This seminar explored the place of outcomes-based approaches within public service reform in Scotland and their utility in the process of service reform.

Photo of attendees at the Outcomes based approaches seminar in discussion

Discussions at the seminar

Outcomes is a concept at the centre of efforts to improve public services in Scotland, across the UK and beyond. They are to what has come to be known as the Scottish Approach to Public Service Reform. The term Scottish Approach encapsulates a move within public services from top-down, service-led, reactive delivery, towards more personalised, preventative and collaborative ways of working.

Their use now permeates all parts of the public service system from frontline practice to planning, commissioning, service improvement and performance management. It is a term used across sectors and service types, from housing to education, community safety to health and social care. Outcomes-based work is based on a simple assumption; that by designing services with the end in mind better services will emerge.

There are three distinct ways in which outcomes are defined and understood, operating at different levels of a public service system:

  • Programme outcomes: changes resulting from services and interventions
  • Population outcomes: how things are for people
  • Personal outcomes: what matters to me

Evidence on the success or otherwise of this approach is mixed; this event explored the place of outcomes-based approaches within public service reform in Scotland and their utility in the process.

Date: Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Location: St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow


This position paper by Dr Ailsa Cook was circulated to attendees before the seminar  to provide a context for discussions. It explores the concept of outcomes and their history.


Photo of Ailsa Cook speaking at the Outcomes based approaches seminar. Her Overview presentation slide says: Why this paper? Aims and approach Insights: Conceptualising outcomes, Applications in Scottish context, Learning from implementation and research. Recommendations

Ailsa Cook presenting

Dr Ailsa Cook presented a paper exploring the concept of outcomes and their history.

Dr Emma Miller from the University of Strathclyde discussed the use of outcomes at the level of the individual.

Photo of Steven Marwick giving a presentation at Outcomes based approaches seminar. His lide sayws: Outcomes are about change or difference. So what? Don't happen by themselves - logical result of activity. Realistic and simple (use logic model to link to longer term / more strategic). Outcome > indicator> method

Steven Marwick presenting

Steven Marwick, Director of Evaluation Support Scotland, presented a paper drawing on his experience of using outcomes based approaches in developing programmes.

Tim Kendrick from Fife Community Planning Partnership reflected on the role of outcomes at the population level and how they can be used to help design policy.


Following the presentation by Ailsa Cook, the attendees were asked to discuss the question ‘Have outcomes affected the way you work and if so how?’

A further set of questions was used to provoke further discussion about implementing outcomes-based approaches in practice after the other three presentations. These questions were:

  • What in your view is working well with outcomes-based approaches?
  • What needs to improve?
  • What do other agencies need to do?
  • What will you do personally?

Event report

This event report summarises the key messages from the presentations and captures the learning and issues raised during the discussion.

It concludes with a summary of feedback about the event from participants.

Reflections and reactions