Social value success: Scottish agency set to expand with new appointment

Zahra Hedges, director of oporations at Samtaler

SPECIALIST social value agency, Samtaler, has appointed entrepreneur and former Vice-Chair of Social Enterprise Scotland, Zahra Hedges, as its new director of operations.

The Scottish-based boutique agency has been experiencing a period of rapid growth in 2020 and has a solid roster of clients including Europe’s leading energy company, Vattenfall, as well as several local authorities. The agency is also working closely with Social Value UK, on its latest project, Contracts For Change, which will feed into national policy and improve how social value is embedded in organisations across the UK.

As social value continues to rise to the top of the agenda in both the public and private sector, Zahra will be responsible for all aspects of Samtaler’s future growth and strategic direction, bringing with her a unique blend of commercial, third sector and public sector experience.

With an entrepreneurial background, having founded and sold a successful retail and wholesale business, Zahra moves to Samtaler from CEIS, where she led the marketing strategy for Just Enterprise – the national support for the third sector – and managed ‘Our Place’, the asset-based community development project in North West Dumfries. She has also spent the last three years as Vice Chair and Board Member for Social Enterprise Scotland where she was involved in reviewing the intermediary support provided to social enterprises, and worked with Glasgow City Council to quickly adapt and transform the support given to social enterprises during the Covid-19 lockdown. Zahra will also continue to work with the Scottish Government on projects across all 32 local authority areas.

Speaking of her appointment, Zahra comments: “I have long been a fan of Samtaler and the work they do, so to be able to join the business at this pivotal time is a real honour. The growth over the past two years has been remarkable and shows a real desire amongst both public sector procurers and some of our large businesses to really understand and embed community benefit and social value in what they do in a meaningful, sustainable and cost-effective way.

“Samtaler is a thought-leader in this field and is shifting the paradigm from a mitigation-based approach to a far more positive and dynamic one which actually meets the needs of all stakeholders. This is an area I am really passionate about and I’m looking forward to helping Samtaler lead the way in what I believe will be a seismic shift in how social value is delivered across the UK.”

Sarah Stone, director at Samtaler, comments: “Zahra’s extensive experience across the private, public and third sector makes her a real asset to our team. She has a natural ability when it comes to understanding the different needs and priorities of clients, stakeholders and their communities and how they can align their core purpose and values to deliver social value. This is exactly what Samtaler is all about.

“While our vision is to remain a small, boutique agency, we will be using Zahra’s fresh perspective and expertise to grow our client base. Every organisation is different and we believe in designing bespoke solutions for all our clients, so Zahra will be leading this personalised approach and focusing our growth strategy so that we only work with organisations who are ready to collaborate and genuinely want to build social value.”

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