Going forward from Social Value Matters 2019

600 people convened last week to attend Social Value Matters conference, this year’s theme: Going Mainstream (#SVM19). More detailed summaries will soon be published but this blog is a personal reflection and a call to action as we prepare for 2020.

At the opening of the conference, we spoke about the importance of our endeavours.  Yuval Noah Harari, a leading author and philosopher writing in Homo Deus about how unprecedented levels of cooperation between global populations have helped to eliminate the daily threats of famine, disease and war. Of course, they are not 100% solved but through working together the human race have made incredible progress. But looking at the next 100 years the greatest challenges we face together are rising inequality, a climate emergency and pursuit of life satisfaction.

Social Value International is a network of networks collaborating to address these very large, complex and ‘wicked’ challenges. Central to our work is our mission: to change the way the world accounts for value.

 In Taipei last week the passion and unwavering belief in the SVI mission was tangible. 600 people from different countries, sectors and disciplines travelled to Taipei to participate in workshops, roundtable discussions and share best practice impact measurement and management in addressing the issues of inequality, well-being and the environment.

But 600 people is not enough! A clear undertone to this year’s conference was the sense of urgency that is required. Pockets of best practice should not mask the fact that the status quo needs disrupting urgently. Our conversations felt different this year, it feels like our community of social value practitioners is growing into a bigger and wider movement. Yes, we needs more ‘measurers’ of social value but also we need more ‘managers’, we need more analysts, activists, storytellers, policymakers, regulators and leaders. 

Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang is a remarkable leader and took the opportunity last week to focus on the often-overlooked UN Social Development Goal of Collaboration. Inspired by so many of her words and actions I’d like to build on this and set out some key actions we can all take to build a stronger network and movement. 

1. Find your role! Movements need lots of people to do lots of different things. We all have different skills, play to those strengths and collaborate with others. 
2. Challenge yourself and others around you. We all have assumptions about value and make decisions based on this every day. Can we break down our unconscious biases? Do we have the courage to challenge our colleagues? 
3. Recognise this is about power and culture. Good technical measurement by itself will not fix anything. Can we create a culture or ethos for good measurement to thrive? Are we willing to share power? Collaboration means working together rather than independently and therefore we lose some control. Are we OK with this? 
4. Demonstrate patience to achieve convergence. This might seem at odds with the urgency required but it’s necessary within our growing movement. To develop shared understanding often takes time and patience to recognise we are all at different stages of the journey. We have a duty to collaborate in this way. 
5. Acknowledge trade-offs. Sometimes doing the right thing has a short term cost. Can we align our individual pursuits (each of us has organisational priorities) with the bigger picture?

No one can ignore the opportunity we all have to shape the future. Many sessions mentioned the next generation of decision-makers ( investors, business owners, policymakers, citizens) and how the time to act is now!

Lastly, I want to take this moment to thank our hosts and partners Social Value Taiwan. Individual awards were given to Chairman Wu and the Taipei City mayor Ko Wen-Je for their incredible leadership and dedication to the Social Value International mission. But their success is a collective effort. I was struck by the levels of generosity, hard work and passion shown by everyone. Selflessness, innovation and extraordinary vision on abundance. I know I was not the only one leaving Taipei inspired and ready for 2020!

Thank you, Taiwan. 

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