As we write this, your CSW team are surrounded by moving boxes, preparing to shift our official HQ a few miles along the banks of the Thames to Millbank Tower. Among those boxes are several hundred – 322 to be precise – neatly ordered issues of Civil Service World and its predecessor title Whitehall and Westminster World.
When we launched 322 issues and 19 years ago, we aimed to help government leaders communicate across departmental divides – this was back before such things as all-staff newsletters and cross-government blogs, let alone more notorious communication methods such as Twitter and WhatsApp.
Over the years, government has changed and we have changed with it, moving from a fortnightly newspaper to a daily news website and a monthly publication. Now, we’re changing again. Not the daily news – you can still rely on us for that, and you can get it straight to your inbox with our free newsletter as well. But the magazine has morphed into a new, quarterly publication – and the first issue is in your hands now.
The change to a quarterly reflects our central mission: to help senior civil servants in their professional lives with a range of informed and informative articles. Our online daily news and analysis aim to keep you bang-up-to-date with the issues and stories that matter, but we wanted to create a space for more long-form pieces, practical case studies and in-depth articles that step back from the day-to-day agenda and offer a chance to reflect on all aspects of a civil servant’s job.
In the new magazine you’ll find sections exploring some of those different aspects, from parliament and constitutional work to digital and data, a regular policy focus and articles on the complexities of being a leader in government.
Though our policy focus this month is security & policing, another theme has also emerged throughout the issue: challenge.
Speaking truth to power is a central part of the civil servant’s role – or, at least, it should be – but in the current climate of political turbulence and ministerial distrust, it can be hard to offer effective challenge. We look at this question in a number of ways across the magazine. In our cover interview, for example, Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft (p.28) reflects on the challenge that his team gave to the controversial Rwanda deportation scheme before it became official government policy. Elsewhere, digital leader Paul Maltby (p.72) discusses the times when challenge is a bad thing (hint: when it’s done just to have something to say), and former perm sec Dame Una O’Brien uses her new column to suggest ways leaders can create a culture that encourages challenge (p.17). On page 80, we also have the reflections of a former senior civil servant on the importance of standing your ground with truthful but unpalatable information.
We hope the revamped CSW will enlighten and entertain you, offering food for thought and perhaps a few practical nuggets that will make your job easier.
Like any good delivery team, we will be learning as we go and improving our product as we gather user feedback so we would love to hear yours through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@CSWnews)
Read the spring issue of CSW here