Episode 089: Catherine Manning from Social Value UK

Season 3, Episode 89: Catherine Manning

Social Value UK | Social Impact | June, 1st 2020 | 45:44

Catherine Manning from Social Value UK

The Story

Catherine Manning is the Operation Manager from Social Value UK and Social Value International. Social Value UK is a national membership network with a professional body for people who are working in social impact or value. They are the national network of the UK, which is a part of social value International. They are working towards a shared global mission to change the way the world accounts for value.

Highlights of Catherine Manning

  • Social Value UK and Social Value International is formed of 24 different national networks and further members from about 45 different countries in total including those networks.
  • They have a well developed financial system that drives their decision making for the majority of their decision making in all organisations.
  • They work as an international network doing a variety of different membership activities: the development of a set of standards around some basic social value accounting principles, through training by training people around these principles and how to put them into practice in everyday life in my everyday organisations.
  • They try to change people's understanding of what value is and what they mean by value.
  • “We try and give voice to people or amplify the voices of people who have little or no power and to change the way that we legally and politically and legislatively put those sort of values in our system.”


"If we change the way that we value things, it will lead to a better decision making that will help us to address the inequality that we see through the world - the environmental degradation - and it will help to improve all of our well being"

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Interview Transcript

Will 0:30 

Catherine Welcome to the green element podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. You are from social value UK. Could you tell us more about? Who you are and what your organisation does please?

Catherine 0:47 

Right, and thank you very much for welcoming me to come and join me today. My name is Katherine Manning and I'm the operations manager from social value UK correct there and but also for and social value International. So, I'm sort of here representing both organisations and hopefully some people will have heard of us. But to give you the view of who we are, we're social value UK is a national network or a national membership network and where there's a professional body for people who are working in social impact or social value. And we are the national network of the UK, that's a part of social value International. And now where the social value UK office but we also act as the Executive Office for social value international as well. So that's the global membership network from across the world and sort of sitting underneath that there's 24 different national networks have varying degrees of development inside and then further members from about 45 different countries in total including those networks. These networks as well all membership organisations, all cross sectoral and all working towards a shared global mission to change the way the world accounts for value. And so, you know, we've got people who are also lots of people in the network from lots of organisations, but a pool of people who are called sales reformed accountants or recovering accountants.

It's a sort of unpick that a little bit you know, we as a global society where we've got a well-developed financial system that drives a lot of our decision making the majority of our decision making in all organisations. We all budget we all account for all of the financial value that we use and create every single month, you know, even daily, monthly, quarterly yearly accounts and but we don't do the same to the same level of sophistication or to the same level of doing that methodically for environmental and social value. And we want to we're working as an international network and to change that so and you know, we do that in a variety of different ways and through membership activities, through the development of a set of standards around some basic social value accounting principles, and through training, so training people around these principles and how to put them into practice in everyday life in my everyday organisations and as sort of my, my other hat also here representing two organisations and as operations manager, I'm also the assurance manager and I run the assurance and accreditation services. So, we're looking at sort of standards of practice, within organisations as individuals and as organisations. So how are we as individuals doing that accounting practice and how are often managing the value that they're creating over time. And finally, you know, both internationally and nationally, we're a campaigning organisation. So, trying to change people's understanding of what value is and what we mean by value. We claim quite intrinsically, it's sort of linked to a financial aspect you sort about, about value and people sort of link that to the idea of money, but we're talking about things that we value and that being valued from the perspective of people, right? From our own perspectives, you know, what I value is different from what you value is different from what people who all the different people that have been listening to this podcast would value in and allowing people to value parts of their own lives. There's, there's a power aspect to that right in the way that we value things and who has the power to be able to do that. And that driving decision making has a power element to it. So we have campaigns as part of what we do to try and give voice to people or amplify the voices of people have little or no power and to change the way that we legally and politically and legislatively, put those sort of values in our system. So we are looking for systems change and fundamentally that said, looking at our overall mission two, we think that if we change the way that we value things it will lead to different decision making better decision making and that will help us to address the inequality that we see through the world the environmental degradation and it will help to improve all of our well-being so that's our yay at the end of..(laughs)

Will 6:22 

What sort of organisations are parts of these networks?

