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A bridge between scholars and practitioners

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.

The call for papers & presentations will be announced in January 2023, and the full programme will be released in June 2023. To get the latest updates on SOC23, please register your interest to join the conference at the link below.

We value diversity and inclusion and are committed to creating a conference where the rich intersection of different voices and backgrounds are prioritised. We encourage involvement from individuals and organisations representing a range of backgrounds spanning ethnic, cultural, geographical, age, and income differences.

Hybrid conference

We plan to host this event in a hybrid mode, as we did for the previous Social Outcomes Conference (SOC22). The conference will involve both streaming the sessions online, and offering a number of in-person places for those who wish to attend at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.

For SOC22, we were able to ensure that both online and offline audiences enjoyed meaningful engagement. As well as receiving Professor Julie Battilana as keynote speaker, we hosted over 115 speakers from 22 countries, and we welcomed over a hundred of additional participants who joined us online and in-person at Oxford. We were blown away by the excellent quality of discussions over the two days. Here are some of the highlights for Day 1 and Day 2.

The SOC23 Vision:

Around the world, societies are facing a multidimensional crisis: the aftermath of a global pandemic; continued racial, gender, and social inequalities; increasing wealth gaps; global warming; and the refugee crisis. Cross-sector collaboration is vital for responding to this crisis. At SOC23 we will address these cross-cutting issues as we draw together changemakers, practitioners, and thought-leaders. Join us as we gather around the pursuit of better social outcomes for a better world.

At the conference, we will discuss how new forms of partnership and collaboration can help sectors work together to tackle grand challenges. Why are relationships and trust important? Who has power and who needs it? What innovative new models of partnership are available, and do they support the broader systems change we need? How do we agree what better outcomes look like?

Our ambition is for a vibrant exchange between researchers and practitioners to enhance both research and implementation. Central to this ambition is our commitment to enabling and inspiring more ‘engaged research’ across the field. If you would like to know more about the Social Outcomes Conference, take a look at last year’s summary here.

Each year we seek to build on what has been discussed at the previous year’s conference, driving forward the conversation on the use of outcomes and engaging with the latest work.

SOC23's key question

Working together better: how can cross-sector partnerships help to address the multi-dimensional crisis facing societies world-wide?

Conference themes

The importance of relationships and trust in cross-sector partnerships took centre stage in many conversations at SOC22. The topic has wide implications for practice, research, implementation, details of contracting, and more. Acknowledgement of the significance of trust and relationships is often overlooked. And even when acknowledged, anything short of best practice can too often risk devastating consequences for outcomes, contracts, partnerships and more.

In this theme we wish to create a space to hear from alternative voices and perspectives – that may disrupt assumptions and bring fresh views. As diversity and inclusion continue to be crucial areas for improvement, how do we bring these into the space of outcomes contracting? At last year’s conference questions arose around: the need for more user voice; the importance of recognising different global contexts (such as in lower income countries); and the challenges of navigating the local voice vs the national voice. Hearing fresh voices is key for driving forward best theory and practice. This theme aims to ‘disrupt’ a hegemonic view, instead continuing to seek insights from a wider range of voices. We will seek to hear from different practice backgrounds, distinct leadership voices, and different national, regional, social, academic, and professional contexts.

Following last year’s keynote talk, by Julie Battilana, on power, we saw subsequent sessions energised by this theme. It showed just how salient ‘power’ is as an area of focus across the academic and practice worlds with regards to outcomes.  Ethical issues and power dynamics are perennial issues in society, and underlie all efforts to improve social outcomes. So, how do we relate outcomes-based partnerships to issues of power? This theme is ideal for all who are thinking about contracting for a ‘better’ world. This is also the space for those thinking about specific social issues such as inequalities, the environment, and health disparities, or for those thinking about the implications of power or ethics in their outcomes work.

This theme seeks to explore long-term systems change and how it might be brought about and maintained. Many entrepreneurial organisations worldwide are attempting to forge new forms of cross-sector partnership as a way to influence the different players in a system to work in more effective ways. But there is not yet a clear consensus as to how to make these new ways of working stick. Many partnerships are governed by contracts that are time-limited. We may feel an outcome-based partnership (such as an impact bond) is having an impact on the system, but how can we tell, and how long does the effect last?

This theme captures much of the heart of the conference. The Social Outcomes Conference has been a place where, each year, we build forward from insights gained in previous conferences. The conference is a place of continued learning and of building on what has gone before to keep doing something new and improved. In this vein, our ‘innovations’ theme is an opportunity to hear about: best practice – how practice has been improved and built on; new ideas – fresh work in the field and the academic sphere; new experiments - the nitty-gritty details of how stakeholders are taking outcomes work in new directions. We are keen to hear about innovations, examples of building on the traditional foundations to create something fresh, and experiments or case studies that have yet to be studied in detail.

This year's Keynote Speaker

We are delighted to announce that Professor Mark Considine will deliver the Social Outcomes Conference 2023 keynote speech on Thursday 14 September.

Professor Mark Considine is one of Australia’s most renowned political scientists. Considine is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Melbourne. He is best known for prize-winning research on public sector reform, new methods of governance and the street-level delivery of public programs. He has pioneered work on the long-run institutional impacts of different service delivery regimes. Considine has also had a significant career in leadership roles within higher education and as a contributor to policy innovation inside government and in civil society organisations. Considine's most recent book, The Careless State: Reforming Australia’s Social Services, offers a power statement on how to respond to failing social services.

With expertise spanning the academic realm and significant applied work in politics and policy, Considine's experience resonates with the heart of the Social Outcomes Conference: bringing together the best of both research and practice. His pioneering approaches to the world of social outcomes ensures that this will be a Keynote Speech not to be missed!


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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