chevron icon twitter logo facebook logo linkedin logo Youtube logo download icon quote icon posted icon clock icon author icon arrow icon arrow icon plus icon Search icon location icon location icon document icon plus-alt
Social Outcomes Conference 2020

The Social Outcomes Conference is the annual convening of the world's leading researchers, policymakers and practitioners working to improve social outcomes. Over four days, we will explore the latest findings from academic research and the learning emerging from experience on the ground. Expect lively debates, thought-provoking discussions, and highly interactive sessions, drawing on insights from experts in a wide a range of countries, disciplines and policy areas. If you haven’t yet registered, you can do so on the dedicated Eventbrite page. For any questions regarding the conference, you can get in touch with us at

How do we improve social outcomes? 

To improve social outcomes, public funding across the world continues to support partnerships with private and non-profit organisations. Whilst there are a wide variety of approaches to structuring these partnerships, they all seek to balance autonomy of those delivering services and accountability to those funding it. Increasingly, the focus is on the end outcomes of the work – but this can mean anything from a loose articulation of goals, right through to paying only on the basis of demonstrable impact. 

In some parts of the world, public-private partnership mechanisms are being applied to the provision of basic social services. In others, the emphasis is put on acute social problems, with collaboration between multiple stakeholders and with communities themselves increasingly favoured. Given the range of approaches, we must reflect on the evidence emerging from current practice and empirically informed research on their impact and effectiveness. Some of the questions we'll be exploring at the conference are:

  • What are the underlying mechanisms by which these approaches are expected to improve social outcomes for people and populations? 
  • How are different approaches evolving as they are being adapted and implemented in new geographies and policy areas? 
  • Can any of these tools fundamentally reform the way state and non-state actors work together to address social problems? 
  • What is the broader applicability of the learning emerging from this field, and how can we ensure this learning is shared effectively within the global community?
  • What are the flexibilities within outcomes-based contracts that can be employed to respond swiftly to an emergency of the scale of the coronavirus pandemic? What are the limitations? 
  • What can the situation created by the coronavirus outbreak tell us about the ability of outcomes-based approaches to work effectively in highly dynamic or fragile scenarios?

This year's programme is centred around six core themes. You will see the themes featured on the programme at the top of each session.

  1. Contracting and governance: how partnerships are structured and overseen
  2. Impact bonds and outcomes funds: making sense of the evidence and emerging practice in an ever-evolving landscape
  3. Data and transparency: the use of data and evidence to inform decision making in cross-sector partnerships for social impact
  4. Measurement and metrics: measuring what matters
  5. Collaboration and communities: how people work together towards better social outcomes
  6. Emergency responses and government outcomes

The conference will feature a mix of different types of sessions, alongside opportunities for informal discussions and virtual networking. Relevant session resources such as research papers, abstracts and presentation slides will be shared here in advance of the conference. 

  • Big picture sessions will explore broad, cross-cutting topics. For example how to put a price on the 'value' of healthcare, and exploring efforts to catalyse the adoption of 'outcomes funds'.
  • Peer learning sessions will allow us to share knowledge and learn from others' experiences. For example, learning from responses to Covid-19, or comparing means and motives for measuring social outcomes. 
  • Deep dive sessions will put specific areas of research and practice into focus. For example, looking at outcomes-based approaches for skills and employment support services, and learning from the UK experience of impact bonds, what we should take forward and leave behind. 

Whilst we won't be physically together in Oxford, as have been in previous years, we are determined to make this conference as interactive as possible. We will be hosting multiple networking sessions each day that will allow you to virtually meet and exchange ideas with others who are working in the sector. During each session there will be many opportunities to get involved, whether this is by sharing your own insights, asking questions, taking part in live polls, or joining break-out discussion groups. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to meet people from across the sector and see familiar faces too.

We will be hosting the conference on Zoom so you will be required to download this free app if you haven't done so already. 

We are working with our web developers to keep this online conference secure, so you will be required to type in a code to access the Zoom links and passwords on the day. We will share the Zoom links with you closer to the date of the conference. You can view the programme in your own time zone, so there will be no confusion over the times of each of the sessions. In the coming weeks we will be sharing more practical information here. To make sure you receive all the latest updates, including the Zoom links, register here.

It is a huge credit that you do not shy away from debate and continue to make room for a number of different voices (even if this may make your job more difficult at times).
James Williams, York University, Toronto, Social Outcomes Conference 2019

Share this event