The Inspiration for Government award

The Institute for Government’s core mission is to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of government. The Inspiration for Government award recognises excellent examples of inspirational thinking and practice.

June 2014 - The Defra procurement team

Peter Riddell and Simon Hewitt

Simon Hewitt receives the Institute for Government award from Peter Riddell.

Following the 2010 Spending Review all Whitehall departments had to make significant savings.

Against this background, Simon Hewitt, Defra’s head of procurement, set out with his team to reduce departmental administration costs by 50% compared to 2010/11 spending.

Simon’s approach involved challenging teams within Defra’s procurement division to question ways of working and how they might be changed to meet increased demand for services while reducing costs. Teams then presented their suggestions to a ‘dragon’s den’ of senior leaders, resulting in 62 new initiatives being introduced. The success of the programme relied upon harnessing creativity among existing personnel, who were then involved in implementing the change programme.

November 2013 award - xchangewales

The xchangewales representatives receive their award

Ceri Williams (Project manager, e-trading for schools) and Mike Melville (Head of e-procurement) at the Institute for Government to collect their award.

The Welsh Government’s Value Wales division helps to deliver efficiency savings through best practice procurement across the Welsh public sector.

An important part of this drive is the xchangewales e-procurement programme, which enables all public sector organsations in Wales, and their suppliers, to trade with each other electronically.

This creates efficiencies and stimulates greater collaboration between buyers and, importantly, lowering the cost of doing business for both parties. The programme contributed over £85million of benefits over its five year lifespan with savings redeployed by engaged organisations into front-line services.

In the past the Welsh public sector had struggled to find the finances to individually implement e-procurement solutions and the progress made on Government set targets was slow. It became clear that there would be immense benefits if the Welsh Government were to provide the software and licensing to enable this to happen.

The programme has exceeded its own targets, facilitating in excess of £85 million savings across the Welsh public sector which has meant organisations can afford the technology they need to adopt more efficient and cost effective procurement solutions.

June 2013 award - The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit

The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit representatives receive their award

The toolkit draws on over 5,500 educational studies to provide guidance for teachers and school leaders on how best to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. It currently covers 30 topics and is based on work by Durham University. The Toolkit has been designed to make it accessible within schools. It describes the average months’ progress associated with each approach, provides a clear estimate of cost and uses a star rating system to show the robustness of the underlying research. The Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation have been recognised within Government as a What Works centre, with the Toolkit being seen as a model for other areas of government policy. The Toolkit is also recommended both by school inspectors and headteachers’ associations. Recent polling by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 36% of school leaders say they use the Toolkit to help make spending decisions, particularly around the pupil premium (the extra money provided by the Government for disadvantaged pupils).

March 2013 award - The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The FCO receive the inspiration for government award

Matthew Rycroft (Chief Operating Officer), Catherine Morris, (Diplomatic Excellence Team), Anwar Choudhury (Diplomatic Excellence Team) and Simon Fraser (Permanent Secretary) receive their award from Peter Riddell at the Institute for Government.

When the Coalition government came to power, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had already begun a major programme of change – ‘More Foreign, Less Office’ – which required the department to be explicit about how it could add value in an increasingly globalised world with fewer resources to work with.

The 2010 Spending Review challenged the department to make further savings of 24% in real terms over four years, providing added impetus to solidify the work already done. However, rather than frame change around the necessity of cuts, the new ‘Diplomatic Excellence’ programme set out one ambitious but clear aim for the FCO: to be the best diplomatic service in the world by 2015. The programme is supported by a framework – endorsed by the Office of National Statistics – through which the department can assess its progress across a number of strands, both qualitatively and using a single composite score of overall performance.

To further strengthen this process, the internal assessment is supplemented by an external panel to give expert feedback and assess the FCO’s performance and global ranking. Having a credible strategy does not alter the tough decisions the department has to take. But its focus on positive, measurable indicators has helped to provide momentum.

