Gavin Freeguard, Petr Bouchal, Robyn Munro, Caragh Nimmo, Emily Andrews, Julian McCrae, Andrew Murphy, IfG communications team

Organisation and country:

Institute for Government, UK


This visualisation shows the composition of different UK government departments by grade – from most senior (SCS, or Senior Civil Service) to most junior (AA and AO, Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants). It shows some departments – DECC, DfID, Health, DCMS, HMT, Cabinet Office – have a high percentage of staff in senior grades, while others have staff concentrated in the more junior, administrative grades.

It is just one of more than 120 visualisations we developed for Whitehall Monitor 2014, our annual report showing the size, shape and performance of government in the UK. As well as an annual report, we publish more frequent blogposts (and tweets) when government data is released – the original version of this visualisation was first published in this way.

Our target audiences are people working in government departments, politicians in government and opposition, journalists, civil society groups interested in Whitehall, the open data community and anyone interested in what government in the UK looks like and how it works – we see our role as taking the data published by government and turning it into meaningful information through graphics and analysis. This visualisation – on a potentially dry subject – has been retweeted over 100 times (from the Institute for Government account and elsewhere) and drove lots of traffic to our project and to the supporting blogpost – it was our second most-read blogpost of the year after our government reshuffle live-blog, where we published charts updated in real time.

Communication strategy:

This visualisation is part of a much wider communication strategy for our Whitehall Monitor project. Whitehall Monitor aims to improve the way government uses and publishes data, improve the way government data is used by others and turn the data published by (and about) government into something meaningful and useful. We want to give our audiences a better sense of what resources government has, how it uses those resources (and how well), and what impact government has on the real world.

The whole Whitehall Monitor project also forms part of the Institute for Government’s wider objective which is to improve the effectiveness of government. By better understanding what government looks like, how it operates and how successfully it performs through data analysis and presentation, we can get a much better handle on how effective government is, which departments are performing well (and are therefore examples to others), where improvements can be made and communicate all this to our audiences.

Whitehall Monitor consists of a number of different products:

  • The annual report, a narrative-driven compilation which gives both a snapshot of government, how things have changed, what challenges the next UK government will face and an assessment of government transparency.
  • Blogposts, giving topical analysis as and when data is published.
  • Live-blogs, such as live-blogging the 2014 government reshuffle in charts which we were updating as announcements were made.
  • Tweets, from the Institute for Government and from team members, which allow people to get a sense of topline messages and key points as well as driving them to our deeper analysis.
  • Subject repository pages, which link to the appropriate annual rpoert chapter, latest blogposts and all of the underlying data for our analysis (allowing others to reuse it and ensuring our own working is transparent). 
  • Oral presentations, such as our Whitehall Monitor 2014 launch, a version of which we have also presented to the Cabinet Office’s Open Data User Group. 

Uptake and impact:

The particular visualisation on departmental grades certainly drove more traffic to our website, and introduced a lot of people to Whitehall Monitor as a project.

A number of our products also allow us to link to other aspects of Institute for Government work – notably the reshuffle live-blog, where we referred to press notices, other posts and other reports about reshuffles.   More people are reading our work – though a variety of channels – than when we published Whitehall Monitor bulletins as PDFs.

From both statistics and feedback, we know that people within our target audiences are reading and using the work. For example, Full Fact have used our data to accompany one of their stories; a number of government organisations are using our visuals in their own presentations; and our work has led to corrections and changes in the way government data is published.