As cities strive to at once promote integration and create benefit for themselves, they may be surprised to learn that they have had a powerful tool at their disposal all along: public procurement.
Brighton & Hove are wielding procurement contracts to achieve greater integration on two fronts: the inclusion of a social clause, and building the strength of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
It was to see these strategies in action that Utrecht, looking to engineer its own win/win for itself and its migrant population, recently took up the opportunity offered by CITIES GROW to conduct a study visit to Brighton & Hove.
One of the secrets of success for Brighton & Hove has been the inclusion of a ‘social value charter’ in their public tenders. This means that for tenders above £100,000, companies interested in working for the city will have to demonstrate not only that they can do a job with a reasonable amount of cost and efficiency, but also that they will produce social value as they do so. In essence, social value means supporting community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.
The social value component of each tender is evaluated using financial proxies, benchmarking and local engagement, and monitored using a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). This allows the city to maximise the resource utilisation and facilitate collaboration and innovation with local stakeholders.
As important as what is involved in the tender agreement, however, is what kind of enterprises have the capacity to attain it. Brighton & Hove wants to ensure that its many SMEs have the opportunity to secure tenders, not just large established enterprises. This naturally presents a challenge, one which the city hopes to meet by facilitating the creation of consortia of SMEs, allowing them to collaborate to stand a better chance.
If successful, this approach will empower SMEs, thus encouraging local enterprise and entrepreneurship. This will have the added bonus for the city of creating more competition for tenders, and thus increasing the quality of offers. It will also be a positive story for labour market integration, as migrants tend to choose to found SMEs rather than other business models, so that what is good for SMEs ends up being good for migrants too. Involving migrants in tenders has the knock on effect of increasing their social participation and deepening their understanding of both their rights and obligations.
Doing the groundwork
Of course, many migrants do not arrive in the position to launch their own entrepreneurial venture, so it is also vital for the city to do some of the groundwork to get new arrivals to the point of being able to contribute to the local economy. Around 10% of Brighton & Hove’s population is of foreign origin, so integration is essential to the smooth running of the city.
Sussex Interpreting Services is the largest local supplier of interpreting services to the city’s health and other public services. They have a pool of 201 interpreters who use their skills in 52 different languages to help recent arrivals to access government services, and likewise to understand what the city requires of them. In 2016 alone, they helped ease the city’s communication with more than 4,000 people. This does not mean simply translating material into different languages, but really engaging with new arrivals, keeping a database of customers through which they ensure continuity of service and that they can better understand the path their customers are on.
This many teared approach – ensuring that enterprise is creating social value, empowering SMEs to receive tenders, and helping new arrivals to integrate into the labour market – is a virtuous circle, activating self reinforcing principles that help both local government and society.