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This discussion brought together a rich mix of policymaker and practitioner perspectives from around the world for an in-depth exploration of the engines of impact that can strengthen the long-term legacy of outcomes-focused partnerships. 

The session was kicked off by Avnish Gungadurdoss (Instiglio). He reflected on the timeliness of the discussion, which came just over a decade of social impact bonds, and argued that we need to mainstream and scale outcomes-based partnerships if we are to tackle the many complex issues facing the world.

Following this provocation, Louise Savell, Director at Social Finance UK, presented insights from her recent working paper, Social outcomes contracts & system strengthening - a conceptual framework. She argued that SOCs are a like a tugboat, in that they can be nimble, and have a lot of power to shift the large tankers of government - which is still a difficult task. But “once you've shifted it, that's a lot of power moving in a new direction”. Tom Kenyon (World Bank), however, cautioned that we should be careful not to assume performance-based contracting and system strengthening are the same thing, noting the limited evidence base to date. 

Nevertheless, Professor Carolyn Heinrich (Vanderbilt University) reflected on some of the progress that has already been made through social outcomes contracting, including better data collection and sharing, and a greater focus on longer-term outcomes. This point was echoed by former Mayor and Congressman Ben McAdams, who reflected on the importance of features like a good data system, paying for outcomes, and good evidence-based practice, which are too often dismissed as overheads. Andy Brown (Anglian Water) considered how outcomes-based contracts might help to bring in the private sector to pay for some of this important work.