Dr Eleanor Carter is Research Director for the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) and is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow.

Eleanor’s research investigates challenges in coordinating complex public service delivery networks and cross-sector partnerships. She is one of Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential Academics in Government. 

There are considerable challenges in public service outsourcing and we are still learning how best to structure partnerships between government, the private sector, and charitable organisations for the delivery of social services that respond to complex social issues. Eleanor’s work explores the ability of novel contracting arrangements – like social outcomes contracts and impact bonds – to facilitate purposeful partnerships and effective services that avoid perfunctory or cynical behaviour by contract holders.

Before moving to Oxford, Eleanor gained experience from the policy-maker perspective working as an advisor for the Social Investment and Finance Team in the UK’s Cabinet Office and through collaborative research projects with the Department for Work and Pensions. 

In October 2020, Dr Carter was awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, to investigate how government can better manage public services outsourcing. The Fellowship investigates whether the current focus on contracting individual public services is fit-for-purpose, and how the use of delivery ecosystems and networks might better serve the people who use them. This work involves substantial engagement with government at a range of levels, including local councils and central departments.

Eleanor’s work has been published in a range of journals including Social Policy and Administration and Journal of Social Policy. Key research outputs have also been translated into policy submissions and she frequently advises on policy design and evaluation strategies for government departments and voluntary sector organisations.


Peer-reviewed journal articles

Economy, C., Carter, E., & Airoldi, M. (2022). Have we ‘stretched’ social impact bonds too far? An empirical analysis of SIB design in practice. International Public Management Journal, 0(0), 1–24.

Carter, E., & Ball, N. (2021). Spotlighting Shared Outcomes for Social Impact Programs That Work. Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Picker, V., Carter, E., Airoldi, M., Ronicle, J., Wooldridge, R., Llewellyn, J., Monk, L., Stone, S., Gibson, M., Rosenbach, F., & Hameed, T. (2021). Social Outcomes Contracting (SOC) in Social Programmes and Public Services: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review Protocol. Social Science Protocols, 4, 1–21.

Carter, E. (2020). Debate: Would a Social Impact Bond by any other name smell as sweet? Stretching the model and why it might matter. Public Money & Management, 40(3), 183–185.

Carter, E. (2019) ‘More than marketised? Exploring the governance and accountability mechanisms at Play in Social Impact Bonds’, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, DOI: 10.1080/17487870.2019.1575736.

FitzGerald, C., Carter, E., Dixon, R. and Airoldi, M. (2019) ‘Walking the contractual tightrope: a transaction cost economics perspective on social impact bonds’, Public Money & Management, 39, 458–467.

Carter, E. (2018) ‘Making markets in employment support: does the variety of quasi-market matter for people with disabilities and health conditions?’, in: Needham, C., Heins, E., Rees, J. (Eds.), Social Policy Review 30: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2018. Policy Press, Bristol.

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2017) ‘Rescaling employment support accountability: From negative national neoliberalism to positively integrated city-region ecosystems’, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 
DOI: 10.1177/2399654417708788

Carter, E. and Whitworth, A. (2016) 'Work Activation Regimes and Well-being of Unemployed People: Rhetoric, Risk and Reality of Quasi-Marketization in the UK Work Programme', Social Policy and Administration
DOI: 10.1111/spol.12206

Whitworth, A. Carter, E. Ballas, D. and Moon, G. (2016) 'Estimating uncertainty in spatial microsimulation approaches to small area estimation: A new approach to solving an old problem', Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 

Carter, E. and Whitworth, A. (2015) 'Creaming and parking in quasi-marketized welfare-to-work schemes: designed out of or designed in to the UK Work Programme', Journal of Social Policy

Rees, J. Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2014) Support for All in the UK Work Programme? Differential Payments, Same Old Problem. Social Policy & Administration, 48(2), 221-239

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2014) 'Welfare-to-work reform, power and inequality: from governance to governmentalities' Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 22, 2, pp104-117

Book chapters

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2022) 'Employment' in Alcock, P, Haux, T, McCall, V, and May, M (eds) The student's companion to social policy. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2016) 'Employment' in Alcock, P, Haux, T, May, M and Wright, S (eds) The student's companion to social policy. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell

Rees, J., Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2015) 'Support for all in the UK Work Programme? Differential payments, same old problem' in Considine, M. and O'Sullivan, S. (eds.) Contracting out welfare services: Comparing international policy designs for unemployment assistance, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.


Bach-Mortensen, A. M., Murray, H., Goodair, B., Carter, E., Briggs, E., & O’Higgins, A. (2022). Are Local Authorities achieving effective market stewardship for children’s social care services? A synthesis of sufficiency strategies for children in care in England. What Works for Children’s Social Care.

Savell, L., Carter, E., Airoldi, M., FitzGerald, C., Tan, S., Outes Velarde, J., & Macdonald, J. R. (2022). Understanding outcomes funds: A guide for practitioners, governments and donors. Government Outcomes Lab, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Rosenbach, F., & Carter, E. (2021). Kirklees Integrated Support Service and Better Outcomes Partnership: The first report from a longitudinal evaluation of a Life Chances Fund impact bond. HM Government.

Carter, E., FitzGerald, C., Dixon, R., Economy, C., Hameed, T., and Airoldi, M. (2018) 'Building the tools for public services to secure better outcomes: Collaboration, Prevention, Innovation', Government Outcomes Lab, University of Oxford, Blavatnik School of Government.

Carter, E. and Whitworth, A. (2015) 'Activating the (un)employed: embedded trajectories, embedded problems?' in Foster, L, Brunton, A, Deeming, C and Haux, T (eds) In defence of welfare 2. UK Social Policy Association

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2015) 'Understanding Wales at the neighbourhood level: Maximising the performance of small area estimation'. Welsh Government, Cardiff Main Report (PDF)