3. Collaborate across organisations to add value



Trustworthiness (T)     Quality (Q)     Value (V)

Look out for these letters throughout this section for indicators of the ‘Think TQV’ approach

Extract from Declaration on Government reform:

“We will bolster dialogue between leaders from all sectors to make sure we are spotting and tackling problems together, and explore new forms of collaboration in service delivery”

Collaboration can occur at all different levels among individuals, teams and organisations working within and outside of government. It can enable more efficient and effective policy and decision-making, facilitate ground-breaking insights and support innovation.

In the context of analytical leadership, the multidimensional nature of many of today’s complex problems means that they now rarely fall neatly within fixed departmental boundaries. Working together across professional and organisational boundaries therefore helps government to both identify the key analytical questions (V) that really matter for policy and for citizens and bring the available data and evidence together to help answer them. Bringing the insights and professional capabilities (T) of multiple professions together on a common question helps to ensure that key decisions made on these topics are based on a sound (Q) analytical evidence base.

Our conversation brought up two important actions relating to collaborating across organisations to add value. This includes the need to:

  1. Triangulate expertise from multiple professions;
  2. Add value with external expertise.

Triangulate expertise from multiple professions

Everyone in government is responsible for making sure they achieve good outcomes for citizens by collaborating beyond individual professional or organisational silos. This can be essential for understanding both the ‘need’ in terms of the question or issue to be addressed (V) and also the options for addressing it, in terms of the evidence or professional expertise (T) that might be drawn on.

When bringing evidence together to answer identified questions, it is essential to understand when one form of analysis is more appropriate to use than another and how they may complement or triangulate with each other. Each profession will champion its own work, but government needs to be able to understand the relative strengths of each approach or data source (Q) and when to use each of the various types of analysis for every question (V) to be answered. Collaboration also presents opportunities for cross-profession learning (T), which can enhance wider skillsets and drive innovation (V).

Carried out in collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Home Office, the ONS Humanitarian Response Insight Survey was compiled rapidly to inform the UK’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the subsequent evacuation of individuals fleeing Ukraine, and to aid local and national emergency response planning. It set out to understand the experiences and intentions of those arriving in the UK under both the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine).

ONS and DLUHC subsequently launched the Homes for Ukraine Sponsor Survey to understand the experiences and intentions of UK households registered as sponsors with the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. The effective collaboration between analysts and policy officials in ONS, DLUHC and the Home Office led to new, valuable analytical evidence on the experiences of Ukrainian refugees and their scheme sponsors. This has helped local authorities, government, charities and other organisations, to plan support for this population and their sponsors, as well as increase public awareness of the issues they face.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) drew together different expert perspectives and data to help answer important public health questions during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a new public health body made up of multiple professions, there was a clear need for effective collaboration to ensure the most relevant health related information was available to inform government decisions, and published to inform the public.

PHS statisticians worked closely with data managers, epidemiologists, academia, policy, communications and Scottish Government officials as part of this process.  The PHS Head of Statistics Profession played a highly influential role, co-leading a cross PHS/SG COVID data and intelligence forum, which had oversight of, and set direction for, development in COVID data developments and reporting. This allowed them to see potential crossovers in planned outputs and encourage collaboration, and ensure a common understanding of the value of PHS statistics and data and the standards they should be produced to. Building strong relationships with policy colleagues was key to developing their understanding of what the emerging data showed, while working with the communications team helped to build relationships with journalists to support accurate reporting in the media.

Further benefits of this collaborative approach were realised when changes to the measurement of COVID-19 infections were made, as PHS staff were able to provide clear insights around the interpretation of the changes. Overall, PHS’s effective approach to cross-profession collaboration during the pandemic resulted in valuable, high-quality, coherent data and statistics that proved essential for informing both government decisions and the public, and this approach to collaborative working continues to today in all other aspects of PHS’s work.

