Kicking off, we’re featuring an interview with Rab Campbell, a key team member. With his expertise and commitment, Rab plays a crucial role in driving our efforts towards measuring and evidencing social value.
Could you introduce yourself, please?
Hi, my name’s Rab Campbell, I’m the Growth Director at the Social Value Engine based in Edinburgh.
What is your role at the Social Value Engine?
As the name implies, my job is all about growing our business. The Social Value Engine has been around for 10 years. It grew organically through a close relationship between a consultancy called Rose Regeneration and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, who both now jointly own the company.
And we believe there’s an enormous scope for the benefits that East Riding and, dozens of our other customers, enjoy being extended to many more organisations.
There’s a lot of demand out there for what we do, and lots of reasons for that. One of the fundamental reasons is that the SVE has been developed hand-in-glove with a very progressive English council to meet their needs. They’re very happy with it and there’s no reason that other councils and VCSE organisations cannot benefit too; and that’s what we’re in the process of doing.
What were you doing before the social value engine and what persuaded you in the end to join our team?
My career has been quite varied. Initially, I started work with British computer company ICL and later transitioned to working for a Canadian company called CGI, which marked the end of my formal career phase. Over the past decade or so, I have been actively involved in several initiatives.
One significant project was helping to set up CodeClan, a digital skills academy in Scotland, which expanded from Edinburgh to Glasgow and Inverness. This experience led me to encounter an organisation that employed our graduates from CodeClan in blockchain technology projects. Interestingly, these projects were not focused on cryptocurrency but rather on cross-organisational data governance.
During this period, I was exploring effective use cases for blockchain technology and met Ivan from Rose Regeneration. Our collaboration led to our working closely on the Social Value Engine. My perspective was that blockchain could offer a reliable way to measure social value across different organizations. However, I quickly realised from discussions with Ivan that the market for digital support in measuring social impact was not quite as developed as I had assumed, and it wasn’t quite ready for blockchain technology yet!
Ivan had been working with Claire Watts from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council on a solution that, while extremely effective and competitively priced, required further development for sustainability and growth. An example of our progress was a project at the end of 2022 with several councils in the Yorkshire and Humberside area. This project, primarily aimed at satisfying the needs of procurement professionals within councils, highlighted the need for additional product development to support council procurement functions.
This led to a development pipeline for our software into 2023, attracting significant clients, like Leeds City Council, who switched from another supplier to use the SVE. Our offer now extends from the long-established support of the grant-giving functions within councils and the VCSE organisations they work with, to their procurement departments as well.
So, you have been with the Social Value Engine for two years. Were there any highlights in that time? Things you were not expecting. Or maybe you were.
There have certainly been several highlights and unexpected developments. Although the software has existed for a decade, we established a new company at the end of 2022 focused on developing the product and expanding its reach. This involved recruiting new staff and working with various suppliers, many of whom I was familiar with from my previous career. This phase was filled with a fair share of surprises.
A notable example was securing business through a referral from two existing customers, Orkney and Dumfries and Galloway councils. This led to a significant project with the Scottish Government for their community-led local development programme. They procured multiply licenses from us. One was retained by the government to allow all the projects to be consolidated for Ministers, while the remainder were distributed to Local Action Groups (LAGs). These groups oversaw a wide range of 200+ projects, from very small-scale initiatives to more significant mid-sized ones.
We developed a template picking from our 400 value approximations, tailoring these down to the 26 most closely aligned to the Scottish government’s policy outcomes. The LAGs then selected the most relevant ones for their own projects. Implementing technology solutions in such a multi-organisational scenario is inevitably challenging, but the feedback has been very positive, and we are now well into our second year of deliver. Several councils in Scotland are now considering additional licenses based on their experience of the CLLD program.
This project greatly benefited the Scottish Government. They received high-quality, structured, feedback on their community-led local development program’s expenditure and, most importantly the outcomes achieved. This feedback was aligned to the 17 UN sustainability goals, offering clear insights into the program’s impact.
As we move into the second year, we’re applying the lessons learned to further improve our offerings. The first year was a success, and I am confident that the coming years will see continued progress and positive developments. This is just one example among many other significant achievements.
We’d like to thank Rab Campbell for taking the time to discuss his role and experiences at the Social Value Engine. His insights have been invaluable, and we look forward to sharing more of his perspectives on social value in future articles. Keep an eye on our blog for these upcoming features.