November 2012 award - UK Sport

Baroness Sue Campbell

Baroness Sue Campbell receives the Inspiration for Government award at our final Making the Games event.

UK Sport have been awarded this month’s Inspiration for Government award in recognition of their work to develop a reporting process to support British Olympic and Paralympic sports’ and athletes’ performance programmes in preparation for London 2012.

UK Sport is Britain’s high performance sports agency and is accountable to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. They supported Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic sports in the years leading up to the Games and played a critical role in our athletes’ success at London 2012. In particular, they were responsible for investing National Lottery and Exchequer funding in high performance athletes ahead of London 2012, setting the public target of winning at least 48 Olympic medals and 103 Paralympic medals, and tracking and supporting sports’ and athletes’ progress as the Games approached.

To support British sports’ London 2012 progress, UK Sport developed a reporting process called ‘Mission 2012’ that tracked the performance and progress of Olympic and Paralympic sports in the run-up to the Games, helping sports to identify the issues and challenges they faced in hitting their respective performance ambitions and finding ways of dealing with them quickly and effectively. This information was collected on a central display in UK Sport’s HQ which staff and press were able to view.

Each sport developed a performance plan. Medal targets for each sport's most significant annual competition were set and performance noted on an annual basis from 2008 onwards. This, coupled with the Mission 2012 system allowed UK Sport to develop a detailed picture of how sports were performing against funding and eventually allowed them to develop Olympic and Paralympic medal targets in cooperation with the sports themselves. UK Sport did this with a high level of transparency, regularly inviting the press to look at progress as captured on their central display and publishing the final Olympic and Paralympic targets ahead of London 2012. UK Sport worked closely with the sports to ensure that UK elite athletes were funded and prepared to compete to their fullest potential in the 2012 Games, with the final British medal tally being 65 Olympic medals and 120 Paralympic medals.

October 2012 award - Department for International Development for staff engagement

Far left: Chris Pontin, Principal HR Business Partner, Left centre: Paula Hallam, Deputy Director, HR, Right centre: Peter Riddell, Director, Institute for Government, Far right: Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary

The Department for International Development (DFID), under Permanent Secretary Mark Lowcock and his predecessors, has taken a rigorous and active approach to ensuring and enhancing engagement from its staff. The efforts that have been made are reflected in the highest employee engagement scores of any major department on the annual Civil Service People Survey.

DFID faces a number of unique challenges as an organisation, with diverse teams of professionals working in the most challenging countries and regions across the globe. As a result, embedding staff engagement at all levels of the department has been seen as crucial to delivering its core mission.

The department has invested in strong internal communications, in particular a monthly all-staff meeting hosted by the permanent secretary, which can be joined from any of its offices in the UK and overseas. This is reinforced with an effort to tailor messages as much as possible to the roles and locations of particular staff, keeping content relevant and useful.

Mr Lowcock, accepting the award on behalf of his department, emphasised that whether they are in Kabul, Kinshasa or Kanu, feeling connected to what is happening at the centre is important for DFID staff.

DFID have also focused on the role that managers play in engaging their teams, being the first department in Whitehall to build an exercise in engagement into the interview process for management roles. This approach builds on their practice of using staff feedback as part of the annual appraisal of the leadership team. It is the firmly embedded and department-wide emphasis on the value of staff engagement that has earned DFID the Institute’s Inspiration for Government award.

September 2012 award - The Behavioural Insights Team for promoting better policy making

Behavioural insights team

The Behavioural Insights Team with Peter Riddell Director of the Institute for Government.

The Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Team of Owain Service and Laura Haynes, in collaboration with external experts David Torgeson and Ben Goldacre, have produced a simple guide for government on how to do randomised control trials to test the effectiveness of government policy interventions. This is to promote implementation of their ‘test, learn, adapt’ which is very much in line with the recommendations in our policy making reports. The Inspiration for Government award recognises the contribution of work in promoting better policy making and effective collaboration.

