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As 2023 draws to a close, at the GO Lab we reflect on the incredible journey we and the global community of social impact pioneers we serve have been on over the past 12 months.

It’s hard not to think of 2023 as a year of crisis - war, humanitarian emergencies, economic hardship, climate disasters, and the list goes on. At the GO Lab our antidote to succumbing to a feeling of perma-gloom is our unwavering sense of mission, working hand-in-hand with a global community of change-makers. Below I celebrate some of our milestones and impact figures from the past year. As I add up the numbers, my gratitude goes to the incredibly bright and talented team at the GO Lab and our committed partners who make our work possible and worthwhile.

Grounding practice in evidence

We know that to make substantive progress in enabling more effective ways for government to partner with businesses, philanthropies, and non-profits for social impact, we need to ground practice in evidence. At the GO Lab, 2023 has seen the publication of three landmark reports linked to our multi-method evaluation of the Life Chances Fund. Each sheds light on different ways in which social outcomes partnerships can lead to better provision of social programmes and, ultimately, better life outcomes for those most vulnerable in our society. Alongside these reports, we’ve shared our research in 3 book chapters, 6 journal articles and 11 other reports and case studies.

It’s not just our work we want to celebrate. We are proud that through our Engaging with Evidence series we’ve created the space for other important evidence to be shared and discussed in a meaningful way. We’ve looked at the results of innovative programmes such as Quality Education India, the International Committee of the Red Cross Humanitarian Impact Bond, and the Living Goods Results-Based Financing programme, and learnt from independent evaluation of development impact bond pilot programmes.

In 2024 our research will continue to push boundaries. We will not only deepen our collective understanding of the effectiveness of innovative, outcomes-led partnerships, but also look at the cutting edge of practice and ask how, in an ever more complex world, we can blend a tight focus on impact with flexible, relational ways of working across different sectors.

Leading a global data collaborative

Our global knowledge hub is home to a wealth of resources for practitioners and policymakers. Since it was launched in 2017, the knowledge hub has had over 1.4 million views, with users from countries as diverse as the UK, the US, India, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, Japan, and many, many more. No resource on the knowledge hub is more popular than our INDIGO Impact Bond dataset. Every month the Impact Bond dataset gets, on average, over 2,600 views and over 400 users. It’s painstaking work keeping this resource up to date and our fantastic Data Stewards are tirelessly working with the global community of practitioners to get the latest information (which excitingly now also includes outcomes performance data for some projects) on the over 280 projects that have been launched to date around the world. Seeing how valued this resource is makes it all worthwhile, but we know there is much work still to be done to improve the accuracy of the data and grow the dataset to include new models of outcomes-based partnerships. If this is something that you value too, please do get in touch to help us get this data asset to the next level in 2024.

In a world in crisis, it’s imperative we continue to look with tenacity for new ways, new frameworks, new ideas to work together effectively across sectors.

Engaging for impact

Our knowledge sharing and engagement work is the engine driving our insights to policymakers and social impact practitioners the world over. Our engagement work encompasses so many different types of activities - from masterclasses on innovative outcomes-based partnerships and bespoke training opportunities to multi-disciplinary roundtables and peer learning groups. In 2023 we hosted 23 public events, including 7 Engaging with Evidence webinars, 5 Research Forum meetings, 4 Procurement of Government Outcomes aka POGO sessions and 2 Hack & Learn events. Many of our sessions routinely attract 50 - 70 participants per session (with a new record of 159 at our most recent POGO session) from across so many different professions and policy areas - scholars, evaluators, social organisations, procurement and legal experts, social entrepreneurs, social impact advisors, representatives from foundations, development agencies, and government departments. Looking forward, we’re hugely excited that in 2024 we will launch our first executive programme on Leading Cross-Sector Partnerships.

No other event captures the diversity and rich expertise of the community we serve quite as well as our annual Social Outcomes Conference. A place for celebrating outstanding practice, for enabling deep learning and for fostering cross-sector dialogue, our conference this year attracted over 250 in-person delegates, with hundreds more joining us online from around the world. Even more so than in previous years, at SOC23 we were deliberate about being inclusive and encouraging new voices into the conversation. This is why we are proud so have welcomed over 120 speakers from 30 different countries. We are even more ambitious for next year’s edition, so please do engage with us to suggest topics and contributors for SOC24.

Working together for lasting impact

Driving social change at scale is hard and takes time. It’s blood, sweat and tears. But in a world in crisis, it’s imperative we continue to look with tenacity for new ways, new frameworks, new ideas to work together effectively across sectors. Around the world new partnerships and initiatives are emerging dealing with vital issues such as mental health, just transition and environment protection, access to better jobs, access to high quality education and care from the early years and many more. This fills me with hope and renewed energy to continue to build the evidence base for how to forge cross-sector partnerships effectively, and to equip practitioners and government officials with the skills, knowledge, and networks to lead them successfully.

On behalf of everyone at the GO Lab, a huge thank you to the many individuals and organisations that have contributed to our work over the past year. Our special thanks go to our funding partners without whom none of this pioneering work would be possible.