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Seminars have covered a variety of topics including Civil Service reform, economic challenges facing the UK, family formation, restorative justice, Britishness and national identity, and the concept of joined–up government. We have also enjoyed sessions with individual speakers such as Tim Harford and Martin Wolf (Financial Times); Robert Putnam and Richard Freeman (Harvard University); Paul Krugman (Princeton University and New York Times); Andrew Oswald (Warwick University); Diane Coyle (Enlightenment Economics); Ben Page (MORI); Sir Michael Barber (McKinsey and Co); Richard Lambert (CBI); Peter Orszag (US Congressional Office); Miles Templeman (Institute of Directors); Chris Leslie (New Local Government Network), David Halpern (Institute for Government); and Sir Gus O'Donnell (Cabinet Secretary).

Below is an alphabetical list of previous Strategy Unit seminars. Follow the links for papers/presentations from each of the seminars. Views expressed are those of the presenters.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Addictive Behaviour discussed the major forces driving current trends in addictive behaviour and how should government policy address them.


(Global) Banking Crisis Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority discussed his report, The Turner Review - A Regulatory Response to the Global Banking Crisis (published 18 March 2009), which takes an in-depth look at the causes of the financial crisis, and recommends steps that the international community needs to take to enhance regulatory standards, supervisory approaches and international cooperation and coordination. The Review focuses on long-term solutions rather than the short-term challenges and distinguishes areas where the FSA has already taken action; those where the UK can proceed nationally; and those where we need to achieve international agreement. It also discusses wider issues raised by the crisis that merit further consideration.

Behaviour change Kate Billingham (Project Director, Family Nurse Partnership programme), Stephen Rollnick (Professor of Healthcare Communication, Cardiff University), Ann Rowe (Implementation Lead, Family Nurse Partnership programme) and Liz Costello (family nurse, Berkshire East Family Nurse Partnership) discussed the conceptual approach and practical methods being used by the Family Nurse Partnership programme to influence the behaviour of at risk, socially excluded young parents.

(Behavioural economics) Is Nudging Still Relevant in the Post Crisis World? Richard Thaler, Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics at the University of Chicago, USA and co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (which sets out a framework for applying behavioural economics to a wide range of public policy questions - an approach which Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein call 'libertarian paternalism'), discussed how in the worst financial crisis since the great depression, behavioural economics can help our understanding of how we got into this mess, how we can get out of it, and how we can prevent another crisis from occurring.

Biosciences: Challenges and opportunities for government discussed what developments we anticipate over the next decade and beyond; how such developments might impact on society; and how government should respond to the challenges and opportunities that they present.

Britishness discussed the importance of a clear sense of national identity.

(Public service) broadcasting in the on-demand age Richard Halton, the BBC Controller of Business Strategy discussed the challenges facing the BBC and shared his thoughts on what makes for successful strategy development in the public service arena.


Capability Reviews : progress, opportunities and challenges.  Adam Pemberton, a Deputy Director in the Capability Review team, and Tristan Chapman, a Senior Change Manager in the Civil Service Change Team, both in the Cabinet Office, set out the background to the departmental capability reviews that have been conducted over the past 2 years, discussed progress to date, set out the challenges and opportunities facing the Capability Review process in future and likely next steps.

Central Governments Structures considered future roles, structures and management systems for central governments.

Character, responsibility and life chances - Richard Reeves, Director of Demos discussed the issues of 'character' (specifically, a sense of agency, personal responsibility, and the ability to stick to a task) and its correlation with an individual's wellbeing and success. He also discussed the policy implications of evidence that individuals from underprivileged backgrounds are less likely to develop 'character' skills than their more affluent peers, and the prospects for redressing these inequalities.

(Regulating angels: the role of the) Charity Commission Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission, discussed the role of charities and the Charity Commission and set out some of the challenges and opportunities facing both in future.

(Ending) child poverty Lisa Harker, independent policy advisor and former chair of the childcare charity Daycare Trust, discussed child poverty. She outlined the progress made in reducing child poverty and potential future measures.

