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Social Outcomes Conference 2022

About this event

The Social Outcomes Conference is the annual convening of the world's leading researchers, policymakers and practitioners working to improve social outcomes. As in previous years, the conference will feature discussions on the latest thinking and findings from academic research alongside insights from the emerging practice across different geographies, disciplines and policy areas.

The key to this conference is to bring valuable expertise from the field into the walls of academia and to allow a space for those in the public, private and voluntary sectors to share and build on existing knowledge.

SOC22's key question

After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries around the world have seen a huge increase in both state intervention and government outsourcing, and debates around cross-sector partnerships, procurement and governance have never felt so pertinent. At a key time where we have the opportunity to “build back better” and redesign our policy tools and instruments to suit a more inclusive and sustainable system, is it time to rethink how power is shared and collaboration is managed at both local and national levels?

Picking up on debates from last year’s Social Outcomes Conference around the relationship between public and private interests, we will delve deeper into the challenges and values of collaboration between government and the social and private sectors to improve social outcomes.

Of particular interest is the role of government in bringing partners together, to complement each other and collaborate in a meaningful way. Whether we consider public and private interests to be divided or intertwined, governments have a clear role in communicating goals, shaping sustainable solutions, and galvanising experimentation across sectors to solve some of the biggest social problems. It is vital to consider how governments in both high- and low-income countries might foster better partnerships to tackle regional disparities, promote place-based programmes and empower local citizens. Such governance is not easy to achieve, and questions remain around accountability and risk. Hence, SOC22 is guided by the following question:

How can government collaborate with the voluntary, social and private sectors to develop, manage and evaluate shared social outcomes?

Conference themes

To explore this year's key question, we will bring leading experts from across sectors to speak on the following four core themes:

We are keen to investigate the governance of partnerships between the private, public and social sectors at the regional and local level. We are looking for examples from across the world of local cross-sector partnerships and place-based initiatives, to gather lessons on how governments are working with other sectors at the local level to improve social and economic outcomes. This includes looking at how governments are co-ordinating public service delivery in complex local systems, how they are engaging with ‘responsible business’, how cross-sector partnerships are enabling the regeneration of places, and how these partnerships are delivering broader social value.

  • How might governments at the central and local level improve the coordination of public service delivery in complex cross-sector local systems?
  • How have Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contracts been designed to deliver the maximum social benefit and/or to help socially responsible partners to evidence the positive social contribution that their activities are making to communities?
  • What needs to be considered by governments seeking to encourage responsible business intervention in social good provision and manage the risks it presents?
  • What role should cross-sector partnerships have in the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda?
  • How have cross-sector partnerships contributed to the successful turn-around of declining places/ cities? What has been the role of the different actors involved?

Nested within wider debates around the value of cross-sector partnerships is outcomes-based contracting. These contracts can take a variety of forms and names, including social impact bonds (SIBs), social outcomes contracts (SOCs) or payment by results (PbR). What remains integral to the success of all these financing tools is effective cross-sector collaboration. This year, we are interested in delving deeper into the key mechanisms of these partnerships. Looking particularly at the involvement of the private sector in these types of contracts, we want to explore whether the private player can indeed help to seed much sought-after, but seldom-found, collaboration around complex needs. We are also interested in what new types of partnership and private investment might offer above and beyond practices that are already well-established.

  • What is the current global evidence on outcomes-based contracting?
  • What lessons can be learned from efforts to date that might help sectors develop more effective contracts?
  • What is the evidence of impact bonds' advantages and disadvantages in comparison with other outcomes-based contracting models?
  • What contexts around the world are appropriate for impact bonds?
  • In what ways can outcomes-based approaches contribute to development agendas in low- and middle-income countries? How have existing interventions responded to the unique challenges of operating in fragile contexts?
  • Can these structures help bring different sectors together in a meaningful way?
  • Should government have a key role in facilitating this?
  • What different type of governance and leadership arrangements do we find across outcomes-based contracts?
  • How do we measure the impact of these contracts?
  • What are the opportunities to read across evidence from one policy domain to another, and to compare approaches and contract features across policy domains and contexts?

