Cabinet Office Policy School Days 3 & 4

Work, Work, Work

It’s taken a little while but I’m finally getting round to writing up the second week of Cabinet Office Policy School.

The last couple of days were just as intense as the first, and, since completing it, I’ve basically been catching up, and then recovering from, all of the training, on top of what has been a very busy October.

On Thursday we had another classroom day in the morning. It started with a show and tell about the Ethnicity Facts and Figures service which I know about because I’ve been working with the service team for several months and have run the Service Assessments for the service.

Next up, Simon Madden from the Implementation Unit gave us an overview to the unit and to his work. That was really interesting because I previously hadn’t had much interaction with Implementation unit (though that is where Ed in my peer team works).

The Implementation unit track delivery of top policy priorities and intervene where delivery or operational performance is at risk or progress is unclear. They also work across government to strengthen implementation capability.

Essentially, they help to ensure that things get done, well. It was good to hear more about how they go about doing this.

Setting the goal, Planning to Deliver, Achieving Impact

After this, Eleanor Stringer from the Education Endowment Foundation gave a presentation about what they do, and how they work. I actually know a little about them because I delivered a user research workshop for a number of What Works Centres a little while back.

The Education Endowment Foundation are responsible for providing evidence about what makes a good intervention to create better outcomes. So they devise trials which provide an evidence base which can be used by schools or similar to work out how to improve outcomes for children.

Eleanor gave some really great examples of evidence that they’ve collected and about how they conduct randomised control trials.

Then our coach, Andrew, gave us some tips on putting together our presentation to answer the exam question which we were given on Day 1.

Actually those tips might be useful for people so I’ll share them here.

Things to consider in the content of presentations:

  • Relevance: dont hide recommendations away, explain relevance
  • Clarity: explain everything, in simple language
  • Impact: what will the outcome of your recommendations be?
  • Resource: aka cost, what’s required to deliver this?
  • Evidence: what are your sources? Use diverse evidence.
  • Implementation: how will you deliver it?
  • Assumptions: is there anything that you don’t know?

Practical things about doing presentations:

  • Run to time: structure and rehearse
  • Strong opening: get and keep attention
  • Sign post key points
  • Evidence, Illustrate and support all of your points as you go through.

In the afternoon we headed over to 10 Downing Street. We met some people working in the №10 policy unit. It was really interesting but a couple of quotes stood out:

“Make sure you’re solving a problem”

Sounds obvious right?

In the afternoon we had to have an obligatory group photo outside the door of Downing Street…

On the Friday, we had to get cracking on our policy idea and presentation!

We got started and commandeered some space in the office where we could build up our ideas. There were post it notes so I felt comfortable. We worked on a collaborative Google Slides doc, found some research and worked out what to include.

One of our team, Monica was unwell and couldn’t join us. We missed her local knowledge and that was a real shame, but even with that I really thought we worked well together.

We looked at diverse information and evidence, and one thing which I really found interesting was looking at non-cognitive skills and how they can help children.

In the end we came up with our idea which we devised after speaking with Youth Workers and other people working with children in the area.

In the afternoon we pitched to a panel which included Lucy Smith Director General, UK Governance Group and Alison Pritchard, COO at GDS. It was really good to hear everyone’s ideas and, despite what I would have thought, everyone had really different ideas about how to make a change.

I had imagined that we would all think along similar lines, though I guess that doesn’t make much sense when the exam question was so vast.

I really enjoyed listening to all of the presentations and when it came to our turn, I actually quite enjoyed presenting and didn’t find it anything like as daunting as I thought I might.

In the end, the panel deliberated to decide who “won” the pitching. When they had to make a decision they said it was because we were thinking about long term impact.

My team won! I don’t think it’s possible to really win at something like this because we aren’t actually implementing anything and it’s very difficult to make any decision without seeing some outcomes. But it was great to know that all the hard work we had put in had lead to some great work.

Overall I think that it was a really great experience. I’m glad that I understand more about other parts of my department, and that I’ve learned more about delivery and designing policy. I’ve heard some great stories and learned a lot.

More than that I met some absolutely brilliant people, and I hope that I’ll be able to work with them again.

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