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Welcome to the Government Outcomes Lab

GO Lab launch

Posted 21 Jul 2016, 10 a.m.

Across the UK, those most in need of government support are being let down by the very systems created to support them. When public services are contracted out to third parties, success is too often measured by the number of people who come through the door, rather than by sustained improvements to those individuals’ lives and livelihoods.

Whether in social care, or helping people to find work, or reducing reoffending, government at all levels has too often been blinded by a focus on outputs. A tick-box approach that targets numbers alone - for example, number of parolees seen, of people enrolled in training, of families met – misses the vital qualitative measurements: children in stable family placements, people in long-term employment, former convicts participating fully in society.

The most vulnerable, be they children in care, people dependent on drugs or alcohol, or indeed anyone whose prospects appear bleak, are likely to stand a better chance in life if the services they use are focused on effective outcomes. Outcomes-based commissioning (OBC) has emerged as an innovative way for governments to achieve better social outcomes through collaboration with the private and not-for-profit sectors. The potential for real change is dramatic: the neediest people in society receiving support in ways that genuinely transform their life chances.

Examples of OBC, in various guises, can be seen around the world - from reducing long-term homelessness in the UK to improving outcomes for children at the edge of care in Australia. However, while examples of OBC have increased in recent years, research has not kept pace with this speed of growth. Commissioners urgently need support, data, and independent evidence of what works and what doesn’t.

In response to this need, the Blavatnik School of Government is launching the new Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab). The GO Lab, funded in partnership with the UK Cabinet Office, will work to deepen the understanding of OBC and the existing research, and to support local governments who are thinking of using an outcomes-based approach.

Over the coming months we will be building both the team and the programme for the GO Lab. Please do keep an eye on our website for information on our upcoming events, news, jobs and information on our support for local commissioners. As we begin our work at the GO Lab, we look forward to engaging with key stakeholders from across academia, the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to develop transformational research, resources and programmes.


Ngaire Woods is the Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and Professor of Global Economic Governance. The Government Outcomes Lab was officially launched on July 4, 2016.