Effective public procurement may be an important factor in the improvement of social outcomes and many things are demanded of our public procurement systems. Around the world, new promises are being about better government contracts and/or achieving ‘additional’ social benefits beyond the core goods, works, and services being procured. We are keen to gather evidence and explore the use of public procurement to improve social outcomes, whether directly through contracting for social services and/or indirectly through policies variously labelled as social value, community benefit clauses, broader outcomes, socially responsible public procurement etc. Many such policies are already being implemented, so we also keen to better understand this implementation and how learning may be shared.

  • Are there emerging promising procurement practices to secure wider social, economic, and environmental benefits in government contracts, and/or what evidence do we have (or need) around such practices?
  • How are voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) and/or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) being engaged as service delivery partners and/or within government supply chains around the world?
  • How are green policies and environmental outcomes being embedded in government contracts?
  • How can public procurement be used as a catalyst for innovation to improve social outcomes?
  • How do we know if a public procurement system is working effectively at a regional level or national level?

How states reshape and rebuild their economies post-COVID, and how they finance this process, are key discussions that will shape our societies and economies over the coming years. We have an opportunity to rethink how value is created and distributed, and how to reconcile and successfully pursue productivity alongside socio-spatial inclusion. Public money will play a significant role here, to “build back better”. This requires a focus on innovation, longer term benefits and outcomes, and better utilisation of the private sector. During the conference, we want to  explore themes linked to measurement including innovation, public value and market creation.

  • How might the public sector encourage private money to further contribute to public value?
  • How might public-private partnerships deliver better value for money than other delivery forms?
  • What is the role of technology and innovation in  measuring value for money?
  • Can we learn from health and environmental outcomes’ pricing methods (such as value-based pricing and carbon pricing) to price social outcomes?
  • What is the role of public finance in value creation for society? How can we enhance it?
  • How might we compare the value for money generated by different contract types, e.g., social impact bonds vs service contracts?

Hybrid conference

Provided Covid-19 regulations allow it, we hope to host this conference as a hybrid conference, as we did for the Social Outcomes Conference (SOC21), which took place September 2021. This will involve both streaming the conference online and offering a number of in-person places for those who wish to attend the conference at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford. For SOC21, we took great precautionary measures to ensure that the event was covid-free and with the help of our fantastic AV team, we were able to ensure that both online and offline audiences enjoyed meaningful engagement.

As well as receiving world-renowned Economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz as keynote speaker, we welcomed 117 speakers from 29 countries and hundreds of participants who joined us both online and in Oxford. We were blown away by the excellent quality of discussions over the two days . You can find links to the highlights, recordings and slides on our SOC21 webpage here.

This year's keynote speaker

We are delighted to announce that Professor Julie Battilana will deliver the Social Outcomes Conference 2022 keynote speech on Thursday 8 September.

Julie Battilana is a professor of organisational behavior and social innovation at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School, where she is also the founder and faculty chair of the Social Innovation and Change Initiative. Her most recent book, Power, for All, offers a timely, democratised vision of power. Everyone can understand how power operates, and research shows that once you understand, you can take action to improve life for yourself and others.

With cross-sector collaborations being central to this year’s Social Outcomes Conference, Battilana’s research will resonate with many participants. Power, for All is an essential guide to understanding, navigating, and sharing power in our relationships, organisa­tions, and society.

Julie battilana

Conference structure

As always the conference will feature a mix of different types of sessions, alongside opportunities for informal discussions and both virtual and in-person networking.

Big picture sessions explore broad, cross-cutting topics. For example, how government are using public procurement systems to promote social objectives.

Roundtable sessions provide an open space for participants to engage in discussion, share knowledge and learn from others' experiences. For example, learning from international perspectives on outcomes-based partnerships.

Deep dive sessions put specific areas of research and practice into focus. For example, looking at using social impact bonds to commission preventative services tackling children's welfare.

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