Catherine 6:27 

So, and anyone really and it were completely cross sectoral. So, we work with people from the public sector, private sector and civil society and it's anybody from a single person organisation up to large multinational organisations, across any industry. You know, I suppose for the past couple of years in the social value key network, we've certainly seen a growth in interest and membership from construction organisations in the built environment, I'd say certainly from an environmental perspective, there's been there's increased scrutiny on anything to do with construction and infrastructure on the effect that that has on the environment. But there has also been that increased scrutiny and understanding of the fact that the way things are built and what's built has a direct impact on people's lives. So, the need to manage social value has increased in that sector. And that's something that we've seen, but, but loads of other organisations as well. So, you know, through the growth of the network from its earlier years, we've got a sound basis of like accountants, like I said, but also people working in charities and social purpose organisations, you know, that's also it's all been bedded into the purpose of the organisation. So, if you are saying, I am running this organisation as a social enterprise or as a charity, you're saying I'm running this to have an effect on people's lives. So, if you're not managing that fat, you’re not accounting for methodically to say what impact am I actually having? And then how do you know? So how do you know that you're creating the most value that you can for the people whose lives you are affecting, and all of these organisations will have financial accounts. But say, you know, we're social purpose organisation, so we should also have social value or impact accounts as well and get on be doing what we can to manage that impact. So, there's all of that kind of side. And interestingly, over the last year or so, we've had some legal organisations joining as well. So, it's been good to get the get the lawyers on board.

Will 8:49 

When you talk about value, I mean, as you know, we come from the B Corp side and I guess I'm what I'm trying to do is pick a part in what, what, as you said, What does value mean? It means different things to different people. And I know having gone through the B Corp certification process, there are five pillars. And I guess that would be a way that I would describe the big Corp value system. So, I wonder is that um, is there a way that you can talk us through what you mean by value? And yeah, and what is it that people are looking for?

Catherine 9:35 

Yeah, okay. So, let's face it, kind of get down to it. Yeah, we're a B Corp as well. So, we've been through that accreditation too, and B Corp and Social Value UK are sort of back to back members. We have reciprocal membership agreements with each other so that you quite rightly people upon the point, there's a number of different sort of standard setters and membership organisations out there that are working in developing and changing what it is that we do as organisations and how we do that. And when we're talking, we're doing that from a social value perspective, right? And where we're talking about when we talk about social value, what we're talking about is people centred. So, I sort of mentioned that those social value principles before and the first principle is involved stakeholders. So, we're talking about a sort of stakeholder centred also people centred approach to understanding the value that's created through your activities. And when we're talking about social value, we're talking about people's lives and things that change in people's lives, and the social value is then at the quantification of that right that the people will have different things that change in their lives, because if the activities that they're engaging with or say the activities that we're running, that has an effect on people's lives, things change for those people, but they're different. There’re different things, a number of things, and some things will be more important than other things. There's relative importance to those changes, and the quantification of that gives you the amount of social value that you're creating. And I suppose the point I was raising before about that being people centred is that there's its subjectivity to that, right? That the social value that's created through activities is inherently subjective, because my life and the things that I value about my life and the things that change in my life, and how I value those is going to be different from the things that you value in your life and the things that change in your life and how valuable those are to you. So, we need to be looking at accounting for the social value that's created from the perspective of the people we're actually experiencing. And those changes as big more broadly than that in terms of value. It's all subjective. You could look at anything that's got a financial market price to it already, that doesn't prove or provide a completely homogenised set price that we would all agree on, you know, what somebody might pay for a car or a pair of shoes or a house doesn't mean that everybody would. There's underpinned value that you would place on that that's has less subjective value to that as well from the perspective of the person who's actually going to even put that financial will put that amount of money into getting that good or that service. And so yeah, I think it's that kind of value conversation, we have long conversations about these things and what does it mean and that? Yeah, that stakeholder centred piece that really.

