Kittens are Evil 2

Heresies in Public Policy

A major national conference on payment by results and outcomes based performance management

Wednesday 6 March, 10 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. (refreshments 9.30 a.m.), King’s House Conference Centre, Manchester, £45 (plus VAT)

Last year’s Kittens Are Evil session in Newcastle Upon Tyne was so popular we decided to join forces with Newcastle University Business School and Vanguard Consulting to run a follow up event for a national audience. This time, it is for a full day and includes 3 case studies from charities and local government on an alternative approach to measurement.

The Theory

Measuring the results of your work and understanding its impact on the people you serve is surely a no brainer. Arguing otherwise would be as preposterous as saying that kittens are evil. It’s not an exact science, but measuring outcomes is a good start. Isn’t it?

Toby Lowe, visiting Fellow at Newcastle University Business School, will argue that Payment By Results and outcomes based performance management models are inherently flawed and create unwelcome paradoxes. Instead of improving the lives of service users, his evidence suggests that focusing on outcomes and results distorts both the priorities and practice of organisations, leading to poorer results for those most in need.

So, if not outcomes, what should we measure instead?

The Practical Bit

In the second part of the day, hear from 3 innovative charities and local authorities who measure the things that actually matter to services users. What do they measure instead? And what do their commissioners and bosses make of it?  Next, hear about the test of a good measure from Andy Brogan from Vanguard Consulting. What’s the difference between a measure used to learn and a measure used to comply? Is producing numbers to keep the hierarchy happy a necessary evil? Or can we work with commissioners and funders to do something else instead?

The Campaign

Toby Lowe will end the day by launching a new campaign, calling for an end to bad performance management in the voluntary and public sectors, calling instead for a more authentic, proportionate and meaningful approach to improving what we do.

Who Should Attend

  • NET2 members
  • Commissioning leads in the public and voluntary sectors
  • Funding organisations
  • Heads of procurement
  • Central and local government policy & performance officers
  • Charity chief executives & workers
  • Academics in the field
  • Campaigning and membership organisations

How to Book

The cost of attending is £45 (plus VAT). Lunch and refreshments are included. For paid up NET2 members, the cost per delegate is £30 (plus VAT).

To book a place, please contact (If you are a paid up NET2 member, please mention this to Janice).

Conference Organisers


We jointly hosted the first ‘Kittens are Evil’ session last year with Newcastle University Business School and Newcastle CVS. NET2 is a not for profit membership organisation for people who are curious about alternatives to conventional management and organisation.

Newcastle CVS

Newcastle CVS supported the first Kittens Are Evil conference because they think it is important to understand the impact of outcome and results based performance management approaches on the voluntary and community sector. Newcastle CVS was set up in 1929, and they have worked over the years to make a real difference to the people and communities of Newcastle.

Toby Lowe

Toby Lowe is Chief Executive of Helix Arts, a Participatory Arts organisation which works with the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in society. Prior to Helix Arts, he worked for Arts Council England, and the Social Exclusion Unit in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Toby is also a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University Business School, undertaking research into the use of outcomes as a framework to measure the impact of social policy interventions.

Rob Wilson, KITE and Newcastle University Business School

Director of of the Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise (KITE), and Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, Rob Wilson is the Editor of a special issue of the journal, ‘Public Money and Management’ on local governance. The journal includes Toby Lowe’s paper on outcome based performance management approaches and a range of other articles covering the use of data and information in public service contexts in the UK and beyond.  The KITE research centre and Business School is pleased to support the dissemination of Toby’s research.

Vanguard Consulting

Vanguard helps service organisations change from a ‘command-and-control’ design to a ‘systems’ design. John Seddon, Vanguard’s founder, is a well known critic of much contemporary management thinking, including payment by results, targets, centralised control and the belief in economies of scale.

National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA)

NCIA is a national network and campaign group established to protect the ‘ungoverned space’ of voluntary action from stifling state co-option and damaging private sector entryism. The growing use of payment-by-results and the fetish of outcomes-based commissioning are two of the devices being used to sap the life and energy out of voluntary organisations and push them towards ways of working at odds with their essential purpose. We are delighted to support this conference and campaign. For more information on NCIA see


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