Towards Impact: What’s Next for Outcomes-Based Approaches?
Kristalyn Laryea, Senior Advisor, Partnerships and Programs and Sarah Vermaeten, Junior Analyst
Governments around the world are working to address increasingly complex issues that achieve measureable and concrete results for the citizens they serve. At the same time, there is a movement towards a more systematic use of outcomes-based program approaches. The Government of Canada has been a proactive player in this movement through Impact Canada, a whole-of-government effort that is testing a set of rigorously designed, results-driven methods (i.e., challenge prizes, pay-for-success instruments, behavioural insights) aimed at achieving measureable outcomes and greater public value in program and service delivery.
On May 13th, 2019, the Privy Council Office’s Impact and Innovation Unit, in partnership with the Canada School of Public Service, organized a learning event which saw some of the members of the Impact Canada Advisory Committee speaking about the future of outcomes-based program approaches, innovating for public good, and how government can open the problem-solving process to non-traditional stakeholders and innovators, particularly where solutions to complex challenges have been difficult to find.
Moderated by Ilse Treurnicht, Chair of the Impact Canada Advisory Committee and Chair of the Board of Directors at Triphase Accelerator Corporation, the panel included: Valerie Chort, VP Corporate Citizenships for RBC; Hector Mujica, Regional Manager of Google.org; Dilip Soman, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Science and Economics at the Rotman School of Management; and Matthew Mendelsohn, Deputy Secretary, Results and Delivery Secretariat, Privy Council Office.
This learning event was open to all public servants, and had an audience of almost 200 people onsite and joining through Webcast. Each speaker had the opportunity to share their own experiences deploying outcomes-based approaches in their work (i.e. challenge prizes, innovative finance, and behavioural insights), and provide their perspective for the role that governments can play in the application of these instruments. Members of the audience were welcome to submit questions through the interactive platform Slido for the speakers to address.
Some themes that emerged from the discussion include:
- Normalizing and mainstreaming outcomes-based program
- As outcomes-based program approaches have only been formally introduced into government settings in the past few years, increasing their uptake will require reducing the friction at each stage of development. Solidifying the work that is already in progress, further developing the instruments being used (i.e. challenge prizes, pay-for-success, and behavioural insights), and internalizing these mechanisms will help these approaches take root across government.
- Partnerships (Collaboration of the Public/Private Sectors) How can government be a better partner
- Establishing clarity around specific objectives when working in partnerships with the private and not for profit sector is crucial to the success of these programs. A shared understanding of those objectives and the journey to get there can address gaps and help mitigate bridging errors when in the final stages of development.
- Dissemination of the knowledge gained from these programs and increasing transparency can help enable the ecosystem to be better prepared to address some of the challenges down the line.
- There is potential to unlock more public value by creating a regulatory or legal framework surrounding how we share and access data in both the public and private sector. Governments, businesses, researchers and the not-for-profit sector could use this to support evidence-informed decisions and produce the greatest impact.
- How far can this type of funding go?
- With outcomes-based funding approaches gaining traction, programs of this nature have grown rapidly from the thousands to now millions of dollars. In cases where global action and coordination is required (such as tackling global public health or the climate crisis), outcomes-based funding could potentially reach into the billions. With the proper infrastructure, it is possible to use this mechanism to drive solutions for some of the world’s most complex shared problems.
- When outcomes take time to achieve, thinking long-term can be difficult.
- Short attention spans and the desire for immediate and measurable progress make tackling big problems that require long-term solutions problematic, especially when trying to sustain commitment from both the public as well as the partners involved.
- Identifying evidence-informed long-term targets and drawing from real policy work that has been done in other countries will help reinforce the reliability of the programs. Most importantly, thinking long-term requires establishing clear indicators, milestones, and shorter-term goals that link to longer-term outcomes. Communicating those milestones and short-term progress will help maintain and generate public support, enthusiasm, and political interest.
For more information: visit Towards Impact: What's Next for Outcomes-Based Program Approaches.
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