ONS worked collaboratively with analysts in the Department of Health and Social Care and Department for Work and Pensions, to produce new experimental insights on people receiving social security benefits by health conditions and sociodemographic characteristics.

The analysis required the linking of Census, primary care and welfare benefits data sources held in different government departments, to provide important new evidence into how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted people’s health, their ability to work, and the social security benefits that they received. For example, the analysis provided evidence that deprivation and ethnic differences in benefit recipients that existed before the start of the pandemic, became wider during it.

The analysis was funded by HM Treasury’s Shared Outcomes Fund, which was established in 2019 to incentivise government departments to work collaboratively across challenging policy areas to strengthen joint working, improve outcomes and deliver better value for citizens.

Add value with external expertise

Extract from Declaration on Government reform:

“We will operate more seamlessly with institutions outside government, building partnerships with the wider public sector, private sector and community organisations to secure the best outcomes for citizens.”

There should be clarity about the value government analysis adds, but also recognition of where and when drawing on external professional expertise (T) can add significant value, especially where collaborating might offer benefits such as innovative insights (V) and methods, or provide external assurance (Q).

The Ulster University Economic Policy Centre is an independent economic research centre which aims to produce evidence-based research to inform policy development and implementation. The centre undertakes independent economic research for various government departments in Northern Ireland to help inform decision making in the Northern Ireland Executive, and also for various councils at the local government level, providing a partnership between academia, business and government.

The centre carries out external independent analysis of key economic data and publishes its own reports, analysis and visualisations, on topics such as enterprise and business demography and labour market intelligence. It is also helping to develop the next generation of economic policy makers through its taught courses at the Ulster University Business School.

Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) is a UK-wide partnership which aims to transform the way researchers access the UK’s wealth of public sector data, to enable better informed policy decisions that improve people’s lives.

ADR UK engages with UK and devolved governments to create linked (or linkable) research data assets, and facilitates safe and secure access to the datasets for accredited researchers to answer pressing policy questions. ADR UK is made up of four national partnerships (ADR England, ADR Northern Ireland, ADR Scotland and ADR Wales) and the ONS.

The ADR UK model for working with data owners and researchers is all about bringing government and academic groups together into collaborative partnerships. The aim is to deliver policy-relevant research that reinforces the feedback loop between those who have collaborated to open up access to data and the accredited researchers commissioned to analyse it.

For example, a Welsh Government lead told us that ADR Wales coordinates analytical input from Swansea University, Cardiff University and Welsh Government to address priority questions identified in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government. This includes work on early years, education, housing, social care, social justice, mental health, health and wellbeing, climate change, skills and employment and major societal challenges.

Published government statements on Areas of Research Interest (ARI) provide a transparent and structured way to publicise details about the main research questions facing government departments, and facilitate collaboration to help answer them.

ARI’s encourage collaboration by acting as a platform for engagement with academia, external experts, research councils, industry, and many other organisations across the research and development landscape, as well as between government departments themselves. ARI topics and questions help to clarify government research interests to expert communities, which facilitates the identification and uptake of high-quality research and innovation to deliver evidence-informed practice and policy. ARI’s are particularly useful on topics where departments are not resourced or do not have the required expertise to answer research questions themselves, or do not know what research already exists.

The Government Office for Science coordinates and collates ARI’s for UK Government departments and agencies, whereas separate information is published by Senedd Cymru on its research priorities. The ARI Database is the A to Z of all department ARI questions and, where applicable, can highlight relevant research funding published on the UKRI Gateway to Research platform.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has good working relationships with external research companies such as Ipsos Mori and Kantar. When the COVID-19 pandemic began they worked together on innovative approaches to data collection rather than duplicating effort.

The organisations shared ideas and data, which led to innovations in data collection in challenging circumstances. This illustrates the benefits that collaborative professional networks and partnerships between government and commercial sector organisations can lead to, such as mutual advances in knowledge and expertise based on partnership working, rather than relationships being exclusively based on specific contractual exchanges.

Back to top
Download PDF version (368.96 KB)