Unknown Speaker 13:12 

If you were a, I don't actually want to name any kind of industries, can any industry and become a part of your membership organisation or do so for example, you know, when you go to a B Corp, there are certain industries that just wouldn't become a B Corp because you're not allowed to. Is that? Is that the same, the same?

Catherine 13:39 

Yeah, that's an interesting question, actually, I suppose, up to this point in time, and we work with people who are interested in accounting for the impact that they have on people's lives and working to improve that. So up to this point in time, you know, we've had our interactions and the work that we do has been to the majority with organisations and people that are trying to improve what they're doing or at a, you know, sort of in sectors that are trying to improve, improve people's lives in a variety of ways I face in that I mean, you could even take the example that I'd said before about construction, there's obviously good and bad practice. But you wouldn't be able to say that the overall the whole industry is having either a bad or a good impact on all people's lives that are interacting with that industry. So it's basically the perspective that we're coming from is that no matter what organisation you are, and what activities that you're doing, you should be accounting for the social value that's created as you should be accounting for the environmental value that you're creating and destroying. And I suppose in terms of really bad practice of organisations, if we're going to if every organisation was liable to do that, if that was a part of how companies have to act, then bad practice would be harder to undertake. But yes, it's a very good, it's a very good question and that there aren't industries or organisations that we've got written in a completely cut out. And we are starting to develop a sort of membership and kind of the exact wording for it there sort of statement and code of conduct that members have to sign up to so yeah, they do have to sort of sign up to these principles.

Will 16:02 

I think that's right. I think it's where it is a weird one, because how do you change society if you don't allow the change to happen in the first place? I, I always get stuck with that one. And I genuinely don't think there's a right or wrong answer. There, but there are arguments for both.

Catherine 16:23 

Yeah, there's been an interesting thing. So, you've seen a lot with the, with the climate crisis, right? That it's, it's such an interconnected issue, right. And it's not just one issue. It's something that's affecting all of our lives in a multitude of different ways. And that's every industry and every type of organisation that needs to change and needs to respond. But to develop that kind of understanding and realise that it is us individually and it is us as organisations, it means that you can't externalise that blame and just say, Oh, it's the, it's the airlines, it's the, the fuel industry, it's the food industry, it's clothing, you know, it's it is all of those to a degree, but within each of those sectors or industries, there's good and bad practice. And so it's about all of us changing the industries that we're in and within the scope of what it is that we've got the ability to be able to change and I think and one of the things that we're arguing for and you know, from a social value perspective, but I do think it's it you know, we include environment in our well in our mission and in our accounting practices as well. But to be able to make that change, we need to understand what it is that we're doing now. What is the impact that we're having? What's the value that's being created? What's the value that's being destroyed? And as that quote isn't there it's only what measures what we measure that gets managed. So, we need to measure to be able to make better informed decisions. And that's, that's right, no matter what industry it is that we're, we're working in.

Will 18:27 

And does it become quite numerical? The outcomes or like, is it qualitative or quantitative?

Catherine 18:36 

That's a really good question. And, and the answer is that it's both. And so, if we're kind of getting into the methodology of accounting for social value, and a fundamental aspect of that is talking to people that's our, our principle one, and the principle two is understanding change. And that's an Understanding what changes for people. So that has to be led from discussion, right? We can't have pre-defined outcomes. And they have to be talked about with the people who are actually experiencing them and defined in that way. So that's qualitative. And but then to be able to quantify, here you have to do you have to go into that numbers part. So, there is actually a measuring amount over measuring amounts of change. So it's both basically say, on the training, we have people coming from all sorts of economics backgrounds, or financial backgrounds, so data backgrounds, working with numbers, and they're all sort of is making sense from that perspective. But then you've got lots of people you're working in front facing positions, so you perhaps have all those personal skills and do a lot more sort of face to face delivery and actually talking to people and that's an equally a part of the methodology. Right? So, it's definitely a combination of both.

Will 20:17 

And the you have reciprocal relationships with the B Corp below I guess and your own and what would be the benefits of an organisation of equal being a member of both?

