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Here's an overview of all the sessions and the recordings for Day 1 of the hybrid Social Outcomes Conference 2021.

We're absolutely delighted to have hosted our Social Outcomes Conference as a hybrid conference this year. The Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford has been buzzing with excitement today.


To kick off the Social Outcomes Conference 2021, we began with three concurrent roundtable sessions. In our social levelling up session, Professor Philip McCann of Sheffield University chaired a wide-ranging discussion on the importance of developing society as well as economy in ‘left behind’ places. There was recognition that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all' approach to levelling up - as Danny Kruger MP put it, ‘messy devolution’ that responds to context will be important, a point Andy Brown (Anglian Water) echoed by highlighting the importance of partnering with and listening to local actors.

Social levelling-up

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

For our second roundtable on outcomes-based contracting around the world, we were joined by over 100 participants online and in-person. Our wonderful Chair Chih Hoong Sin (Traverse) took us on a trip around the world – with experts joining us from Spain, Japan, India, Cameroon, South Africa and more. Speakers discussed the importance of all parties in an outcomes-based contract sharing the same vision of what success looks like and the need to adapt legal contexts for outcomes-based approaches to scale up. Louise Savell, Director of Social Finance UK  highlighted the importance of good quality data that is used as a way to achieve public value.

From pilot to systems change: International perspectives on outcomes-based partnerships

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

In our roundtable on public procurement, we were joined by an excellent panel of speakers who explored procurement law reform to help tackle social challenges. Malcolm Harbour and Richard Simmons both argued that procurement should be considered a lever for improving outcomes and a vehicle that can drive change. Joyce Liddle discussed the importance of ongoing engagement when working in procurement and the need to involve stakeholders from the beginning to get added social value. Speakers highlighted need for better open data across the entire cycle of public contract and a well-designed system that minimises corruption.

Transforming public procurement?

Listen to the audio recording of the session.


We were then joined by our keynote speaker Professor Joseph Stiglitz and hundreds of people from across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, where Prof Stiglitz noted that "in our world of enormous inequality, GDP could be going up and yet most people could be experiencing a lower standard of living", and this can ultimately undermine trust in government. As an alternative, he argued for adopting a broader set of metrics to judge the wellbeing of society, and find ways to reflect these metrics in the way institutions operate, both at the macro level and at the level of service delivery.

"If you measure the wrong thing, you will do the wrong thing" - Professor Joseph Stiglitz

This was followed by a panel discussion with experts from both academia and practice. Avnish Gungadurdoss from Instiglio offered a slight twist on Prof Stiglitz’s view, suggesting ‘What gets measured gets done if you are accountable for it’. This was picked up by Professor Rodney Scott (UNSW), who discussed the approach adopted in New Zealand of a more democratic approach to developing the well-being framework. The new framework affects budgetary decisions and has introduced government accountability for delivering policies according to well-being objectives. And Beata Javorcik from the EBRD reinforced the importance of this kind of approach, noting that while measurements will never be perfect, transparency will help mitigate some limitations.

As we brought an incredibly insightful discussion to a close, our Academic Director Mara Airoldi neatly summed up the session with a call to change the way we think about measuring (and thereby acting on) the things that matter to people:

“The goal is to shift norms, and the challenge is to bring everyone together towards this common goal.”

Recording of keynote speech and panel discussion

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

Deep dives

In the afternoon, we took a deep dive into the potential issues and opportunities that come with state and non-state actors working together. We heard a number of presentations from different countries and settings on the ways in which government works with other sectors, and all of the speakers seemed to be united that state and non-state have to find ways to work together with one another productively, from offender rehabilitation to international development. As Kate Steadman from the Serco Institute put it: "Together or apart? It has to be together".

Together or apart: how should non-state work with the state to improve social outcomes?

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

SOC21 participants also had the chance to attend this summer's Hack and Learn show and tell event, where hack teams of data and policy enthusiasts came together to present the data visualisations and findings produce over their 2-week hackathon event. Challenges included linking social outcomes projects to SDGs, understanding what it takes to scale up projects, expanding data around outcomes-based contracting and using data management and analysis to bring about synchronicity among the datasets on corporate social responsibility. The session was full of insightful learnings and reflections.

Hack & Learn Summer 2021 Show and Tell

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

Finally, this afternoon also included the International Public Management Journal special issue symposium, where feedback was provided for writers of 11 papers under consideration for inclusion in a forthcoming special issue in the International Public Management Journal.

International Public Management Journal special issue symposium

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

What to look forward to tomorrow

For tomorrow, we are particularly excited to be welcoming Global Economist and best-selling author Dr. Dambisa Moyo and Professor of Business and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Karthik Ramanna for our closing public talk 10 September at 6pm.

The unprecedented momentum around #responsiblebusiness has been identified by some as the biggest opportunity for government at the moment. The declarations of business leaders and the needs of society seem to be aligning. However, the issue involves considerable risks that provoke a question over whether the juice is worth the squeeze. And what should the appropriate reaction be from government? Don't miss these two thought leaders dive into this rich and pertinent debate tomorrow 6pm.