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Executive Summary

We know that change is the new constant – the question now is how to respond.

Our in-depth, global research into governmental responsiveness explores the extent to which governments have adapted to unforeseen events, drawing on the views of those in civil and public positions. How responsive are governments today, and what do they need to do to successfully navigate an uncertain future?

Our research analyses and compares self-assessment survey responses across global markets (Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), as well as different levels of seniority (leaders, managers, and non-management).
Across all geographies and seniority levels, the findings were stark. Compared to 2021, public and civil servants’ confidence in government responsiveness is declining, with fewer officials agreeing that their organisation excels at learning and responding rapidly to change. Confidence that public services can be improved has also fallen – and there is concern over the impact of electoral politics on delivery. Officials are also less confident in their organisation’s contingency plans in the era of ‘permacrisis’ – an extended period of instability and insecurity.

“Encouragingly, over half of respondents believe that their organisation can capitalise on opportunities arising from uncertainty.”

Despite this crisis of confidence, 71 percent of officials say that being able to adapt to significant change is part of their organisation’s long-term strategy. Encouragingly, over half of respondents believe that their organisation can capitalise on opportunities arising from uncertainty. Officials are also confident that they can access the information they need to make decisions in a crisis. There is broad agreement that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted digital government, and that, in an increasingly data-driven world, digital capability is crucial.

Agreement with the survey statement: ‘My organisation excels at learning and responding rapidly to meet evolving citizen and end-user needs’

The research also found some interesting contrasts. Across the nine nations, respondents in Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) are most in agreement that their organisations excel at responsiveness. And, throughout the report, senior leaders – including secretary generals, vice ministers, permanent secretaries, chief executives, and function heads like chief technology officers or chief financial officers – were consistently more positive about their organisation’s responsiveness than their rank-and-file colleagues.

Our results point to a lack of confidence about what the future holds for governing organisations, and in departments’ ability to handle change. However, with the right strategy and awareness, governments can maximise their adaptability ahead of disruption by embedding responsiveness into the fabric of their organisation.