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Responsive Government Survey

A global analysis of civil service responsiveness and agility

As well as sharing the challenges that organisations are facing in their efforts to increase their responsiveness, we identified exemplars of good practice that other countries might learn from.

Welcome to the Global Responsive Government Survey 2021.

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said more than 2,500 years ago, “change is the only constant in life”. But even he would likely have been startled at the pace at which technological, social and environmental change is accelerating in the third decade of the 21st century.

The organisations charged with delivering solutions on behalf of elected representatives must act decisively and innovate constantly if they are to keep up with the pace of change. In civil services around the world, there are certainly teams and agencies that are able to react quickly and imaginatively to changes, and to promote a culture of continuous service improvement.

At the same time, many organisations were built in a previous era and are hampered to some extent by legacy structures characterised by overly bureaucratic processes and outdated technologies. A culture of agility and adaptation is not always easily achieved in such environments.

With this in mind, Global Government Forum and PA Consulting set out to investigate the responsiveness and agility of the civil services that are known to be effective in nine countries. Participants were asked to score their organisations on various attributes that we identified as drivers of responsive government.

We invited self-assessments from senior officials of their organisations in each country; in five of the countries, the pool was expanded to include more junior staff. We wanted to explore how civil servants in these countries perceived their own organisations’ adaptability and delve into the factors that drive those views.

As well as sharing the challenges that civil servants are facing in their efforts to increase organisational responsiveness, we hoped to identify exemplars of good practice that other countries might learn from.

We believe our survey results can inform conversations with public sector leaders on the building blocks for more responsive government, as well as providing a baseline of evidence against which we can track progress in the future.

The research gathered views from 867 civil servants including 127 at senior leadership level, and this report presents the key findings across different levels of seniority as well as different countries.

We want to express our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the survey; the fact that more than 850 of you took part provided us with a robust sample. We hope you find the report of interest, and we’d love to hear your feedback. Do get in touch to tell us what you think.

Note to readers: the sample size for the Netherlands is smaller than that of other countries. As such, we have not compared its results to other countries’ in the main report but thought it useful to include and discuss its findings separately, in the ‘country profiles’ section.