Geodemographics Blog

Steve Mead: Listening to Change


The Office for National Statistics is changing.

Which is quite a claim for any government organisation - so how can we prove it?

By reforming the way we communicate and engage and developing a more targeted approach to engagement to underpin our Better Statistics, Better Decisions (BSBD) strategy.

And by listening to our users to better understand what they want, and so help us improve our understanding of what society, and the country, needs.

Although the work had already started, the findings of the Bean review of economic statistics and the launch of BSBD gave us the added momentum to demonstrate our commitment to put our user’s needs at the heart of everything we do and demonstrate the value we can add to the decision-making process.

The next step on the path was a review of our business priorities in March. This gave our users, across all sectors, the chance to feed back directly to us. We want this to be ongoing, so there will be further opportunities.

We are also listening to our own staff. They have day-to-day contact, so they know our customers better than anybody. They have first-hand insight into users' needs and what they like, or don’t like, about ONS.

The information that we get back from this exercise will be incredibly valuable. It will give us the foundations for our business planning. In turn, it will allow us to present the evidence and provide the advice and services that we know users need.

There is no doubt that improving our insight will improve our services.

ONS is also going through a period of internal change: from our IT infrastructure to our people; from Electronic Data Collection and online business surveys, to the use of administrative data in the Census and the creation of the new Data Science Campus; from the way we present statistics to the quality of them. It is all being improved.

We will be helpful, innovative, capable, efficient and professional.

This has to be a staged but consistent and speedy process of change. We are giving our staff the tools they need to support the strategy as advisers and advocates for our users. Our principle stakeholder engagement team is now the User Insight and Engagement team and they are working closely with colleagues in business areas across ONS to co-ordinate the conversations we are having with our customers, to enhance our understanding of what they are telling us and identify the issues that matter.

We are building our administrative support for the Statistics User Forum and the StatsUserNet website as a way of contributing to the broader user community. In addition we are drawing information from existing channels by listening to people’s concerns when they contact us, or when they post comments to social media.

What will this all mean for our users - and us?

For ONS it will allow us to further prove the value of our statistics and analysis, and to ensure that the decisions affecting the country are made on the basis of robust data. As John Pullinger, the National Statistician writes in BSBD, ‘our insight will have earned us a seat at the table where the most important decisions are made’. This is central to our mission of helping the country make better decisions on the basis of better statistics.

For users, it will mean having reassurance and the evidence they can trust in a world of post truth and alternative facts.

For more information about our engagement work, please email us on:

Steve Mead is a member of the User Intelligence and Engagement team within the ONS Communication Division. In the past he has been involved in the Neighbourhood Statistics website, the Census and a range of other engagement and communication projects, working with colleagues in many organisations across the public and private sector.

You can contact Steve via

Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the MRS Census and Geodemographic Group unless otherwise specifically stated.

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