China's impact on the global economy Dr Kerry Brown discussed China's impact on the global economy – focusing on issues such as the evolving role of the state, China's economic model and its sustainability, the impact of China's overseas direct investment, China's impact on the environment, and the vision that the Chinese have of themselves in the coming century.

Choice focused on the development of choice-based policies in England.

City regions Dermot Finch, Director of the Centre for Cities, and Hannah Brown, Research Manager at the Centre for Cities, discussed the challenges and opportunities facing UK cities in the global economy and the implications for urban policy, including how best to balance the need to respond to current economic pressures with longer term goals to promote economic prosperity, support competitive businesses, encourage trade and attract investment.

Commissioning of Public Services Dirk Haubrich of the Strategy Unit led a workshop on lessons learned about effective commissioning from past Strategy Unit projects.

(Key issues in) Consumer Policy Ed Mayo - Chief Executive of the National Consumer Council - discussed the emerging issues in consumer policy.

Correctional Services discussed issues facing correctional services over the coming years.

(Early interventions: what works in reducing) crime David Farrington, Professor of Psychological Criminology at the University of Cambridge, discussed the key risk and protective factors that affect the chances of offending; effective prevention techniques; and ideas for putting such techniques into practice.

Crown Prosecution Service and Criminal Justice Ken Macdonald, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions came to speak to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit and extended guests.

(Achieving) Culture Change: A Policy Framework [PDF 75KB, 7 pages] – Stephen Muers and David Knott of the Strategy Unit presented their draft discussion paper on how government policy can be used to encourage particular courses of action and behaviour in cases where powerful cultural factors are at work. Stephen Meek, Director of Strategy at DCSF, and Clive Bates, Head of Policy at the Environment Agency, acted as discussants. See the draft discussion paper on Achieving Culture Change: A Policy Framework on which we would welcome comments.


Drug treatment: Paul Hayes, Chief Executive of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), discussed the organisation's role; its success in increasing the numbers receiving drug treatment, and in reducing waiting times and drop out rates; and the future challenges the Agency faces.


Economic policy challenges Martin Wolf CBE, prize winning journalist, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times shared his thoughts on what he feels are the five key economic policy issues facing the UK today.

(A new) Economics for the Real World Eric Beinhocker, Senior Fellow of the McKinsey Global Institute, set out a new perspective on how economies work in the real world and its implications for public policy.

Electronic Networks: The Challenges for the Next Decade focused on the long-term trends in the development of Electronic Networks, how these trends might alter and the lessons that could be learnt from other countries and industries.

(British and European) energy policy – after the White Paper and the September package There have been major statements on energy policy in both Britain (the White Paper) and Europe (culminating in the September package) recently. Dr Dieter Helm CBE reviewed the current position, and discussed how the major policy objectives on climate change, security of supply and competition may be taken forward.

Energy Policy: Efficiency, Environment and Security examined the issues that impact on the ways in which we use energy, how this might change in the future and discussed what Government might need to consider to ensure that it can respond to these challenges.

Entitlements: Building a new relationship between citizens and services, a discussion paper presented at a Cabinet Office/HM Treasury seminar, chaired by Liam Byrne MP on 21st July 2009, outlines some of the reasons why stronger entitlements to public services can help drive better services.


Family formation and policy Professor John Ermisch from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex examined the major changes in the timing and characteristics of family formation and dissolution over recent generations; variation in these changes between different social groups; and the potential implications for policy.

Family Nurse Partnerships Kate Billingham, Project Director of Health-led Parenting and First Years of Life, DH, gave an overview of the Family Nurse Partnerships programme. She discussed the benefits of the programme, progress and implementation lessons so far, the local and national success factors, and key lessons for central government.

Fiscal Councils Simon Wren-Lewis, Professor of Economics at Merton College, Oxford, discussed the economic case for a publicly funded organisation – a Fiscal Council in the IMF's terminology – to help enhance the credibility and effectiveness of a country's fiscal regime. Professor Wren-Lewis outlined how such a council might operate, its relationship with government departments and compared the proposed structure with similar existing institutions overseas.

Flexicurity Professor Ton Wilthagen of Tilburg University, The Netherlands discussed what is meant by flexicurity; what role it can play in achieving policy goals; and how to deliver it with examples and practices of interest from a UK perspective.

