The prime minister spoke for just under an hour at the Brighton conference, ending with an attempt to boost the morale of party members shaken by polls suggesting they are heading for a massive defeat by telling them New Labour was "not done yet".
He urged activists to "dream big dreams and watch our country soar" and "reach inside ourselves for the strength of our convictions" and to "fight" for victory - earning a standing ovation in the hall.
In a repeat of last year, Mr Brown was introduced by wife Sarah, who described him as "my husband, my hero" adding: "I know he loves his country and I know he will always, always put you first."
Mr Brown began by telling Labour members they were "the fighters and believers who change the world - we have changed the world before and we are going to do it again".
Delegates give their view of Gordon Brown's speech
He told delegates he had acted "decisively and immediately" when Britain was "looking over a precipice" as banks teetered on the brink of failure last year, while Conservatives had taken decisions on the economy which were "consistently wrong".
He highlighted what he said were the key differences between the Tories and Labour, claiming David Cameron's party had no "heart".
There were no hints as to where likely public spending cuts might come if Labour wins the election but Mr Brown pledged to protect schools, police and the health service.
"Getting the deficit down while maintaining and improving frontline services - that is the Labour approach," he said.
Mr Brown announced a string of new policies, including:
Ten hours of free childcare a week for 250,000 two-year-olds from families "on modest or middle incomes" - paid for by scrapping tax relief for better-off families
A plan to house 16 and 17-year-old single parents in state-run shared houses rather than council flats
A £1bn "innovation fund" to boost industry
A new National Care Service to "provide security for pensioners for generations to come"
A commitment, enshrined in law, to allocate 0.7% of GDP to international aid
The PM also announced that minimum wage, child tax credits and child benefit would continue to go up every year.
And he confirmed that ID cards would not be made compulsory in the next Parliament.
On electoral reform, he said if Labour won the next election it would hold a referendum on scrapping the first-past the-post system for Westminster elections in favour of the alternative vote system.
He also announced plans to allow voters to effectively sack MPs guilty of gross financial misconduct who have not already been expelled from the Commons. If more than 25% of voters in their constituency demand a recall there will be a by-election.
By James Landale, deputy political editor, BBC News
So a quick upsum: Mr Brown's electoral strategy is to force voters and the media to start looking at Tory policies, to place a small doubt in the electorates' mind that voting Conservative to express anger at Labour will not be without consequence.
Technically it was a good speech: Mrs Brown's opening warmed up the audience, the initial list of Labour's achievements was a good oratorical device which got them to their feet, the end section asking people to question Tory priorities was effective.
The question that remains is this: did this speech change the political weather or was it more of a grand team talk, rallying Labour but failing to move the electorate?
He also unveiled measures aimed at cracking down on anti-social behaviour, announcing moves to combat 50,000 of "the most chaotic families" with an increase in the use of Family Intervention Projects.
These are binding contracts which require parents of children guilty of anti-social behaviour to accept one-to-one support or else lose their benefits.
He also pledged to force the courts to issue more Drinking Banning Orders - so-called drink Asbos - against anyone convicted of a crime who was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
He told delegates: "We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behaviour of the lawless minority."
And he promised action now, saying: "Between now and Christmas, neighbourhood policing will focus in a more direct and intensive way on anti-social behaviour," adding that "action squads will crack down on problem estates".
Nick Robinson, BBC News political editor, said that the Sun's decision to back the Conservatives instead of Labour would "ruin Gordon Brown's evening".
The nature of the political campaigning between the main parties in the coming months would get "extraordinarily personal" and "rather brutal", our correspondent added.
Reacting to the prime minister's policy plans, Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles said: "This was a speech with no vision and no argument - just a long shopping list with no price tag.
"Gordon Brown continues to treat people like fools. He didn't acknowledge the mistakes he has made or that his government has run out of money."
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, said the performance showed the Labour Party was "tired and bereft of new thinking".
"His new announcements were a hotchpotch of the ineffective and the ill-thought through, rehashed press releases, copied ideas and humiliating U-turns," spokesman Danny Alexander said.
Plaid Cymru said Mr Brown's "halfway house" reforms fell short of real change. SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP branded the speech a "desperate last throw of the dice to catch up with the success of the SNP government".
Mr Brown's speech came on the day an Ipsos Mori survey suggests the Conservatives are on 36%, Labour on 24% and the Liberal Democrats on 25% - the first time since 1982 that this polling firm has recorded Labour in third place.
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