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The Research Forum on Outcomes in Cross-Sector Collaboration is a gathering of researchers whose work engages with, or relates to, outcomes-based approaches to public service provision. Every two months, the Forum hosts guest speakers to present an aspect of their research or talk through a particular issue that is influencing their work. The research forum is co-hosted by the Government Outcomes Lab, University of Oxford, and The Center for Research on Public-Private Collaboration, Roskilde University.

Themes of interest to the Forum include:

  • Cross-sector partnerships (e.g., PPPs) in the pursuit of policy goals
  • Outcomes-based approaches to public service provision including social outcomes contracting
  • Stewardship of mixed economies of public service delivery (outsourcing, insourcing, voluntary sector involvement, place-based working)

We aim to reflect the full breadth that these topics entail, as well as issues relating to research process and methodology. We therefore welcome empirical content from different locations around the world, as well as theoretical discussions covering the various conceptual frameworks through which efforts to improve social outcomes can be interpreted and understood.

The sessions are intended to be informal in nature, allowing for free-flowing discussion, the testing of ideas among peers, and wrestling with the challenges of interdisciplinary work in this space. The Research Forum therefore provides an arena for researchers away from the demands of having a polished ‘policy message’ or published paper. In doing so, we hope to develop a scholarly network that will enrich our research, disseminate ideas, and foster collaboration across institutions.

What to expect

Research Forum meetings are one hour and 15 minutes long, and are held online. They are free to attend, and anyone who is interested is welcome to join. The target audience is principally researchers, however, and these sessions will particularly appeal to members of academic institutions, consultancies, and/or think tanks, whose work relates to the above outlined themes.

If you are interested in presenting at the Forum please contact Eleanor Carter, Research Director at the Government Outcomes Lab, or Ole Helby Petersen, Director of The Center for Research on Public-Private Collaboration, Roskilde University.

Upcoming sessions

Details of the next Research Forum session will be posted here soon.

Past sessions

Date: 29 February 2024

In addition to considering the economic value of government outsourcing, increasing attention is being given to its social value. One such aspect is the effects of contracting out on both public- and private-sector employees. This Research Forum session explored the hypothesis that negative effects on employees – in terms of wages, working conditions, inequality, and so on – could be an unforeseen social cost of the privatization of government functions.

We were joined by Sarah Ausmus Smith, Bjarke Lund-Sørensen, and Trevor Brown. Sarah and Bjarke presented their latest research on employee outcomes, and the ‘labour clauses’ that government agencies can use (or don’t use) to safeguard workers in contracted services. Professor Brown provided a discussant's response to the presentations.

We also discussed the implications of data constraints when it comes to assessing social value in procurement, as well as methodological approaches to the topic – including the use of machine learning techniques to process big contract data.

Date: 08 December 2023

Governments are increasingly seeking ‘green’ credentials from the goods and services that they purchase. Sustainable procurement can no doubt support wider environmental objectives, but it is complex and diverse, with requirements beyond price and quality necessitating alternative forms of accounting.

In this session, we continued our recent discussion of innovation in public procurement, but with a specific focus on the pursuit of environmentally friendly public purchasing. We were joined by Ana-Maria Dimand and Andrea Patrucco, who each presented work-in-progress that sheds light on aspects of the topic. Drawing from evidence in the USA and Italy, we explored factors that explain a propensity to ‘buy green’, and the role of open innovation for promoting sustainability.

Ruairi Macdonald provided a response to the presentations, and there was plenty of time for audience questions and discussion.

Date: 13 October 2023

From healthcare to agriculture, many public policy initiatives are currently being formulated as 'missions'. A well-defined mission aims to stimulate innovative approaches to redressing complex, long-term problems. As a major governmental instrument, procurement no doubt has a central role to play. Yet this is not the first time that a new framework for the uses of public procurement has been in vogue. In this session, Veiko Lember and Elvira Uyarra joined us to review a variety of approaches to the procurement of innovation, and the evidence of their impact. We considered what the history of these strategies might tell us about the uses of public procurement for today's needs - particularly regarding progress on the major societal challenges that policy missions seek to tackle.

Ole Petersen provided a response to the two presentations, before we opened to audience discussion and questions.

