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Working with David Burnby to embed Outcome Based AccountabilityTM within the Acorns Neighbourhood Management initiative has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Under David’s expert tutelage, residents and service providers have worked together with the team to develop a common vision, with clear outcomes, indicators and performance measures that we all understand and can share in achieving together.

Jenny Gavin-Allen ,North Lincolnshire Council

The Toby Lowe Letters

Some time ago I was invited to a lecture delivered by Dr Toby Lowe, a Fellow from the University of Newcastle, with the sensationalist heading “All Kittens are Evil”.   It grabbed my attention because it was about outcomes.  How could anyone regard planning and managing performance for outcomes (conditions of wellbeing) as anything other than a good thing? Or, as Dr Lowe puts it, how can all kittens be evil?  I enjoyed the lecture, and I liked Dr Lowe.  He spoke of many of the things I address when facilitating training on RBA/OBA.  So imagine my horror when Dr Lowe cited OBA/RBA as being part of the problem, and quoted research to back it up.  What resulted was a prolonged exchange of detailed correspondence as I defended the OBA approach.  The correspondence got under the skin of the work we do; discussed the potential pitfalls in using data to measure outcomes; the dangers of distorting behaviour to meet targets; the likely consequences of using “Payment by Results” schemes. My core argument is that Dr Lowe doesn’t fully understand OBA/RBA and that he is reliant on a single piece of Australian research to critique it which I believe to be flawed.  Much of my contribution is an effort to explain the finer points of the OBA/RBA approach and point out the flaws in his arguments. My friend and colleague Mike Pinnock joins in the correspondence at one point. I’m not convinced that I’ve changed Dr Lowe’s opinion particularly, but realised that the many hours we both spent crafting our responses was potentially a learning resource for those grappling with some of the vexed issues surrounding performance management and improving outcomes.  This is a paper for OBA/RBA geeks.  There is a one page summary, though this barely scratches the surface.  If it helps understanding around OBA/RBA though, and contributes towards less use of crude targeting setting and Payment by Results schemes in social care, then our time won’t have been wasted.  I suggest you make a big pot of coffee before reading….The Toby Lowe Letters