Future shocks and opportunities Dr Ian Goldin (Director), Professor Angela McLean (Director, Institute for Emergent Infections of Humans) and Prof Julian Savulescu (Director, the Programme on Ethhics of the New Biosciences) from the James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford, reviewed some of the major challenges and opportunities facing the 21st century, set out the role of the 21st Century School and discussed work on emergent infections and the ethics of the new biosciences.

Futures Richard O'Brien, futurist and founding parnter of strategic consultancy, Outsights, discussed the the drivers of the 21 Century and strategies for planning for the longer term - drawing on the Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st CenturyTM Programme [External website] and recent work on the Future of the Global Economy to 2030 [External PDF]


Geographic Mobility examined the nature and extent of geographic mobility in Britain.

Global challenges of the 21st century The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, discussed some of the major challenges facing the world in the 21st century – focussing on the sustainable use of natural resources, reversing environmental degradation, defeating infectious diseases and tackling climate change.

Globalisation Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, explored the globalisation of higher education and its impact on the mobility of students.

Government and myopia Avner Offer, Chichele Professor of Economic History at All Souls College, Oxford looked at how myopia affects decision making in both the private and public sectors, and set out the potential implications for policy.


Happiness and health Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics at Warwick University, reviewed the evidence on the main influences on the psychological wellbeing of individuals and nations, and discussed to what extent economic growth improves psychological wellbeing or happiness.

Health care in the United States Peter Orszag, Director of the US Congressional Budget Office gave an overview of the role and work of the CBO, and discussed some of the health care challenges facing the US including the drivers of increased costs and spending and opportunities to improve health outcomes at any given level of spending by, for example, promoting healthier behaviour.

High Performing Cities discussed the ability of our big cities to perform and compete as sources of economic growth, analyse the latest evidence on trends likely to impact on the performance of cities and examine the evidence that investment and systems of governance affect the performance of cities.

Housing and land use planning Kate Barker, CBE, set out the housing and the land use challenges facing the UK, focusing on the affordability of housing and the functioning of housing, housebuilding and land markets. Kate is a member of the Board of the Housing Corporation and of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee. She was commissioned by the Government to conduct an independent review of UK Housing Supply (published March 2004) and, later, a review of Land Use Planning (published in July 2006).

(The) housing market: issues, problems and solutions Stephen Nickell, Chair of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, examined the state of the UK housing market; discussed the key factors affecting supply, demand, prices and affordability; reviewed the key challenges & opportunities facing the market in the UK; and discussed the implications for policy makers.


Innovation in Local Government Doug Sutherland and Ian Jones of Leeds City Council ICT group talked about their frontline experiences of innovation in local government, particularly in relation to the digital pen.

ICT investment in the public sector Professor Jim Norton discussed the challenge of achieving successful and sustainable public sector business transformation facilitated by new ICT systems and explored the premise that in both the private and public sectors "there is no such thing as an ICT project – only business change projects enabled by new ICT systems". He reviewed some recent ICT projects and set out the ground rules for successful business change.


Leadership and the future challenges facing business and government René Carayol MBE shared his thoughts on the future challenges facing business and the implications for government.

Life chances and reform of the primary school curriculum [PDF, 89KB 27 pages]: Leon Feinstein, Professor of Education and Social Policy at the Institute of Education, University of London, discussed the role of the primary school curriculum in supporting child learning and wider development including impacts on life chances. The talk also addressed issues of educational practice such as assessment and testing, class size, Special Educational Needs and personalised learning.

Life Satisfaction explored the growing literature on life satisfaction: what makes people happy?

Local government Chris Leslie, Director of the think tank New Local Government Network, discussed the case for active local governance, the need for decentralised decision making and the empowerment of local government, and the implications for public service delivery.


Mental Capital and Well-Being Professor Sandy Thomas, Director of Foresight at the Government Office for Science; Derek Flynn, leader of the Foresight project on mental capital and wellbeing; and Professor Cary Cooper, head of the science co-ordination team for the mental capital and wellbeing project, gave an overview of the work of the Foresight programme, the aims of the mental capital and wellbeing project, and an overview of some of its early findings including the costs and impacts of mental health problems and likely future challenges.

