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Here's an overview of all the sessions and the recordings for Day 2 of the hybrid Social Outcomes Conference 2023.

Thank you to everyone who joined this year's Social Outcomes Conference. We have been blown away by the excellent quality of discussion over the last few days. The GO Lab team are delighted to have met so many of you in-person and to have engaged in insightful conversations with those attending online. This year, we welcomed 128 speakers from 26 countries, 250+ in person attendees and 1000+ of you registered to participate online. Thank you to all who contributed to #SOC23 and we hope to see you again next year for SOC24 12-13 September 2024.

We started off Day 2 with three concurrent deep dives on measurement and evaluation, harnessing local collaboration and innovative approaches to implementing social outcomes contracts. After a short break, we had the second Big Picture Session on piecing together data and evidence.  This was followed by our social impact poster gallery.

The afternoon featured deep dive sessions on investing in mental health, measuring and monetising outcomes, and enhancing the effectiveness of spending for social and environmental outcomes. Our final big-picture session was on the outcome-based partnerships to catalyse system change.

In the early evening, Dame Margaret Hodge joined us in conversation with Professor Carolyn Heinrich, discussing how to hold public private partnerships to account. We concluded the conference with a gala in celebration of all the contributions that made #SOC23 possible.

Morning Deep Dives

We kicked off the day with concurrent deep dive sessions. Session 2.1 delved into the challenges surrounding measurement and evaluation within outcome-based partnerships. We acknowledged that evaluations of Social Outcome Contracts (SOCs) tend to be qualitative, subjective, and heavily reliant on evaluator interpretation. This makes it challenging to separate the impact of the intervention from the impact of the outcome contracting approach. James Ronicle from Ecorys likened interventions and outcomes to a "doughnut problem" where it's hard to distinguish what's the jam (intervention) and what's the dough (outcomes contract). Sometimes there's an over-attribution of outcomes to what's actually in the contract. Rajeshwari Balasubramaniam and Meena Vaidyanathan from Niiti Consulting stressed the importance of fostering an evaluation culture by bringing together academics and practitioners. Drawing from their experience in the Together for Childhood evaluation of place-based change, Thea Shahrokh from NSPCC highlighted the significance of a continuous learning approach with an iterative stance. Professor Maren Duvendack from the UEA pointed out the challenge of disentangling the contracting mechanism from the intervention. Kenechukwu Nwagbo from the University of Cambridge emphasised the impact of politics on measurement and evaluation. Tomasso Tropeano from Politecnico di Milano underscored the value of Social Impact Measurement (SIM) linked to interventions, leading to trust, legitimacy, reduced information asymmetry, goal alignment, and new financial opportunities.

Deep dive 2.1 Challenges of measurement & evaluation in outcomes-based contracts

The focus shifted towards harnessing collaboration and local knowledge. Presentations highlighted the strength of community-driven approaches in delivering public services and emphasised the importance of cross-sector collaboration. Ian Taylor from the GO Lab shared insights from a playbook on cross-sector collaboration, emphasising leadership, trust, power dynamics, organisational culture, and learning. Jane Gaukroger and Sabena Jamel from Cultivating Wisdom stressed the need to shift attention from contracts to character, promoting wise collaboration that allows for healthy disagreement. Mila Lukic discussed the reimagining of public services through people-powered partnerships, emphasising community-driven, strengths-based, holistic approaches. Jo Bundell from Place Matters and Anna Powell from Collaboration for Impact Australia highlighted participatory approaches, emphasising the importance of involving those with lived experience in the design of change initiatives, revealing radical and unforeseen opportunities. Celeste Brubaker spoke about democratising development financing, bringing local communities to the centre of creating lasting change, and addressing the issue of funding not reaching local organisations. Finally, Mike Davis from Davis Pier focused on improving the measurement of placed outcomes. 

Deep dive 2.2 Strength in depth, harnessing collaboration and local knowledge

We heard insights from projects in Australia, South Africa, Sierra Leone and many more covering on a diverse range of policy challenges including reducing youth reoffending, poverty alleviating and education intervention in low and middle-income countries. Anushree Parekh shared with us "the key to effect change in a system, including working across partners through an outcome contract, is 'jugaad' which is the Indian word for make-do".

Deep dive 2.3 Bold & bright: learning from innovative global practice in social outcomes contracts

Big Picture Session - Putting the puzzle together piecing together data and evidence in outcomes-based contracting

The second half of the morning featured the first Big Picture session of the day. We explored impact visualisation through the lens of the Life Chances Fund with GO Lab's Senior Data Steward, Juliana Outes Velarde. She stressed the importance of sharing data from interventions with the primary goal of facilitating collective learning. Dale Renner from Latitude Network discussed the significance of standardising metrics to drive social change. He shared how they utilise comparative data to assess the effectiveness of different service providers. Dr. Ailsa Cook of Matter of Focus shared her experiences of working in challenging contexts where measuring outcomes can be particularly difficult. She emphasised the importance of measuring both the process and the outcome of interventions. Benoit Renard drew attention to a critical issue: in certain contexts, data requirements have been used as punitive benchmarks for implementors. He challenged the audience by saying, "let's avoid using data as a punitive tool."