Catherine 20:38 

What for a B Corp organisation? Our network and the vehicle network? Yeah, those Yeah, again an interesting point. I mean, it's not just with B Corp that we have these sort of reciprocal arrangements so we work with social enterprise UK, social value mark, associate price mark, so easy to see I see that there's a number of other different EMA probably might be not from your environmental listenership from a failover. Now there you go, there you go. Right. So, we've got a reciprocal arrangement with IEMA as well. And the thing with this and one of the things that we're trying to do as a network, both here in the UK and internationally, is to bring together voices right and bring together different organisations that are trying to drive things forward things, drive things forward with complimentary missions. So, you know, the B Corp movement got kicked off in the US and it's spread around the world and it's really been driving forwards and sort of purpose driven business. And similarly, the social enterprise movement has been doing that and that's got that crossover into the charity sector as well, you know, charity sectors have all been pushing in that direction. And anyway, our network is entirely cross sectoral working with, you know, absolutely everyone and we are looking specifically at that accounting methodology and how that's driving decision making. So, it's not just and, lots of you know, other organisations are looking at these things that we're bringing together and having more consistency in our approaches that we're stronger together. And as the role that we're playing in that is driving forwards and development, sophistication of the methodology behind the accounting practice, and being able to use that information for decision-making purposes. I'm guessing, you know, you'd be aware of this and probably have some interesting thoughts on how well used environmental information is for actual organisational decision-making. And the primarily from my experience, you know that decision making is still primarily driven by financial data. That's what we have the trusted and that's what we have the confidence in. And environmental accounting is seen speak that decade or 15 years ahead of the current developments in social accounting. And there's that objectivity to some of the measures that perhaps people have that confidence in so we're developing an increasing understanding in the inherent subjective nature to social information and that's okay and developing people's confidence in that data and that information to drive decisions, right. And I suppose that's the one of the things that we're really, really trying to foster through these reciprocal relationships is a stronger together movement, right. This is a movement for social change and an increasingly necessary one, right? We sort of mentioned the climate crisis, and that there's the health crisis that has been happening this year as well. There’re increasing crises that we're that we're facing our societies and we're in desperate need of changing the way that we make our decisions so that they are more people centred and environmentally centred not just financially driven.

Will 25:07 

That makes sense. And what would you say your business superpowers?

Catherine 25:14 

Ah, that's a great question. Um, I would say our business superpower is our members. And we're a membership network, the UK membership network or the international membership network, we member-owned we member led, and our members sit on our governance boards in our committees, they drive the development and changes to the methodology itself to the standards. It's sort of, I think about it as sort of crowd sourced developments in in social value measurement to management. And so, they are the superpower, the people, that network. I mean, when I sort of think about all of these people around the globe, working on this, it their tireless, you know, I'm so dedicated and this is sort of people working with in a compassionate way trying to give visibility to the things that we're all experiencing in our lives and that really matters to us. And they're passionate about that, right that we're doing this so that we can address some of the real social ills that that we are facing every day every day to disproportionate degrees. There are some people doing extremely well out of the current situation, but there are huge swathes who aren't. And so, people are truly passionate about that. I mean, the other sides of it, they're really thoughtful and technical and use that and to be Creative, inventive and innovative, right? So, we're having to make we're making new things up, right? We're saying we need to change the model. We need to change the system. So, we're looking at what have we got now and developing and changing that, and that's, you know, that's wonderful to see. And it's wonderful to be a part of that. And yeah, I'd say yeah, superpower is definitely our members.

Will 27:26 

Okay. Um, one of one of the questions are quite like asking people is when it comes to running ethical and sustainable business, what's been your biggest struggle so far? And can you tell us a bit about how you've overcome it? And it's interesting to know, because there aren't that many organisations that work with other mission led organisations, as there, you know, so closely like you guys, do you learn as well of your members, do you take on best practice, because I know when we go through the certification process for Beagle bits, we actually learn of that each time and we try and get better and better. But you're in a really amazing position where you're going to see people do some fantastic things on a daily basis. So, you must be like, Oh, we must do that. Oh, we could do that.

