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  • Harry Kearns

What is 'Social Value'?

What should be considered most valuable to us - as individuals, communities and across societies? Getting large numbers of people to agree on this can be difficult.


The following article is from the Skills Matter Newsletter (issue 4), and written by Harry Kearns, Outreach & Communications Officer for The Wheel

Some of us wish to accumulate personal wealth. Others value their free time. Some wish to find creative expression in their work or hobbies. Others care about the health of our planet, the availability of good education for citizens, or the strength of our democracy.


Fortunately, there are learning and upskilling opportunities that can teach us how to measure the impact of the work we are doing in our community. We can learn to measure the 'social value' of something.

Financial values tend to dominate decision making, but there is an alternative. The social value approach takes into account how much we care for things that don’t necessarily have an easy-to-assess market value.


These things positively affect the lives of people and communities. Some examples are time, health, family, education, safety, creativity, nature and the environment. Appreciation of these values underpin how we in the nonprofit community operate and make decisions. The real value of these factors is less easy to measure.


Social Value International is a global network focused on changing the way society accounts for value. The network already has a presence in 45 countries. All network members are committed to understanding what is truly important to all of us. One of the network’s goals is giving people the skills to assess the value of what we most care about alongside the value of goods and services in the open market.


In 2020, The Wheel, Quality Matters and Whitebarn Consulting came together and formed Social Value Ireland, an associate network of Social Value International. We are helping to build a movement in Ireland to change how people measure what is important. By connecting people and supporting their learning, the aim is to alter how important organisational and societal decisions are made.


The vision is of a world where decision-making and resource allocation is based on a more enlightened understanding of what is valuable. One hopes this will contribute to increased equality and well-being and reduced environmental degradation.


If you are interested in learning more about the principles of social value and how to go about using the social value approach, join the Irish network today. It’s open to all and free to join. Complete a simple membership application here.


As a member you will enjoy benefits such as:


  • Discounted Social Return on Investment Training (SROI) (Contact philip@qualitymatters.ie for more information)

  • Member-only networking events and workshops

  • Access to resources and updates.


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