Building social procurement readiness

Social Procurement in NSW: A Guide to Achieving Social Value through Public Sector Procurement
Burkett I and Newman C (2012)

The NSW Social Procurement Action Group (SPAG) came together in late 2011 with a specific agenda – to increase understanding and activity in the growing field of social procurement. Across NSW there were some exciting examples emerging, with Government at all levels using procurement as a strategic tool to drive social outcomes, particularly in generating employment for disadvantaged communities. Yet the activity was being done in isolation, without a common language or body of work to underpin it. Representing seventeen State, Federal and Local Government agencies, SPAG emerged as a Network of practitioners and interested agencies. The critical task identified was to develop Guidelines for good practice, supported by local case studies and legal advice relevant to any public service agency looking to socially procure.

Social Procurement in NSW (‘The NSW Guide’) focuses on four critical elements of social procurement. The first section sets out the business case and the context. The guidelines highlight the scale of activity in NSW, where State and Local Government procurement expenditure alone is estimated at $27bn/ year, representing enormous market power to drive Government’s strategic objectives. As Procurement Roadmap and Accreditation Programs are rolled out across Government, procurement is moving from an administrative low level activity to a critical strategic role, and Government is increasingly understanding the role that procurement can have in helping to address some of our most challenging social, environmental and economic problems.

The second section of the NSW Guide provides a step-by-step approach to making your organisation ‘social procurement ready’, addressing topics ranging from: engaging senior management, to developing appropriate policies and procedures, to education, training, and opportunity analysis. The NSW Guide provides a detailed model to help any organisation to set themselves up to ensure social objectives are considered as an integrated part of their procurement practice.

Section three provides a detailed approach to the integration of social procurement into each stage of the procurement process, from procurement planning, specification and evaluation criteria development to contract monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The NSW Guide is designed to respond to the need expressed by many for practical guidance to help those looking to incorporate social objectives into their procurement practice in a robust, balanced and effective way.

The final section provides a question and answer section followed by 17 pages of detailed legal advice demonstrating conclusively that as long as processes are transparent and followed appropriately, social procurement is not only legal, but ‘good practice’, ensuring Government’s social and economic objectives are properly considered in its procurement practice.

The content in the NSW Guide is supported by 17 diverse case studies and a range of diagrams and models designed to help generalists looking to introduce new approaches to addressing social challenges, as well as procurement practitioners looking for structured guidance and examples of social procurement application. Many of the case studies reflect the way social procurement is being used as a key tool to effectively address issues such as employment creation in areas of place-based disadvantage in metropolitan and regional NSW, and the provision of job pathways to disadvantaged communities, with a particular focus on indigenous, people with a disability and long-term unemployed.

While the NSW Guide specifically addresses social procurement in the public sector in NSW, it can be picked up and applied by any private or public sector organisation throughout. Launched in Western Sydney, the Illawarra and the Central Coast to over 250 people, the NSW Guide is proving a vital tool to support the implementation of the goals of NSW SPAG, (now a chapter of Social Procurement Australasia) in driving the uptake and effective implementation of good practice social procurement for the long-term benefits of the people and communities of NSW.

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