Big Picture: Putting the puzzle together - piecing together data and evidence in Outcomes-Based Contracting

Afternoon Deep Dives

After our lunch break, we entered the final set of concurrent deep dive sessions. The first session centered on the pressing topic of investment in mental health. Recognising the significant under-investment in mental health, we heard from the Healthy Brains Global Initiative. They presented their comprehensive model for estimating the global cost of mental health, featuring insights from Shayla Smith, Richard Johnson, and Dr. Lars Hartenstein. Next, Dr. Niamh Lally and Dr. John Healy shared their research findings on the implementation of the Service Reform Fund (SRF). Their research underscored the critical role of placing co-production at the heart of service delivery, a pivotal step in driving meaningful reform within national systems. Tanyah Hameed from Social Finance provided insights from the Henry Smith Project's efforts to establish evidence and promote best practices within cross-sector partnerships. Their research highlighted the importance of guarantees, which empower individuals by granting them a voice and offering adaptable, personalised support.

Deep dive 2.4 Investing in mental health and disability: how outcomes-focused innovative financing can support and advocate for systemic change

Concurrently, we discussed measuring and monetising outcomes in deep dive 2.5. The session discussed the challenges in choosing the rights measurements. Dr Kathy Edgar, Dr Johannes Langer, and Charlie Grosset (Substance) shared valuable insights gained from calculating the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of the Chances SOC. They emphasised the need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, advocating for project-specific baselines and methodologies. Lindsey Poole, Paul Neave, and Madeleine Parkinson offered perspectives on measuring social welfare advice outcomes, emphasising the increasing complexity of welfare issues and the challenges in measuring and attributing outcomes. Jeffrey Matsu (CIPFA) and Neil Stanworth (ATQ) stressed the importance of fair funding allocation and mapping to longer-term outcomes, emphasising the value of education even if its returns take time to materialise. The session concluded with Mara Airoldi's call to action, advocating for standardised methods and transparent frameworks for monetisation to ensure comparability and drive value-based decision-making in different contexts.

Deep dive 2.5 What is in a measurement? Insights and perspectives for measuring and monetising outcomes

At the same time, we turned our attention to environmental outcomes, focusing on the effectiveness of spending on the environment. Kieron Boyle (Impact Investing Institute) pondered the alignment of programs with the ideals of a 'just transition,' emphasising the importance of incorporating voice and economic development to empower individuals. Ben Stephens (Instiglio) highlighted the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for effective climate finance, discussing substantial commitments made by high-income countries and the World Bank. He also introduced the concept of "pull financing" as a tool to mitigate climate damage and drive technological responses. Maya Tira (Audencia Business School) shared an innovative approach of applying the impact bond model to address environmental challenges, drawing from her experience with environmental impact bonds (EIBs) in France Dr. Diane-Laure Arjaliès (Ivey Business School) shared the inspiring story of the Deshkan Ziibi Conservation Impact bond, emphasising the importance of community-led initiatives and improved relationships. Lastly, Sophie Emler discussed the WeCycle Partnership's efforts to address plastic waste in Nigeria through community-based initiatives. These diverse perspectives collectively demonstrated the potential for innovative financing to drive positive environmental outcomes.

Deep dive 2.6 Enhancing the effectiveness of spending for environmental and social outcomes

Big Picture Session: Turning the oil tanker - can outcomes-based partnerships really catalyse lasting change?

Our final Big picture session delved deep into the complexities of systems strengthening and the transformative potential of outcome-based partnerships. The session raised crucial questions about defining and measuring systems change and understanding the causal contributors. Jonathan Ng's (USAID) perspective from a government funder's viewpoint emphasised the need to work within existing funding systems and encouraged a shift towards grants that prioritise relational aspects over transactional ones. Milena Castellnou (Education Outcomes Fund) highlighted the diverse pathways governments may choose to adopt for systems strengthening, emphasising the importance of delivering and measuring outcomes effectively. She urged a shift in mindset from activity-based approaches to outcomes-focused ones and cautioned against overburdening outcome-based programs with unrealistic expectations. Caroline Bernadi (Village Enterprise) presented a case study from the Government of Rwanda, illustrating the challenges of measuring key indicators and mobilising civil society to achieve systems strengthening. She argued that outcomes-based partnerships could facilitate measurement, align stakeholders, and adapt programmes to local contexts. Jessica Davies (Social Finance) emphasised the need to unpack the roles of different stakeholders in systems strengthening. Stephen Chandler (EOF) shared insights from Sierra Leone, where an outcomes-focused approach led to relational collaboration among government components and a consideration of wider implications. Abhit Sen (UN) cautioned against overly optimistic expectations and stressed the importance of long-term sustainability in outcome-based partnerships, particularly in the context of global challenges such as the SDGs. The session fostered a deep and nuanced discussion on how outcomes-based partnerships can indeed catalyse lasting change by strengthening systems and promoting sustainable impact

Big Picture: Turning the oil tanker - can outcomes-based partnership really catalyse lasting change?

Public Talk - Dame Margaret Hodge in conversation with Professor Carolyn Heinrich

We wrapped up the conference with our customary public talk, this year's topic being "Accountability at Arm's Length: How Should We Hold Public-Private Partnerships to Account?" Professor Carolyn Heinrich engaged in a conversation with Dame Margaret Hodge, delving into the delicate balance between accountability and the relational aspects of contracting for public services. Dame Margaret Hodge, who chaired the Public Accounts Committee until 2015, shared valuable insights during the discussion.

Accountability at arm’s length: how should we hold public-private partnerships to account?

Share your thoughts

Attended the sessions? We’d love to hear your feedback. Any responses will really help us understand what you found most valuable and what we can do even better in the next session!Share your thoughts here.