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Don’t Stop Believin’

Ami Treharne

The Connected Open Government Statistics (COGS), GSS Data project in old money, has started its new ‘Journey’ this month and we wanted to update on what has happened and what we are doing over the next few months. We fought hard over the Summer to ensure the project continues and, although it was tough we’ve never wavered in our belief that this is the right project to transform and distribute our statistics.

The Summer also saw us planning and implementing our recruitment campaign. I have to admit it’s immense. We received over 229 applications for our 23 posts!! I’ll admit that the sifting, interviewing and admin was intense but it was far less stressful thanks to all of the people who helped. We didn’t fill all the advertised roles but we have picked up a strong group of people to help drive this work.

We’re trying a bit of an untested approach for the ONS projects. We offered the roles to anywhere in the UK rather than specify our normal sites. Why? It’s been difficult to recruit some of the roles we need into the ONS triangle (Newport, Titchfield and London) in the past. We don’t have the luxury of time to try, fail and try again to recruit and get people in. We know there’s real talent out there and we wanted to tap into this rather than expecting a different outcome from doing the same thing.

The project has been used to this ‘un-located’ (I’m coining a new word here) approach for a while but only in a small scale and saw expanding on this as an opportunity. Time will tell I guess. There has been interest in other parts of ONS for this kind of recruitment and our HR teams are shaping contracts for these types of roles.

It’s fair to say, the individuals we’ve invited to join our project have impressed me so much in their first few weeks in post. We arranged an away-day in Birmingham at the end of September, which brought the team together. Most of them had only started that week or the week before so we didn’t even have a virtual appreciation of each other before this point. At the end of the first day everyone sat around talking like they’d known each other for months. It was great to see.

The next few months are going to be exciting. We are rebuilding all of our existing pipelines to match our new approach and align everything we’ve done, started analysing our new disability dataset family and build out our trade portal and expanding our housing sector data families.

Our aspiration is that we have autonomous teams that can simply drop in and can research, document, validate, build and publish new dataset families without blinking. When this happens we will be in a position to look at the future service design for this work. How will it work, how will it be managed, where will it live, etc.

It’s going to be an exciting few months. We will ramp up the engagement as we deliver more and more. We will likely see some guest blogs from our partners Swirrl describing their experiences.


Darren Barnes
Darren is Head of Data Publishing at the Office for National Statistics.