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The call for papers is now closed.

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.

This year, the Social Outcomes Conference 2022 (SOC22) will take place 8-9 September 2022. Provided Covid-19 regulations allow, we hope to host SOC22 as a ‘hybrid’ online/in-person conference. This would involve facilitating virtual participation for our global community through Zoom and offering a number of in-person places for those who wish to attend the conference at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.

Register your interest in attending SOC22 on Eventbrite here to get all the latest news on the event.

Date: Thursday 8 and Friday 9 September 2022

Location: Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, and online (hybrid conference)

Hosted by: Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab)

Deadline for call for papers: 4 April 2022

Call for papers and presentations

In keeping with previous editions, the conference aims to bring together the rigour of cutting-edge academic research with an applied, real-world focus. 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.

As such, alongside exploring the latest research insights from around the world, we want to hear from policymakers in government and practitioners working on the ground. 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. Therefore, alongside academic papers, we also encourage practice-focused presentations.

In this page, you will find SOC22's key questions and themes as well as more information on how to submit your proposal. If you wish to make a submission, please read the themes and questions carefully and make sure your submission addresses at least one of them. The deadline for submissions was 4 April 2022 12pm BST.

If you are a policymaker or practitioner looking to share insights from your work but feel unsure about how best to format these at the conference, do get in touch with us at golab@bsg.ox.ac.uk to discuss your ideas.

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?

To explore this question, we recommend that submissions clearly demonstrate how they speak to one or more of the following conference themes:

Conference 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?

Submission details

We encourage submissions from:

  • academics
  • applied researchers
  • policymakers
  • contracting bodies/commissioners
  • providers of social services
  • social investors
  • responsible businesses
  • other stakeholders in the field of social outcomes

Submissions can take one of two forms: research paper abstracts or proposals for practice-focused presentations. Selected authors will have the opportunity to present their research or practical insights at the conference in a variety of engaging and interactive formats, from deep dive panel discussions, to roundtables and workshops. More information on the structure of these submissions can be found in the form below. The provisional programme of the conference will be announced in June 2022.

Additional opportunities to share your work

Beyond formal conference proceedings, there are two other opportunities to share your work with our audience.

Engaging with Evidence series

The Engaging with Evidence series provides an additional opportunity to explore and expand upon topics that could not be accommodated in the main conference agenda. Please contact Andreea Anastasiu if you have any questions about this series. 

Peer learning groups

At the Government Outcomes Lab, we coordinate a range of geographical and thematically focused peer learning groups. These groups cover a variety of topics, but their overarching aim is to support learning and knowledge sharing among those seeking to deliver improved social outcomes through cross-sector partnerships.

Further information

For any questions regarding academic papers submissions, please contact Dr Eleanor Carter, Research Director at the Government Outcomes Lab. 

To discuss your proposals for practice-focused presentations, please contact Andreea Anastasiu, Policy and Engagement Manager at the Government Outcomes Lab.