Newcastle University Business School

Staff Profile

Dr Toby Lowe

Senior Research Associate


My background is in Political Philosophy, where I explored the concept of community: what it means, and what a politics that took community seriously would look like.

Following my PhD, I left academia for 15 years. I worked in the fields of regeneration, social inclusion and the arts, in both policy and delivery roles. Most recently, I was Chief Executive of Helix Arts, an organisation which promotes equality of opportunity to make art.

My current research interest is in public and social sector performance management. It focusses on helping those engaging in social change to be more effective at what they do. My role at the Business School also includes developing relationships between the University and those seeking to create social change. This includes developing the Leaders Network for Social Change, and the Little Heresies in Public Policy seminar series.

I'm currently working on:

  • Funding in Complex Ecologies - research in partnership with Collaborate on how funders and public sector commissioners are responding to complexity
  • Place-Based System Change - working in partnership with Lankelly Chase on their programme to support system change for people who experience Severe & Multiple Disadvantage - see what we're up to here: 


My research focusses on performance management and commissioning in the public and social sectors. It has explored the flaws with using outcomes as the basis for performance management and commissioning, particularly when used in Payment by Results approaches.

At the heart of current problems with the performance management of social interventions lies a failure to respond to complexity. I am exploring complexity-friendly approaches to commissioning and performance management, based on trust & transparency, horizontal accountability and the creation of positive error cultures.

These approaches are embodied in the 'Learning Community' approach, which I have developed, working with the Fulfilling Lives programme in Newcastle & Gateshead.