Date: 09 June 2023

Efficiency and value-for-money are key goals for governments outsourcing goods and services. Contracting with external agents is often justified in these terms. It is also observed that procurement contracts can be difficult to deliver, and, when they go wrong, can instead cause value loss. In this Research Forum session, we explored the motives and consequences of contract cancellations and renegotiations. Professors Lena Brogaard and Fernando Domingos presented their latest research and analysis on these two topics respectively. Professor Deanna Malatesta acted as the discussant, offering reflections on the papers presented, and initiating contributions and questions from the audience. We discussed explanatory factors of cancellation and renegotiation, and considered how procurement policy can respond to them.

Date: 31 March 2023

Public sector contracting can contribute to a variety of public values. Government set-aside programs for small and disadvantaged businesses are intended to increase diversity and equity in public sector contracting. In this seminar we were joined by professors Benjamin M. Brunjes, Evelyn Rodriguez-Plesa, and Matthew Potoski to discuss experiences with small and disadvantaged business set-aside programs. Drawing on experiences with these programs at the federal, state, and local level in the United States, the seminar focused both on the broader picture – what purposes these programs serve in promoting broader public values in cross-sector contracting – and recent experiences from empirical studies of set-aside programs. We discussed the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from these programs, and their implications for policy.

Hilary Olson, University of Southern California

Date: 27 January 2023

Hilary Olson is a doctoral candidate at the Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, where she researches social innovation and program evaluation. For our first Research Forum of 2023, Hilary presented a forthcoming paper from her PhD. Drawing on interviews, user data, and document analysis, the presentation examined the potential for social impact bonds to contribute to systems change.

Professor Kuno Schedler, University of St. Gallen

Date: 25 November 2022

For the November session of the Research Forum we were joined by Kuno Schedler, Professor of Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Professor Schedler presented some of his most recent work on different models for service provision in the public sector. He described how he classified 45 different public sector service models, and 5 distinct roles the government plays within these models. Together, these make up the 'Service Model Navigator' - a tool that can help guide practitioners towards innovative solutions for task performance in specific situations.

As ever, there was plenty of time for participants to discuss the presentation and ask questions.


Professor Sandro Cabral, Insper Institute of Education and Research

Date: 22 September 2022

For this special edition of the Government Outcomes Lab Research Forum, we were joined by Professor Sandro Cabral, Insper Institute of Education and Research. Professor Cabral presented his recent paper, 'Can public organizations perform as private firms? The role of heterogeneous resources and practices'. Focusing on the Brazilian education sector, he compared the organizational traits of public and private schools, and used data to explore some explanations for differences in their performance.

Note: we broke from our usual Friday time-slot for this event, to coincide with Professor Cabral's visit to the Government Outcomes Lab, where he presented in person.

Professor Giulio Pasi, European Commission

Date: 24 June 2022

For our third Research Forum meeting we were joined by Professor Giulio Pasi. Giulio is a Scientific Officer and Policy Advisor at the European Commission, and Associate Professor at Loyola University Andalusia. He presented some aspects of his current research agenda, which considers reasons behind the rapid spread of Impact Bonds across different political and institutional contexts. Participants had the chance to respond to and question Professor Pasi about this work, particularly regarding his methodological approach.

Dr Fernando Domingos, Government Outcomes Lab, Blavatnik School Of Government

Date: 29 April 2022

Fernando is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the GO Lab. For our Research Forum, he presented data from the team’s ongoing research into the ‘inner workings’ of a Social Impact Bond (SIB) – that is, whether and how SIBs may foster effective collaboration in services. Focusing on the Kirklees Life Chances Fund SIB, the research pursues longitudinal analysis of a number of organisations as their contracting arrangements shift from bilateral fee-for-service to the adoption of a SIB. In sum, the research investigates what is involved in establishing effective collaboration, and how stakeholders perceive the changes brought about by the introduction of a SIB contracting arrangement.

Professor Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University

Date: 25 February 2022

For the inaugural Government Outcomes Lab Research Forum, we were joined by Carolyn Heinrich, Hart Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University. Prof Heinrich Professor Heinrich led us in a discussion titled: From formal vs. relational to formal relational? Contemplating the future of public sector contracting.