marketplace, the platform allows businesses to put up publicly-available feedback after services have been delivered. This gives the community the power to make suppliers accountable.

She added: “Social value is a commitment that you are making to the community. Therefore, it is the communities that should hold you accountable to whether or not you deliver your benefits. The feedback we got from suppliers [about the platform] is that this is something that they've been waiting for.”

4. Structure

The platform automatically archives tender requests that are older than three months to the organisation's account to “put some rigour into the whole process”. 

“Timeframe is very important. Nobody wants to live in information that is a year old,” Nadesan explained.

The structure of the online system is also useful as it enables local government “to build a database of who local organisations are and where they're based”.

5. Empower communities

Nadesan said it’s about saying to local businesses: “Here's a safe platform that you can use to articulate your needs. This marketplace service empowers communities to tell us what they value, it helps businesses with size and with their supply chain. 

“The prime providers no longer have to take on the burden of providing social value themselves. They can direct their supply chain to the website, because it's open access.”

The platform provides new opportunities for local government and different firms to work together on social value. “Our economic development teams can start to use this to get businesses on board and profile local businesses that are based in our area,” she added.

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