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Nigel Ball, Executive Director of the GO Lab, shares what we are doing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. You can view our Covid-19 resource hub here.

Amid a sweeping lockdown and unprecedented disruption to daily life, the immediate priority for those involved in public service delivery, from Ministers to frontline workers, is to keep vital services running whilst keeping everyone safe. This is especially vital for those services which are aimed at the most vulnerable, marginalised or in-need. We understand that what is needed in the immediate term is for each of us to find ways to adapt to the particular circumstances we are facing in our organisation, service or locality. Of course, a great many people will be facing deeply acute challenges. These may be exacerbated by the challenges inherent in cross-sector partnerships for social outcomes: the need for adaptability, collaboration and trust alongside the need to understand a rapidly evolving situation and learn quickly what is working and what is not; the need to enable and support local community action alongside the need to quickly and effectively mobilise resources and effect rapid behaviour change from the centre. 

In times of change, most people’s instinct is not to hunker down and hide, but to reach out to others to offer help and share experiences. We think we are in a good position to virtually ‘convene’ people who are trying to work out how to adapt their organisational relationships, and orient their organisation in new ways to be responsive to a rapidly evolving situation. We also think we can help to synthesise and reflect on some of the challenges you are facing (both expected and surprising), and the new approaches you might be discovering. To that end, here are some of the things we are planning over the next few weeks: 

Research and learning 

  • We have built an online resource repository, where we hope to be able to openly share the most useful aspects of what we are learning as promptly as we can. Here, we will collate and synthesise what we hear from our network, signpost to other useful resources, and provide an easy mechanism for people to feed in their insights. 

  • We are working hard to adapt our ongoing research work, being sensitive to the pressures on others and responding to the rapidly shifting operating environment. 

Peer-learning and communities of practice 

  • We are launching a new peer-learning community of practice called ERGO: Emergency Responses and Government Outcomes. The first session will be aimed at people who are currently running outcomes contracts. Thereafter, we will look at what can be learnt from emergency response in other contexts, and what the disruption might mean for ongoing evaluations. 

  • Our next Procurement of Government Outcomes (POGO) group will now discuss emergency procurement and contract variation – 4pm (UK time) Tuesday 31st March 


  • We have decided to go ahead with a long-planned discussion on learning and accountability in collaborative systems, as we feel the need for tools to support collaboration is only heightened by the crisis.  

  • We will convene our Fellows of Practice as planned in May, and hear how Covid-19 is affecting the work they are involved in.  

  • Our Social Outcomes Conference, #SOC20 will go ahead, either fully virtually or with a mix of in-person and virtual participation, depending on the global situation come September. We are now actively inviting papers and presentation proposals directly related to Covid-19, alongside the existing themes. 

We understand that amidst everything else, most people (including us) are having to grapple with the technical and practical constraints of convening online, and there will be a need for patience as we all get to grips with this! 

If you have any other ideas for what we could do, or if you have insights form our own experience that you think we can help to share, please contact us.

Alongside all of this, we are mindful of the personal strain the situation is putting on everyone. The GO Lab is fortunate to be a small and tight-knit team of dedicated individuals and we are adapting as best we can to the sudden change to our way of working. We gather informally through twice-daily “Virtual Realitea”, and share tips on how to survive and thrive in our respective new ways of being. In another blog post, we have shared the things we are reading at the moment which are tickling our minds and keeping us going! 

We wish you all the best at this difficult time.