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The Need for Cultural Change – An Interview with Wesley Ankrah

Our Founder Wesley Ankrah was interviewed by the National Social Value Taskforce in the run up to the National Social Value Conference and what he wants people to take away from  NSVC 2020.


Why is brokering relationships important to social value?

Brokering relationships is at the core of creating social value as it allows organisations to pool resources to get more long-term, sustainable results.

We see this all the time at SeerBridge, we act as a ‘broker’ between the local community and our real estate development clients. Both sides have resources that they can offer each other to create social value for local neighbourhoods, and without us brokering it would be difficult to get these two sides communicating with each other.

There’s often been an uncomfortable relationship between the two, with community groups being suspicious of developer’s intentions and developers not wanting to create hostility from the local community unnecessarily. However, we have managed to forge transparent and productive relationships between both parties, through demonstrating the wider benefits of working together.

Brokering genuine relationships between private, public and voluntary sectors means that every time a new project begins, each stakeholder doesn’t keep churning out generic business as usual activities, but instead can think creatively to make a real difference to people’s lives.


Can you give us an example of when you have brokered a successful partnership?

We have a long-standing relationship a Newham-based charity, Fight for Peace, which empowers young people at risk of gang violence to turn their lives around through boxing and martial arts. SeerBridge have delivered educational engagement with FFP, such as 2018’s Lego Project, where young people designed and built a home for 2020 alongside an architect mentor, according to our SROI £8.74 worth of social value was produced for every £1 invested in this project.

They are an amazing charity with great local reach, so we brokered a relationship between themselves and our client, Keystone London, who are developing the Thameside West site in Newham. We have delivered various projects with these two organisations, such as a Bike Workshop alongside BikeWorks (another Newham charity) where young people learnt bike maintenance and went on a guided tour around Newham. We have also enabled youth consultations about the site and mentorship with young people and FFP staff members.

One outcome we have created is helping a young man from Fight for Peace launch his courier business through mentoring and using the meanwhile use site, The Silver Building, on Thameside West as a base.

This is an example of brokerage can create a long-term outcome you weren’t even expecting; the partnership now between SeerBridge, Fight for Peace and the Silver Building has helped changed someone’s life.

What are the main barriers to creating relationships that produce social value?

Brokering relationships requires patience, I would say that the three main barriers to creating relationships that produce social value are:

Lack of Knowledge: Although, social value has been around since 2012 through The Public Services Act, there is a persistent lack of awareness of what social value is. This can make brokering relationships difficult as its often viewed as just an updated version of CSR. However, we know that this is not the truth! Making people aware of the transformative power of social value is the first barrier.

Short-Termism: As mentioned, many people first think of CSR when they think of social value. This means, private sector companies are often stuck wasting money on short term projects that don’t create meaningful outcomes, whilst community groups are used to just being offered cash for one off projects. We need to make both parties aware of the long-term partnerships that can be created through considering social value and not just expecting quick wins.

Expectations: Being clear about what each party can offer is a key aspect of brokering when considering social value. Being transparent and accountable about what you are offering is part of the founding principles of social value. There’s no point promising to deliver 20 apprenticeships to create a large financial proxy value for measurement purposes and only being able to deliver 4 that are genuinely sustainable. Assessing and managing these expectations is a key part of our role.


What is the main message you want people to take away from NSVC 2020?

In our work we are always talking to companies and organizations who have never heard of social value, it’s important for the social value industry to keep in mind that we still have to encourage a wider cultural change.

In the social value industry, we often get caught up in proxies, metrics and measurements, however, when going in to talk to people about the benefits of social value this is of the least amount of concern. They want to know how it will impact their business practices, service users and reach.

We need to remember that social value is about creating change and being accountable to those people we are trying to affect. Bamboozling people new to social value with different proxies can be confusing, and although using measurement is becoming a greater part of the procurement process, in order for social value to make any difference, our clients first need to embrace a cultural change to the core concepts of social value.


Wesley Ankrah, Founder and MD of SeerBridge, will be speaking at the National Social Value Conference 2020 about the importance of brokering relationships between organisations and how this creates social value.


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