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This year’s Social Outcomes Conference (SOC23) was a massive hit, and we at the GO Lab want to celebrate the contributions that made it possible!

The conference is a unique and innovative space where we convene practitioners, policymakers, and academics alike. This year’s vision was Better outcomes for a better world, and to live up to that vision we had to stretch ourselves further than ever before.

As Head of the conference, I was delighted to share some closing reflections with those attending on the final evening of SOC23. But in the spirit of our open, global conference, I also wanted to share some of the highlights of the conference with all of you. There are four key features that I particularly wish to celebrate.

Celebrating the New

SOC23 was more innovative and ambitious than ever before. We reached our most attendees yet, with 250+ in-person delegates and over 1000 online sign ups. We hosted 19 sessions, as well as our first ever programme of supplementary events. We welcomed 100+ speakers from some 30 different countries. And, if that were not enough, we had a host of other innovations too.

Some ‘firsts’ that I am especially proud of include fresh pre-conference communications, including blogs and videos; a glossy Delegate Pack, sure to become a staple in future years; the Social Impact Poster Gallery, showcasing all kinds of exciting work; a Book Launch, featuring an incredible panel of speakers sharing about the Social Economy; and an early-morning Oxford landmarks run for those wanting to tour the sites!

Celebrating People

Here, I first want to celebrate and say a big thank you to our over 120 speakers who brought incredible insights, cutting-edge conversation, and pioneering work, all with such joyful enthusiasm. Next, I wish to celebrate all who took the time to attend. We had delegates travel literally from the opposite side of the world and our conversations were all the richer for their contributions. It’s a rare pleasure to see cross-sector connections organically occurring over coffee breaks.  Finally, I’d be remiss to not celebrate my colleagues at the Government Outcomes Lab—none of us are professional conference organisers, and yet we all worked tirelessly to pull this off.

Celebrating the greater work

Being based at the Blavatnik School of Government made this conference ideally located for instilling a vision of doing meaningful work that has far-reaching impact; work that pursues better outcomes for a better world. We tried to capture this ‘greater work’ in our conference themes.

Across the theme of disrupting voices, we were called to change by listening to diverse voices and perspectives. While there is still more work to be done, this conference was deeply enriched through it being our most diverse convening yet. On the theme of power and ethics, we were challenged with the responsibility of power in public partnerships, in government, and in academia, and the consequent call to action in responding to global crises that this power demands. The conference itself beautifully embodied our next theme, relationships and trust, as we met and connected with one another, building upon and bridging our differences around key issues. Innovations were at the heart of the cutting-edge research presented, the latest work in the field showcased, and the freshest ideas from academia shared. Our final theme, systems change, challenged us to make a difference greater than the sum of our parts, a legacy surpassing the lifetime of our own work.

Celebrating the work that is yet to come

Finally, I wish to celebrate the work that is yet to come. In the closing remarks I invited attendees to reflect on one thing they might do differently in response to the Social Outcomes Conference, and I invite you now to do the same based on the content you have seen. It may be something you were inspired by and want to do differently as a result of a session you attended or watched (see Day 1 & Day 2 here); perhaps something you want to begin off the back of a conversation with a new connection; or something to explore further based on the experience of a project you heard about.

I put it to you, as you reflect on how the conference’s vision and themes intersect with your own arena: what is it that you want to incorporate to shape you and your work? And now, what is a concrete step you can take this week towards making that a reality? It can be as small as an email or as big as completely redirecting your project. Whatever it may be, let us not fall into the trap of allowing these reflections to stay caught in the world of the conceptual and hypothetical, failing to land in the reality of action and change.

We do not hold SOC for the conference’s sake. We do it to support your work.  I close as I began, recalling the vision of the Social Outcomes Conference: better outcomes for a better world. How might you join us in achieving that vision?

SOC23 celebration video

Join us for the Social Outcomes Conference 2024 on 12-13 September online & in-person at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford!