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This is our monthly policy briefing for October 2021. Each week we gather all the news, commentary and events from across the sector. We have previously tied it together in this monthly policy briefing. However, as part of a revamp of the briefing, this will be the final monthly policy briefing. Weekly policy briefings will continue, and you can sign up to receive them in you inbox here!

Rallying together and levelling up

The ‘levelling up’ agenda has become the UK Government’s flagship policy, aimed at narrowing the divide between London and the South East and ‘left  behind’ places. While tackling these regional inequalities will not be easy, a number of organisations – including the GO Lab – are working hard to identify opportunities.

The Bennett Institute for Public Policy's 'levelling up' blog series started in early 2021, aiming to examine how levelling up could be woven into all of the government’s policy programmes to ensure that they have a positive impact on the inequalities being felt by those hardest hit places. This anthology brings together some of these blogs, to explore the context behind the levelling up agenda, examine the role of different policy approaches, consider the local impact of levelling up, and highlight particular policy priorities for the agenda.

Meanwhile, an area that is often neglected in conversations surrounding levelling up is that of public services. In the open access article Rallying together—The rationale for and structure of collaborative practice in England, GO Lab researchers explore the increasing adoption of collaborative arrangements within local authorities and asks whether they signal a new era in public service delivery—one characterized by collaborative governance and power-sharing within communities. Using qualitative data from nine partnerships in England, the article documents observed rationales for and typologizes structures of collaborative practice, as well as captures the degree to which co-creation activities are observed within each site.

Views from SOC21

October also saw a number of reflections on the discussions which took place at the Social Outcomes Conference 2021. GO Lab Executive Director Nigel Ball considered the growing calls emerging from Prof Joseph Stiglitz's keynote address to include measures of societal wellbeing beyond GDP, and explored how these concerns are reflected in issues of accountability, scale, and the role of social outcomes. Nigel's blog concluded by acknowledging how much we still have to learn about how social outcomes are understood, and how they should be used to do things differently.

One means of developing this understanding is the GO Lab and Ecorys' global systematic review on social outcomes contracting. In his blog reflecting on a session covering the review at SOC21, Harry Bregazzi explored some of the challenges that the review team face, including the many variations in terminology for social outcomes contracting, and capturing the role that relationships play in successful outcomes contracts. Harry also shared a call for further feedback, both on the review and prototype evidence heatmap tool, particularly regarding how they can be of most use to policy.

SOC21 was just the beginning of many of these conversations. If you’re interested in getting involved, or raising new questions and challenges, why not register your interest to join us at SOC22, scheduled for 8-9 September 2022?

And in other news...

GO Lab's Laura Bonsaver shared the key takeaways from the latest session in the Engaging with Evidence webinar series. The session examined the learnings from the delivery of the Cameroon Kangaroo Mother Care Development Impact Bond, and Laura summarises four ingredients that enabled stakeholders to embed routes to scale and sustainable impact.

Elsewhere, GO Lab’s leadership team were quoted in a number of publications on outcomes-based contracting. Academic Director Mara Airoldi was quoted in this article on the Brabant Outcomes Fund, which explores the concept of outcomes funds and their potential benefits, as well as examining the importance of getting people around the table to agree what 'good' looks like. And Executive Director Nigel Ball was interviewed for this report by Conservative MP Julie Marson, which makes the case for the UK Government to embrace results-based approaches like SIBs as a way to bring external investment, expertise and innovation to the delivery of public services.

Finally, a new refugee impact bond with $9.8m of upfront investment and $13.8m committed by outcomes funders including the IKEA Foundation launched this month. It will fund a micro-enterprise creation programme that will enable Syrian refugees and their host communities in Jordan to build economic resilience. And Joy MacKeith (Triangle Consulting) published a report, Enabling help, which makes the case that, when helping people with ongoing and often complex issues, it is vital that helpers take an enabling approach which puts the person’s aspirations, concerns and sense of agency at the heart of everything.

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