Making a difference through social procurement

Being a local government buyer for the region it was a great opportunity for us to make a difference – and to make that difference we needed to create a partnership with an organisation with more knowledge and expertise in the procurement and social enterprise space that could assist Barwon Water meeting its policy requirements be generating regional prosperity. So GROW was a fantastic initiative, one that is still fairly new and we are learning lots from and we are committed to their cause and it feels fantastic. Even having the ArcBlue data dashboards gives us the oversight and stats [and has] given us the ability to report on and [we are] starting to see where the impacts are and where we need to improve.

It wasn’t that long ago we didn’t really understand what social procurement was, or know what social enterprises existed. So it’s only come to light in the last couple of years and it’s been an amazing story to understand who these people are and what impacts they have on the community. For example – when you go out and see Social Enterprises at work and you see the amount of disadvantaged people, people with a disability completing amazing and at time complex tasks that you wouldn’t generally believe they could. You learn quite quickly they don’t have a disability – they just seek the opportunity and to be treated equally. Performing some tasks just astounds you. These are just normal everyday tasks and their commitment to that task, and enjoyment, is overwhelming to see them so happy. Connecting with these organisations and seeing what they can achieve increases the desire to support them in an effort to make change for all involved.

Seasons (GenU) have opened in the new Barwon Water complex which is a wonderful story but also a work in progress. Another Social Enterprise we have worked with is Geelong Disability Peoples Industry, an organisation that does … really good work … Some jobs aren’t the best jobs in the world, but they have always delivered on our expectations.

Gen U is one relationship we are always trying to improve and add additional services and this comes with internal education and communication. For example we have just been recently made aware they provide document destruction services. We have been using a company out of Melbourne, so we are now in the process of reviewing this  arrangement.

However, most of these engagements are relativity small spend. The ultimate aim is to identify a high spend, sustainable, rewarding category and this will be the challenge moving forward. Overall our social enterprise spend is quite a small percentage compared to our overall procurement spend. But it has increased minimally and it needs to be enhanced and we need to look at alternatives for goods and services to increase that spend.

It does come with its challenges and we need more support from Government, GROW and Social Enterprises. One thing we recognized that (from my opinion) we feel that social enterprises are focused on their people and are not necessarily business savvy. There is a need to work together and get the right balance.

Our GROW Compact Action Plan has created internal awareness and there is a lot of actions that come out of that. It is reported to Senior Management and actions [are] reviewed annually. To date we have achieved all of our actions items which is a great achievement. Some of the actions were quite simple but some of them are quite challenging trying to create awareness for those that procure indirectly. We have learnt that simple awareness and education does make a difference so we encourage anyone who is new to this space to make an effort. The personal satisfaction gained can be far greater than the satisfaction you get from your day to day job.


What is a Most Significant Change story?

The Most Significant Change (MSC) technique is a form of monitoring and evaluation that involves the collection of significant change stories across the GROW collective. This MSC story was collected as part of the GROW Review, where a total of 35 stories were collected. Participants at a Summit Workshop in February 2019 were asked to select the story that had the most significant for them. This story was selected by participants at the Summit workshop because:

‘It gave a holistic look at how a business has engaged; the importance of internal communication; how analysing data can motivate support and the acknowledgment of challenges and need for additional GROW support.’