May 2012 award - use of management information in the Department of Work and Pensions

May Smith and her team at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) receive the Inspiration for Government award in May for their ongoing work in developing management information that is being used to improve departmental performance. 

The team has successfully developed a series of unit cost measures for JobcentrePlus, bringing together financial and performance data. Collaboration has been at the heart of their working style, developing these measures in partnership with operational colleagues. This has provided the senior leaders on the operational side with insights to drive up productivity, and been incorporated into the performance management system. 

The team's approach is now being adopted across the DWP and is spreading to other departments. This work provides an excellent example of the more strategic role that finance can play, informing decisions across the organisation, rather than more traditional cost control and audit activities.

April 2012 award review of the Treasury's management response to the financial crisis of 2007-09

Sharon White and her team with the Inspiration for Government award

The Treasury receives the Inspiration for Government award in April — not just for conducting a review of its management response to the financial crisis of 2007-09, but, in particular, for publishing blunt criticisms of its performance.

The candid review, undertaken by Director General Sharon White and her team at the Treasury, matters as an exercise in improving performance and accountability in Whitehall.

The Institute for Government’s core mission is to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of government. The Inspiration for Government award recognises excellent examples of inspirational thinking and practice.

March 2012 award – leadership of the cross-government network for arm’s-length bodies sponsorship

Our first award recognises the leadership of the cross-government network for arm’s-length bodies (ALB) sponsorship, and goes to:

  • Lisa Gill, Senior Policy Adviser, Public Bodies Reform Programme at the Cabinet Office
  • Paula McDonald CBE, Deputy Director, Public Bodies Reform Programme at the Cabinet Office
  • Alison Wedge, Head of ALB Assurance, Review and Capability at the Ministry of Justice
  • Pat Lloyd, Head of ALB Governance Division at the Ministry of Justice

The network was launched in March 2012 and provides a number of benefits, including:

  • making the best collective use of the expertise and experience that is available across government
  • providing a forum for joint problem solving
  • facilitating the sharing of best practice
  • providing a forum to generate innovative approaches on sponsorship
  • offering mutual support.

It is anticipated that the network will meet once per quarter, with members of the group owning and driving the programme of work. Membership is open to anyone in departments with an interest in sponsorship.

Recipients of the IfG award

William Knighton (IfG), Paula McDonald (Cabinet Office), Pat Lloyd (Ministry of Justice), Peter Riddell (Director, IfG), Allison Wedge (Ministry of Justice) and Lisa Gill (Cabinet Office).

After receiving the award Paula McDonald of the Cabinet Office said:

“The Public Bodies Reform Programme is the most significant shake up of the public bodies landscape in a generation, with the Cabinet Office coordinating a huge number of policy proposals. As we move squarely into the implementation phase of reforms, it is clear that good sponsorship and relations with public bodies are critical both for the reform programme, and the important, continuing role that public bodies play in the delivery of vital public services.

The Cabinet Office and Public Bodies Reform Team understand the value of engaging with and working alongside departments, and seek to facilitate cross-department and peer-led working across the reform programme. To this end, a number of peer networks have been established, with the Sponsorship Network among the first of these. We are delighted that the Ministry of Justice team has agreed to lead this network, and look forward to supporting them in the work of this crucial area. We are also pleased to have worked with the Institute of Government on their own study of ALB sponsorship relationships and we will take ideas from that project into our work with departments.”

Pat Lloyd of the Ministry of Justice added:

"The MoJ was really pleased to be asked by Cabinet Office to lead the cross Whitehall peer network on sponsorship. We recognise that we don't have all the answers, but we know that, as this department has one of the largest numbers of arm’s-length bodies, with spending equal to 30% of the departmental budget, we have a lot to benefit from improving our approach to sponsorship. We have done a lot of thinking and implemented some new approaches, but we recognise that we have a way still to go. Joining forces with our colleagues across government makes perfect sense.”