8 ways to enhance the role of housing providers

Housing providers have a significant role to play in the functioning of the economies in which they are based and in addressing social issues. They achieve this through the delivery of activities which complement and supplement public services and contribute to a variety of outcomes including around employment, and health and well-being.

Like other place based anchor institutions, housing providers also have a key lever for economic, social and environmental change at their disposal in the form of procurement. All housing organisations will purchase goods, services and works and will have a process in place to design, procure and deliver these. However, the challenge with procurement historically is that it has often been overly bureaucratic, with price the primary decision-making criteria; and little opportunity to utilise procurement to address wider issues.

The value of procurement as a lever to create and support jobs, enhance skills, develop and sustain business and social economy organisations, and reduce carbon emissions, for example, is on the rise. For the last ten years, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) has been working with a host of anchor institutions, including local authorities and housing organisations, to shift the way in which they think about procurement so that it does deliver a range of benefits and contribute towards addressing wider issues.  We have recently been collaborating with Manchester based housing association One Manchester; this work has created an evidence base around the social value created through their procurement, and that of their supply chain. From our body of work, we have taken some key lessons.

There are several ways that housing providers can embed social value into their procurement practices:

1. Explore leakage out of the local economy

Spend can be analysed by postcode to understand the value of contracts with organisations outside of regional boundaries. These contracts should be reviewed, and where spend is influenceable (not tied up in national frameworks etc), engagement with local businesses should occur.

2. Engage with suppliers based in areas of deprivation

To encourage and support them to deliver additional social value.

3. Monitor social value

Many organisations require examples of social value to be provided by suppliers in the tender process. It is important to evaluate what is delivered by these suppliers as part of contract monitoring.

4. Influence the behaviour of the existing supply chain

Providers should focus on improving the impact of their supply chain on local economies. This can be done through dialogue or through clauses.

Housing providers must also support their suppliers to deliver social value, they can do this by:

5. Creating links within the system

And, signposting to organisations that can support suppliers to deliver social value, such as The Living Wage Foundation.

6. Developing a clear social value policy

That defines the broad themes the provider is seeking to prioritise.

7. Celebrating the success of the existing supply chain

This gives other organisations some practical examples of social value in action and illustrates the plurality of what can be considered as social value.

8. Engaging with the supply chain

To reinforce the importance of delivering social value.