For many years charities and social enterprises have tried to play a bigger role in the delivery of public services in the UK, where large businesses have tended to win contracts.
Despite repeated promises by successive governments to create a more level playing field, little had been done to help charities and social enterprises compete with large private sector firms. And then the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 was passed by parliament earlier this year.
The passing of the act followed a 19-month campaign by Social Enterprise UK, the membership body for the social enterprise sector.
From January 2013, public sector commissioners must take into account social value when awarding public sector contracts worth more than £100,000. In effect, they must look beyond price and consider the collective benefits to the community of awarding contracts. It is hoped this will lead to more charities and social enterprises winning bids.
The campaign began in the run-up to the 2010 general election, when SEUK published a manifesto to call for new rules to be introduced. The idea was picked up by Chris White, Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington, who put it forward as a private member's bill in July 2010.
Over the next 19 months, SEUK worked closely with White's office and lobbied the government and opposition to achieve the cross-party support needed to get the bill through parliament. SEUK members were encouraged to show their support for the bill at a local level and support was gained from umbrella bodies across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. On 8 March this year, the bill received royal assent.
With the government buying in about £236bn worth of services from outside suppliers each year, SEUK says that it believes the act could bring about commissioning practices that place "community benefit at the heart of all public sector spending decisions".
Award judge Tom Flood, chair of Acevo Solutions, said: "I'm impressed by the scale of the outcome, and by the potential benefits to the sector."JUDGING PANEL
Tom Flood, chair, Acevo Solutions
Dame Mary Marsh, director, Clore Social Leadership Programme
Steve Wyler, chief executive, Locality (he is vice-chair of Social Enterprise UK and did not take part in judging)