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Editorial, January 2015

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Welcome to the seventh edition of Civil Service Quarterly.

At the start of a new year, we’re looking ahead. In this edition we examine some of the tools and techniques that can help us excel as civil servants. Within the Policy Profession, we have been championing three big aims. The first of these is to be more open, in line with Civil Service Reform’s plans on open policy making. The second is consistency, so that the quality of policy advice and policy delivery meets the highest standards. The third of these is to be professional; emphasising the skills, learning and development that policy makers and others need to do their jobs as effectively as possible. This issue of CSQ highlights all three of these aims.

In the upcoming editions of Civil Service Quarterly, we will be running a Data Science series to explore the potential of this new discipline to bring benefits to government and citizen. HMRC kick this off, by explaining how better use of data is helping them to target non-compliance more effectively.

Another growing trend is the potential of design to inform and improve policy making and delivery. In “Designing a Better A&E”, we find out how a collaboration between the Design Council and NHS England has reduced threatening body language and aggressive behaviour in A&E departments by 50%.

David Halpern sets a new challenge to policy makers in the new year. In “What works? The rise of ‘experimental government’” he makes the case for following the example of the GB cycling team: achieving radical improvement by systematically testing small changes in all areas. Meanwhile, in “Command and Control” Mark Grimshaw offers an alternative approach to dramatic improvements. Read how his leadership approach turned around the struggling Rural Payments Agency.

We’re also highlighting innovative approaches to opening up departments to the outside world. The era of making policy in a black box is over. For example, the Department for Education has opened its doors to a Fellowship of Experts, drawn from a range of sectors across the world, to bring new perspectives and expertise to the department. Meanwhile, the Department for Health is giving its senior civil servants and policy-makers frontline experience in health and social care delivery organisations. Two different approaches, but the same goal: to deepen the insights, skills and experiences of those involved in policy making.

GCHQ staff are also getting out of the office and in to local communities, but with the aim of inspiring young people to learn languages that are crucial to the organisation but in shortage throughout the country. Read about the success of their outreach programme in “Learning the language of intelligence.” Collaboration was also central to the outstanding successes achieved by the cross Departmental Syria Chemical Weapons Team. ‘Destroying Syria’s Chemical Weapons’ explores how exemplary cross-governmental work led to the destruction of 97% of Syria’s declared chemical weapons programme in less than a year.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Civil Service Quarterly. Share your thoughts by commenting on the online articles, or use #CSQuarterly on social media. You can also subscribe for free here. We look forward to hearing your views.

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