Will Perrin at Talk About Local, taken by Nick Booth

Digital skills at the very top

An important part of the work we are doing on capability building is making sure that people who will be leading public services in the future really understand what digital by default means; for policy-making and service delivery.

Civil Service Learning (CSL) run a one and a half day residential induction event, called a ‘Basecamp’, for newly appointed deputy directors and directors within the Civil Service a couple of times a year. A few weeks ago we helped CSL with one of these; for the first time it focused on a digital theme.

Challenging questions about digital

Around 80 people attended, drawn from 14 departments. Their roles vary hugely: some work with ministers in their private offices, others carry operational responsibility for thousands of people.

As well as more general sessions focussed on networking, personal development and corporate and change leadership there was:

  • a briefing session led by Government Digital Service on the implications of the Government Digital Strategy
  • a challenging discussion on what digital leadership really means featuring Will Perrin, one of the Digital Advisory Board, drawing on his experience both inside and outside government
  • a series of ‘challenge questions’ covering topics as diverse as creating digital awareness and capability at all levels, culture and process changes needed to achieve digital by default, digital policymaking and user-centred services, which participants had to present back on at the end of the second day

Taking the messages further

Will welcomed the chance to get involved, saying: “To retain a professional edge, to do its job properly and know its customer, the civil service has to keep up to speed with big changes in society. I loved working in the Civil Service because its leaders were always up for a challenge and I was glad to see at this event that that hasn’t changed.”

And as Sir Bob Kerslake, who came along to give the keynote session, said: “My ambition, and one I hope you will share, is for us to be able to look back and say we were the leaders who delivered better public services and built a stronger, more sustainable civil service. To do this we need to become more efficient, to be smaller and become Digital by Default”.

And we’re continuing to look at ways to spread this thinking and learning further. We’ll be asking those who attended this Basecamp to help us with ideas and suggestions for masterclasses on digital topics, based on what they found particularly interesting and relevant.

Watch this space!

Image of Will Perrin at Talk About Local taken by Nick Booth.


  1. Thanks for the approach your taking in the “GDS Uni” sheila. Could you, while the government is getting into the habit of following the policies already in place with the unis and schools, consider putting a cc-by-sa lience on the “civillearning” materials, if that’s the branding of your online uni.

    Obviously you’ll be developing more up o date materials on a regular basis as the tools, content and strategies change. It would also be useful in (say) having the latest approaches incorporated into the broader, older online uni courses. Not much use having students being prepared for the past and then undergoing culture shock:)

  2. Could we have a summary of, and link to, this discussion= what digital leadership really means
    It would be nice to share this UK perspective with your EU peers.

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