Mental Health discussed a paper by Lord Layard entitled 'Mental Health: Britains Biggest Health Problem'.

Mental health and wellbeing Professors Cary Cooper CBE and Rachel Jenkins, the lead experts on the Foresight project Mental Capital and Wellbeing: Making the most of ourselves, discussed the findings of the report, which explores how best to improve wellbeing at work and manage mental ill-health in society.


NHS Reform Andrew Haldenby, Professor Nick Bosanquet and Henry de Zoete from the independent think-tank, Reform, set out their assessment of progress and current challenges in health service reform.

(Reforming the) NHS Chris Ham, Professor of Health Services Management at the University of Birmingham, reviewed the progress of the health service reforms and looked forward to the challenges likely to face the service in future.


Obesity Dr Susan Jebb of the MRC Human Nutrition Research Unit and Professor Sandy Thomas, Director of the Foresight Programme, discussed the main findings and conclusions of the Foresight project Tackling Obesities: Future Choices, including trends in the prevalence of obesity, the causal drivers behind these trends and future policy options.


Place and prosperity Dr Henry Overman, Director of the Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) at the London School of Economics, discussed whether place matters, why certain places thrive while others struggle, the role of government in trying to shape place; and the challenges and opportunities facing policy makers. 

Public perceptions of policy and public service outcomes Ben Page, Chairman of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, discussed: the gap between public perceptions of policy and public service outcomes and more objective measures of performance; the key factors driving this gap; and what this implied for the use of perception measures in performance management of policy and public service outcomes.

(The collaborative state: how working together can transform) public services Simon Parker, Head of Public Services Research at the think tank Demos set out how collaboration between different parts of the public sector and between institutions and the people they serve could drive further progress in public service improvement building on the reforms of the past ten years.

Public Services. Sir Michael Barber (McKinsey and Company) and Ben Jupp (Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office) discussed the Government’s approach to achieving world class public services as set out in the recent publication Excellence and Fairness : Achieving World Class Public Services. Sir Michael Barber reviewed the overall framework behind Excellence and Fairness and its rationale and the new professionalism (the importance of a productive relationship between more empowered citizens and the front-line workforce) whilst Ben Jupp discussed practical ways - drawing on international best practice - of translating this framework into the development of government policy and the management of services.

Public service agreements (PSAs):  Michael Kell of Deloitte & Touche LLP and Sascha Kiess of the National Audit Office (NAO) discussed the use of sanctions and rewards in the delivery of PSA objectives, based on research and analysis undertaken by Deloitte on behalf of the NAO. The seminar presented Deloitte's key findings in terms of the usage and effectiveness of sanctions and rewards in the UK public sector, and outlined  an approach to help PSA owners (and those advising them) decide whether the sanctions and rewards already being used in the delivery chain are appropriate, and how their effectiveness could be enhanced. 

Public service co-production Strategy Unit's Matthew Horne and Tom Shirley discussed the evidence and analysis from the SU project on co-production in public services, which expands on the vision in Excellence and Fairness published by the Cabinet Office in 2008. The work draws on lessons from across different public services and puts forward proposals for future policy - firstly, that service-users should have much greater control over the public money and decisions that affect their lives; secondly that public services should empower groups of citizens through peer support and self help; and finally that providers should be held to account for the relationships and partnerships they forge with the people who use their services.

Public Service Reform Sir Michael Barber, partner in McKinsey's Global Public Sector Practice and former head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, discussed the differing paradigms of public service reform.

Public Services - the Importance of Relationships Charles Leadbeater, visiting fellow at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Oxford University's Saïd Business School, led a seminar on public services. He discussed the crucial importance of relationships not only between providers and users but also between pupils, parents, patients, carers and others; the centrality of relationships to innovation; and mechanisms for supporting and promoting relationships such as personalised services and personal budgets.

(Creating) Public Value discussed the emerging concept of public value, which is a new way of thinking about the objectives and performance of government.

(Delivering) Public Value: How to give the people what they really want How to give the people what they really want. Diane Coyle, Managing Director of Enlightenment Economics, discussed work she is leading for the BBC Trust on defining and enhancing public value.


