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Professor Mildred Warner SIB Conf
Professor Mildred Warner speaking at the 2018 conference

Date 5 Sep 2019 - 6 Sep 2019

In pursuit of social outcomes: the international conference on impact bonds, outcomes contracts, and beyond

Hosted by the Government Outcomes Lab at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, in partnership with the Policy Innovation and Evaluation Research Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Newcastle University Business School


Governments and international donor agencies around the world have become increasingly focused on outcomes – the positive results that programmes produce in the lives of service users and citizens – rather than the volume or quality of activity. This ‘outcomes-based’ model encompasses a range of approaches. The conference will focus on models that encourage collaboration across sectors, such as outcomes-based commissioning, social impact bonds, outcomes funds, and place-based approaches. 

We are interested in exploring how well these approaches work in practice. We want to strengthen the understanding of when and how this focus on outcomes can be effective for delivering public services, and whether it can be more effective than other options. We aim to ensure that this emerging knowledge is used to equip government policy-makers with more and better tools to tackle complex social issues. 

In keeping with the 2018 conference, we will once again bring together the most distinguished academic and practitioner voices from different countries and disciplines for an in-depth exploration of the practice and evidence base around the implementation of outcomes-based models of public service provision from across the world. The conference will be of interest to academics, researchers, practitioners and policy-makers and will include contributions from international experts and interactive group sessions alongside more traditional academic paper presentations. 

Keynote speaker 

We are delighted to welcome Stefan Dercon to our conference as our keynote speaker. Stefan is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and a Fellow of Jesus College. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Between 2011 and 2017, he was the Chief Economist of the Department for International Development (DFID).

Day 1 - Thursday, 05th September

08.00 Registration

09.00 Welcome remarks

Calum Miller, Chief Operating Officer and Associate Dean, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Mara Airoldi, Director, Government Outcomes Lab

09.30 Keynote address

Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy, University of Oxford and former Chief Economist of the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

10.15 Coffee break

10.45 Plenary session - Still inventing the wheel: Global evidence and experience on impact bonds to date

Emily Gustafsson-Wright, Centre for Universal Education, Brookings Institution

Alison Bukhari, Educate Girls

James Ronicle, Ecorys UK

James Williams, York University, Toronto

12.00 Lunch

12.45 Concurrent sessions

  • Impact bonds and the welfare state
  • Beyond bean counting: Alternate approaches for valuation
  • Practical lessons and insights from impact bonds implementation in the UK
  • Implications for impact bonds in low- and middle-income country contexts
  • Can impact bonds improve governance, accountability, integrity, and transparency in public services?

14.15 Coffee break

14.45 Concurrent sessions

  • Impact bonds: the provider perspective
  • Impact bonds across the world
  • Hybridity: Bending and blending across sectors in outcomes-based contracting
  • Contracts, risks and governance 

16.00 Coffee break

16.15 Plenary session - Can't get you out of my head: Overly fixated on the SIB tool?

Adrian Brown, Centre for Public Impact

Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University

Mildred Warner, Cornell University

Scott Kleiman, Government Performance Lab, Harvard University

John Tambornino - Office of Management and Budget at the White House

17.30 Close

18.30 Dinner

Day 2 - Friday, 06th September

08.00 Registration

08.45 Concurrent roundtable sessions

  • Bold and bright: from idea to implementation at the cutting edge
  • European perspectives on social outcome contracts and outcome funds
  • Capacity development and procurement professionals

10.15 Plenary session - Re-living the dream? Lessons for the impact bonds field from the public-private partnerships experience

Stéphane Saussier, Sorbonne Business School

Inga Afanasieva, Global Partnership for Results-Based Approaches, World Bank

Salim Bensmail, John Laing Group

Mara Airoldi, Government Outcomes Lab

11.00 Coffee break

11.15 Concurrent sessions

  • Markets in employment support
  • Scaling-up up outcomes-based contracting: Challenges and opportunities 
  • Meaningful metrics
  • Alternative takes on investment

12.30 Lunch

13.15 Plenary session - Rallying Together or Passing the Buck? Exploring new collaborative approaches to public service delivery

Adam Lent, New Local Government Network

Robert Mcmillan, Sheffield Hallam University

Robert Pollock, Social Finance & GO Lab Fellow of Practice

Clare FitzGerald, Government Outcomes Lab

Jo Blundell, Government Outcomes Lab

14.30 Coffee break

14.45 Plenary session - Through the looking glass: reducing information asymmetry through availability of project-level data on impact bonds

Christian Pettenkofer, Munich Re

Maya Ziswiler, UBS Optimus Foundation

Gen Maitland Hudson, Social Investment Business

Josh Pritchard, Reform

Eleanor Carter, Government Outcomes Lab

15.45 Plenary session - To infinity and beyond! The future of impact bonds and outcome based approaches 

Abha Thorat-Shah, British Asian Trust

David Hutchison, Social Finance

John Tambornino - Office of Management and Budget at the White House

Tom Le Quesne, Inclusive Economy Unit, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

17.30 What is a democratic right, and what is a philanthropic gift?

Jo Wolff, Blavatnik Professor of Public Policy, University of Oxford

Tom Hall, Global Head of Philanthropy Services, UBS

19.00 Drinks reception

Fees & registration

The participation fee is £200 (2-day full fee), £100 (1-day full fee) or £50 (student fee), and includes lunch on both days as well as a conference dinner in Oxford on the evening of 05th September. 

The GO Lab offers a limited number of free places for UK public sector commissioners. If you are a public sector commissioner working in the UK and would like to attend the conference, please get in touch with us at  

Practical information

The document below contains practical information on travel and accommodation options in Oxford for those attending the conference. 

Book your place

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