Bringing together data about public service leadership

This post is about the National Leadership Centre’s data catalyst. If you can help, get in touch.

The National Leadership Centre (NLC) has been set up to help leaders work together to improve public services — as a way of introducing our work, this post discusses the research we do — specifically, our plans to develop an evidence-rich picture of public sector leadership.

The NLC is becoming a global hub of data and insight about the link between leadership and public service outcomes, high-quality research, and lessons learnt.

A chart showing the gender balance at different grades across the civil service, improving over time, but still not balanced.
A chart showing the gender balance at different grades across the civil service, improving over time, but still not balanced.
The Institute for Government’s Whitehall Monitor reports on things such as gender balance in the civil service, but what data exists about senior leaders from other parts of the public sector?

As part of this we want to develop a consolidated picture of public service leaders — who are they, where are they, how do the organisations they lead work, and how do they work together to deliver impactful public services? We suspect such data exists in pockets — in products such as the Civil Service People Survey, and the Institute for Government’s Whitehall Monitor. But these products only cover part of the public sector and, to date, no one has brought together data about leaders from across the wider public service, making it hard to see the full landscape or to visualise, analyse or identify gaps in data.

Following an open competition through the Digital Marketplace, we are partnering with Convivio to run a data discovery and alpha that will:

  1. map available data about public service leaders and identify gaps in it
  2. deliver options for bringing it together as a service including how to access it, developing multiple prototypes for visualising and analysing the data

Working with Convivio, and wider experts in data and public service leadership, we hope to understand what potential users of these data want from it — and therefore how it needs to be brought together to serve those needs. And we want to understand where data about public service leaders lives, what formats it might be in, and — crucially — what gaps currently exist.

An agile data discovery

Operating on agile principles, our discovery and alpha will be an open, and open-minded, project that takes us where the evidence leads us. We want to test the assumption that bringing data about public service leaders together, using service design principles, could help deliver actionable insights into the links between leadership and performance of public services.

Without pre-empting the discovery and alpha, it’s worth setting out where this assumption comes from. Initial conversations with experts in leadership research suggests that having relevant data available in a single place would make it easier to find, analyse, add to and take action on. And we’ve seen through work such as the ethnicity facts and figures service, gender pay gap service and DWP’s Churchill labour market data explorer that going beyond a data repository into a service that allows people to explore and download the data they’re interested in can add real value.

Whatever the outcome of our discovery, we plan for this work to integrate well with the rest of our emerging digital service — including features such as connecting our network of public service leaders online. Convivio will blog further about our approach to this discovery, and as with all of our research and evaluation work, we will work as openly, iteratively and collaboratively as possible — principles that we’ll expand on in another future blogpost (note: we hope to publish more after the general election).

Work with us

This is just the first step in what we hope will be a fruitful journey of gathering data, research and insight into the complex links between leadership and outcomes across the public sector. We want you to come on that journey with us, starting by co-creating our data service with us. So if you know of relevant data about the leadership of public service organisations, and the productivity of the services they deliver, please get in touch!


National Leadership Centre

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We are creating a first — a national centre to support senior leaders across the whole public sector.

National Leadership Centre

We are creating a first — a national centre to support senior leaders across the whole public sector.

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