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Exploring Opportunities for Small and Disadvantaged Businesses in Public Sector Contracting: Insights from Set-Aside Programs

The Research Forum on Outcomes in Cross-Sector Collaboration is a gathering of researchers whose work engages with, or relates to, outcomes-based approaches to public service provision. Every two months, the Forum hosts a guest speaker to present an aspect of their research or talk through a particular issue that is influencing their work. The research forum is co-hosted by the Government Outcomes Lab, University of Oxford, and The Center for Research on Public-Private Collaboration, Roskilde University.

Themes of interest to the Forum include:

  • Cross-sector partnerships (e.g., PPPs) in the pursuit of policy goals
  • Outcomes-based approaches to public service provision including social outcomes contracting
  • Stewardship of mixed economies of public service delivery (outsourcing, insourcing, voluntary sector involvement, place-based working)

We aim to reflect the full breadth that these topics entail, as well as issues relating to research process and methodology. We therefore welcome empirical content from different locations around the world, as well as theoretical discussions covering the various conceptual frameworks through which efforts to improve social outcomes can be interpreted and understood.

The sessions are intended to be informal in nature, allowing for free-flowing discussion, the testing of ideas among peers, and wrestling with the challenges of interdisciplinary work in this space. The Research Forum therefore provides an arena for researchers away from the demands of having a polished ‘policy message’ or published paper. In doing so, we hope to develop a scholarly network that will enrich our research, disseminate ideas, and foster collaboration across institutions.

What to expect

Research Forum meetings are one hour and 15 minutes long, and are held online on the last Friday of every other month. They are free to attend, and anyone who is interested is welcome to join. The target audience is principally researchers, however, and these sessions will particularly appeal to members of academic institutions, consultancies, and/or think tanks, whose work relates to the above outlined themes.

If you are interested in presenting at the Forum please contact Eleanor Carter, Research Director at the Government Outcomes Lab, or Ole Helby Petersen, Director of The Center for Research on Public-Private Collaboration, Roskilde University.

Session overview

Public sector contracting can contribute to a variety of public values. Government set-aside programs for small and disadvantaged businesses are intended to increase diversity and equity in public sector contracting. This seminar focuses on experiences with small and disadvantaged business set-aside programs, drawing on experiences with these programs at the federal, state, and local level in the United States. We will consider both on the broader picture – what purposes these programs serve in promoting broader public values in cross-sector contracting – and recent experiences from empirical studies of set-aside programs. The seminar will discuss the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from these programs and their implications for policy.

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