Catherine 28:19 

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, no, you can hit the nail on the head. There. It is. Yeah, it's a completely moving it is a moving platform. I suppose I'm talking to people, okay? It feels a lot of the time that we're kind of working on jelly, or maybe jelly with holes in rooms, like, Oh, we get everything sorted and then something's changed or something new happens. And that can be sort of technically or it can be because, you know, really good things have happened and like more people have engaged with this topic, but that means that perhaps a whole new context or a new industry is trying to do it. We talked about putting the principles into practice so that we've got these principles okay, well, I've been trying to talk to my stakeholders and understand change from their perspective, and we're trying these different valuation methods. But in my context, it's hard to do because of x, y, and zeta or I've hit this problem and it's like that actually raises issues that then need to be brought back and thought about and put into the continuing development of the of the SPI framework of the guidance and the standards and of the methodology itself. So, you know, sort of talks about this global community of men that is we've got as part of our accreditation process, and we accredit individuals. So we've got a global community of practitioners of social value, accounting and SROI and you know, all of these different situations types of projects that people are accounting for are doing these sort of detailed studies of the social value that's created. They can be massively different, and I'm bringing up all of these different challenges and opportunities, you might say. Oh, it's, there's all of these different situations and people are continuously having to make professional judgments in their eyes about what to include what not to include. And again, another accounting principle and one of our principles for social values about me, including what is material, so there's always these materiality judgments going on, as well. So yeah, like we're continuously learning. And yeah, that's and then the thing with that is then trying to get the information that's been given to us like wonderfully share with us out then into the network itself because the idea with this is to speed things up through chairing through collaboration and you know, and certainly with the with the B Corp movement we were working in that way and with our other, our other partners, you know, internationally we work with other organisations like accountable now like some of the flat philanthropy networks, like an EVPA and a AVPN. So that's the European venture philanthropy network and the Asian venture philanthropy network. So, there's all these some see many acronyms and in it so that it is that kind of working together in that collaboration. That's, that's wonderful. I suppose another one I should mention they hadn't thought of with some impact management project. So, this has been an international collaboration between all these thousands of organisations signed up actually from all types of industries and lots of sort of multinational organisations down to other smaller businesses. And then at the core, there's a kind of structured network of global standard setters. So, there's us, and the OECD the UNDP. The GIIN says the global impact investing network, another good acronym, and PRI and a few of these other ones that are all sort of standard setters around the globe. And there is just another example of people working together and they would have been developing in the impact management project and sort of global impact management norms. So, what are the things when you're talking about and accounting for and using for decision making purposes impact information? What would you expect to have in the process of having undergone this sort of impact management process? What would you expect people to do? And so that's been a great project to participate in and to feed into and to see that there is convergence and there is consistency developing. And also reassuring that that's, you know, it in the most part in sort of fundamentally aligned to what social value international has been advocating for all these years, so it's great.

Will 33:37 

And from, from all of that you just said, what’s one piece of advice you could give to our listeners to help them with their purpose? And what would that be?

Catherine 33:50 

Yeah, that's a good one. And yeah, they're purpose driven organisations, hopefully we'd all be purpose driven organisations. So, I mean, this is where whenever I get asked these questions, I always like oh, come back to the principles. And I suppose the one piece of advice would be to talk to your stakeholders. And we talk about stakeholders in the broadest sense. So, it's people who are affected by and affecting your activities. And so, who is it that you're affecting? Who is it whose life you're trying to change? And that's both internal and external. So you know, your customers, your clients, your users, your beneficiaries, you and the wider community and also your staff, your volunteers, your supply chain, you know, he's being affected, and talk to them, you know it do we decide on what our purpose is. Just does in a room, individually or even just with our team or do we talk to the people who were affecting, and he will be affected by that purpose. And it's interesting when actually because another thing that we have is that sort of another. Hopefully a more accessible version of applying the principles in practice is something called the 10 impact questions. And they are a list of, sort of not bespoke questions. So, they can be made to be written in a bespoke way for your organisation, but they are the sort of general 10 impact questions that we'd expect to see. That should be applied in all ways of accounting for your impact, and the first one of those is what's the problem? And the second is, what's the solution? And with that, all of those questions, you say, Who is it who's answering those questions, and it should be that your stakeholders, right, so you're defining the problem that you're trying to address and then you're coming up with your solution and a part of that process should be talking to people.

Will 36:04 

Okay. And we touched upon this before we came on about environmental management and carbon footprinting and what sort of things. Do you guys travel around the country visiting members and around the globe? Visiting people, how does environmental management affect your organisation?

Catherine 36:33 

Yeah, this is a really good point. And yes, we are, you've touched on our biggest sort of environmental challenge or issue as a as an actual practical organisation that yes, we travel a lot around the UK, and internationally as social value International. And one of the biggest things that we do regular He's delivering training courses and that's everywhere around the globe actually, so that there is a big environmental impact in terms of the amount of travel that members of the team are doing now over the years and the sort of development of the network, we've had to be weighing up developing capacity and delivering these training courses internationally and nationally, with the environmental impacts of that now, you know, the current climate, we're talking about the fact that we've had to make some changes that we were thinking about doing anyway, so delivering a lot more of our training online. And certainly, that's one sort of practical so they shouldn't to some of that environmental impact. And as far as, you know, for us as an organisation ourselves where we'd been looking during last year and then certainly from the very beginning of this year, so calendar year, not sort of financial year at how are we managing the impact in our impact environmentally and so, you know, holding our hands up to say we're on a journey with this and hopefully one for continuous improvement and we've been we've been developing our own environmental policy for this year and starting to put environmental clauses into our contracts with different clients and partners around the globe and more likely here in the UK, and looking at things like make travel and I'm not an expert in with this, but we've been trying to look at the sort of different things in different areas where we do have our largest environmental impacts and reducing that, first and foremost, and using that to make our decisions. And then it's sort of the final part around mitigation. As I've become increasingly aware, it's not, that's not a perfect offsetting, right. It's not the perfect solution by any means. So first and foremost, understanding the impact and then looking at AB reduction, and then mitigation where possible. So that's sort of the things that we're doing internally. And, I mean, it's great for anyone because then it is intrinsically linked with what's going on and people are challenged with across our network as well. So, you know, in terms of our members and what we've been doing over the years with them we've been looking at how do you balance social and environmental outcomes or impact or you know, change because of your activities and how do your account for those what are the different valuation methods and the different metrics and I do think there's two organisations that we are working with both sort of members one with of social value UK and one of social value international that are both environmental organisations, so one just called trees for cities in the UK and so the tree planting primarily I think, I think you guys knows..

Will (40:47)

That’s how we end up meeting each other.

Catherine (40:51)

Yeah, yeah. So then there was another organisation called Restore the Earth Foundation and they’re based in the US and do projects around and, restoring areas particularly around oil fields and things like that. And they have tree planting projects so we’ve been talking about with them, engaging about they’re carbon mitigation program they have but they’re also, of all these reasons we’re particularly talking to these organisation is that they are aware of all this social value management system certificate so those organisations are primarily environmentally-focused organisations who are also looking at how do they best manage their social value, so yeah, it’s been interesting to see it from a sort of membership perspective and before about learning, right? So, we’re learning from our members.

Will (41:56)

What’d be the best way to connect with you and learn more?

Catherine (42:00)

So, the normal website, social media, Twitter. We’ve got a very active blog and monthly newsletters from both network, and there’re newsletters from our members around the globe as well, and I mean we’re a membership organisation so we run a lot of events: we have yearly conferences, the UK has a social value conference and internationally we have conferences in different places around the globe and different networks. This year, we’re running a global impact week that’s in September and there’s some live sessions taking place in Canada and then a lot of things online so lots of people from across different networks running different things during global impact week. As I mentioned before we’re training organisations so we do a lot of different training, usually face to face and we also run courses online now and we do a lot of workshops and things as well so yeah, that’s probably the best way to join up and to find us. We’re very active on social media and certainly very welcome into people signing up to the newsletter, and basically giving us a call. We are all here at the end of an email or a phone, our social media hands are really, really welcome into conversations about taking these sorts. There’s a main thing we want to do is to get more and more people talking about this and driving it forward in all our context.

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