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My DPhil research focuses on the governance of complex public tasks which are delegated through contracts to private actors. I am particularly interested in exploring the role of public interest in determining the extent to which these tasks are contracted out; the ways in which "formal relational contracting" might be used in governing such tasks; and how trust is built and maintained alongside public accountability.

This work builds on a significant body of previous (and ongoing) work examining formal relational contracting in the public sector more broadly, most notably a forthcoming book with co-authors from the UK and US drawing on a comparative case study to develop the theory. Alongside this, I have worked on the governance of central-local relations in England, undertaking a research project on 25 years of efforts to coordinate local services, and developing an interactive tool for policymakers to explore the evidence on these attempts. I have also worked on a number of publications related to various forms of outcomes-based contracting for social and environmental services.

Below is a list of selected relevant publications and works-in-progress. For a full list of publications, please see my CV.

Selected publications

Academic articles

Gibson, M., van Lier, F-A. and Carter, E. (2023). Tracing 25 years of ‘initiativitis’ in central government attempts to join up local public services in England. Policy & Politics.

Gibson, M. (2022). Debate: In contracts, we trust—managing risk in public contracts through a relational approach. Public Money & Management.

(Author accepted version).


Heinrich, C., Malatesta, D., Ball, N., Carter, E. and Gibson, M. (forthcoming 2025). Contracting for Public Value. Under contract, Oxford University Press.

Policy papers & reports

Ball, N. and Gibson, M. (2022). Partnerships with principles: putting relationships at the heart of public contracts for better social outcomes. Government Outcomes Lab, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Available here.

Carter, E., Gibson, M., Hulse, E. and Whitworth, A. (2022). Written evidence from the Government Outcomes Lab to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into the Plan for Jobs and employment support. House of Commons. Available here.

Blogs & articles

Sloan, L., Gibson, M., van Lier, F. and Carter, E. (2024). Relational contracting: a fresh perspective. Oxford Government Outcomes Blog. Available here.

Gibson, M. (2023). Can contracts facilitate trust? Voices - Blavatnik School of Government Blog. Available here.

Working papers

Domingos, F.D., Caluz, A.D.R.E. and Gibson, M. (forthcoming 2024). Financial or social investments? The pivotal role of organizational intent and nonprofit investment in supporting outcome-based contracts.

van Lier, F., Carter, E., Gibson, M., Rosenbach, F. and Domingos, F.D. The Contract as a Living Instrument: Formal and relational practice in a Complex Public Service Delivery Contract.

de Gruyter, E., Carter, E., Gibson, M., Domingos, F.D. and Rosenbach, F. Social Impact Bonds Align the Interests of Stakeholders? Evidence from a longitudinal evaluation of Social Impact Bonds in the UK.

Carter, E., Gibson, M., Heinrich, C. and Malatesta, D. A Tyranny of Metrics vs. a Tool for Learning: Exploring performance information use on the spectrum of formal to relational in outcomes-based contracts

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