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To kick off the Social Outcomes Conference 2020 we were joined by over 180 people from countries as far reaching as Denmark, Senegal, Colombia, Portugal, the UK, the USA, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Indonesia, India and many more. Here a summary of how the day went.

Professor David Van Slyke is our keynote speaker for this year's Social Outcomes Conference. He began his keynote address by arguing in favour of relational contracting in order to work towards 'cooperative, mutually beneficial, win-win partnerships'. He highlighted a number of key features to effectively realise these kinds of partnerships, including strong governance to facilitate innovation and support learning, flexibility and leadership support. 

Responding to this, Carolyn Heinrich reflected that relational contracts needed to rely on trust to minimise risk to the parties, rather than court. From a UK provider perspective, Naomi Hulston reflected that Covid-19 has made government partners act in more relational ways, but this is not typical. Anne Davies suggested that law should not be an impediment to relational contracting, and advocated a change of language that put greater emphasis on "partnership". Sameh Wabha suggested that relational contracting could be effective in developing country contexts but only if transparency, relationships and trust are already well established between the partners - which takes time. And Stéphane Saussier reminded us that there are still plenty of parties seeking a one-sided advantage from contracts, even despite the potential reputational cost - so there will still be a place for more rigid or transactional contracts.

In the Back to the future session, we explored lessons learned from the UK’s experience of Impact Bonds. Panellists shared their thoughts on what aspects we should keep, abandon, and what we're experimenting with. Tara Case and David Parks both highlighted the ability of IBs to support collaboration, while Samantha Magne emphasised their value in de-risking providers to facilitate innovation. Tanyah Hameed suggested that impact bonds should not be used purely to bridge financing gaps, while Joy MacKeith raised the provocative point that perhaps payment by results should be dropped for management by results. Finally, Mehdi Shiva and Neil Stanworth both agreed that we needed to keep testing whether IBs provide more benefit than conventional forms of contracting, given their higher costs.

Concurrently, we explored resilience in social service systems, building on the work of the Procurement of Government Outcomes (POGO) club. Panellists offered their perspectives on the failings and opportunities of procurement during the pandemic. Chris Yukins made a call for transparency, especially considering the malpractice that happened in many countries in the face of great panic, and Sope Williams-Elegbe echoed this with the need to address corruption. However, the pandemic also offered a 'generational opportunity' to do things differently. Aris Georgopoulos highlighted that there was already a swing on the pendulum towards greater flexibility that helps make necessary decisions swiftly. There was also agreement that a focus on outcomes in contracting is beneficial as the outcomes would not need to change even if the way they achieved them did. 

Thank you to our speakers and attendees for joining the first day of the Social Outcomes Conference 2020. 

Please see the recordings of each session below

Keynote address & respondent panel

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

Procurement of Government Outcomes - resilient social services and systems

Listen to the audio recording of the session.

Back to the future - learning from the UK's experience of impact bonds

Listen to the audio recording of the session.