Relationships, service delivery and policy outcomes. John Ashcroft and Michael Schluter of the think tank, the Relationships Foundation, discussed the role of relationships in improving the delivery of public services and realising desired policy outcomes such as wellbeing and social inclusion. The seminar examined in particular the approaches that might be followed to identify the mechanisms through which relationships could influence service delivery and policy outcomes.

Restorative Justice an introduction to the practice of Restorative Justice.

Risk and Uncertainty: The Challenges for the Next Decade examined how the nature of risk might change in the future and the effect that change might have on how Government and the private sector will need to develop their risk management procedures.


(Life chances and reform of the primary) school curriculum [PDF, 89KB 27 pages]: Leon Feinstein, Professor of Education and Social Policy at the Institute of Education, University of London, discussed the role of the primary school curriculum in supporting child learning and wider development including impacts on life chances. The talk also addressed issues of educational practice such as assessment and testing, class size, Special Educational Needs and personalised learning.

Scotland's Futures Project Lesley Fraser and David Rennie from the Scottish Executive's Strategy Unit discussed the key findings of Scotland's Futures Project - a major piece of work which looks 20 years ahead to ask how Scotland might be best positioned for the future in international terms.

Skills and Society Martin Weale, Director of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, discussed the broad economic benefits that skills bring to society and whether particular types of skill are more important than others in contributing wider benefits.

Social, demographic and organisational trends - an analysis by Ben Page of Ipsos MORI of current and future changes in Britain.

Social Capital explored what is meant by social capital; reviewed recent trends in social capital in the UK and other countries; and examined the potential importance of social capital for a range of economic and social outcomes.

Social cohesion. David Halpern, Research Director at the Institute for Government discussed the importance of citizens' ability to get along with each other for economic performance, life chances and wellbeing. He looked at the key drivers of citizens' relationships with each other; what role government might play and policy options/measures that flowed from this - particularly in relation to the ‘economy of regard’ (the non-fiscal exchanges between citizens) and the linked idea of the an ‘affiliative state’ (policy solutions that go with the grain of citizens’ willingness to help each other). 

Social Exclusion: Patterns and Policy Challenges discussed patterns, trends and drivers of social exclusion; implications; and governments role and policy implication.

Small Business in the UK discussed the issues that small businesses may face in the future and considered how Government might assist in ensuring that this sector is given every opportunity to develop.

(Building) Strategic Capabilities - Sean Lusk, Head of Strategy Programmes and Research at the National School of Government, discussed the School's research programme into strategy in government and the wider public sector. The seminar focused on a number of case studies (including one from the Scottish Government, presented by Dr Maureen Bruce, Head of Performance; and one from DEFRA, presented by Jill Rutter, Director of Strategy and Sustainable Development) to analyse the challenges faced, what worked and the reasons why - to assess the challenges and opportunities facing policy makers.

Strategic Futures aimed to share and debate the results of research into some key futures issues.

(Anticipating) strategic surprise Futurist and business strategist Peter Schwartz discussed how it is that organisations of all kinds can find themselves on the wrong end of a major strategic surprise, what can be done to avoid this and some of the key drivers and trends already apparent that are likely to create tomorrow's inevitable surprises.


Technology, Innovation and Public Services discussed technological innovation in public services and how new technology can improve efficiency.

(Slivers of) Time Markets Wingham Rowan, Programme Director from Slivers of Time, discussed the programme to expand the employment opportunities of those able only to work restricted hours.

Trade policy leading economist and New York Times columnist, Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton University, discussed the effects of the growth in international trade on the distribution of incomes and the potential implications for policy.

Transport: Trends and Challenges looked at how the nature of transport might change in the future and the effect that change might have on issues such as congestion, the environment and civic engagement.


Valuation of non-market goods Asking the question “what value should policymakers place on good health, the environment and other public goods?”, Professor Paul Dolan of Imperial College London discussed the role of subjective well-being in informing policy decisions and outlined some of the ways in which it might be measured for policy purposes.


Workforce Development aimed was to develop an understanding of the possible directions open to the UK workforce in future years.