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Insights from the development of social outcomes contracts in Europe

Engaging with Evidence is a series of interactive online convenings hosted by the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) and designed to encourage a greater understanding of the latest evidence on the use of cross-sector partnerships focused on outcomes. The sessions are hosted monthly, and attract a diverse range of practitioners from different sectors, as well as researcher from across the world.  

Building independent, high-quality evidence 

At the GO Lab, we believe in the importance of building independent, high-quality evidence and disseminating it effectively to inform policy decisions and improve practice on the ground. As new evidence around the use of outcomes-based approaches is starting to emerge, we hope that with this series of online convenings we can continue to bridge the gap between evidence and practice, and help foster real dialogue between policymakers, practitioners and researchers in an honest, transparent and constructive way. Both veterans and explorers interested in better understanding the latest evidence around the use of outcomes-based approaches are welcome to join these sessions.  

Throughout 2021, Engaging with Evidence will offer an open platform for policymakers, practitioners and researchers around the world to engage with key findings from the latest research and evaluation work in the field. They will have the opportunity to discuss new evidence directly with the authors of research and evaluation studies, hear the practical insights of the partners involved in the development and implementation of the projects under discussion, and reflect on the relevance of the evidence to their own work.  

What to expect

Each session lasts 90 minutes and features contributions from a diverse panel of experts, as well as ample time for contributions and questions from all participants. Discussions at each session are grounded in the findings of a recent evaluation or research study, with additional practical insights brought in by stakeholders directly involved in the work or project under discussion. Each session follows a set format:  

  1. Setting the context & presentation of the evaluation/ research findings
  2. Discussion with the panel and audience questions
  3. Closing remarks 

If you’d like to suggest a topic or highlight a recent study that you’d like to see discussed on a future session, please contact our moderators Andreea Anastasiu or Tanyah Hameed.

Session recording

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

Session overview

A growing number of countries, regions and municipalities in Europe are starting to explore the use of social outcomes contracts (SOCs). Also known as social impact bonds (SIBs) or impact bonds in the UK*, these outcomes-focused financing mechanisms are used to address a variety of complex social challenges in society. According to our global Impact Bond Dataset, to date, 47 SOCs have been launched across European Union states, including Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Sweden, with a number of authorities in other countries beginning to explore the scope for developing them. From tackling homelessness to improving child welfare and education, these approaches have been used in and adapted to a variety of contexts. So how and when is the best way to use these initiatives?

In this Engaging with Evidence session, we were joined by a group of expert policymakers and leading practitioners to take stock of the state of play on SOCs in Europe. Together, we reflected on how this model is being adapted in different contexts and sought to understand how these financing mechanisms can be best applied. To recognise some of the practical considerations for successful development and implementation of SOCs, we looked at some of the countries that have been leading the way with SOCs in Europe, and explored the drivers, success factors and constraints underpinning these initiatives. 

This session was of particular interest to those interested in developing SOCs, and in understanding the evidence around the suitability of using this tool to address complex social problems. 

*There is some variation in the way terms such as ‘social outcomes contracts’ (SOCs) and ‘social impact bonds’ (SIBs) are used to describe cross-sector partnerships that fund social programmes or services on the basis of outcomes achieved. At the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab), we use these terms interchangeably. To find out more on our definitions, check out our glossary here.

New to social outcomes contracts (a.k.a. impact bonds)? 

You can read our introductory guide here.