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Why should I enter?

Office team learning together

Gain new skills and expertise

Researching and developing a data project, and presenting your findings to senior leaders from across government, you’ll develop new skills in fields such as digital project management, data technologies, evidence-gathering, business planning and public speaking.

Office team working together

Make new contacts

Joining an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental team with colleagues from a range of organisations, disciplines, roles and seniorities, during the project you’ll build relationships with partners across government and beyond.

Health worker talking to a patient

Make a difference

We aim to find smart, deliverable ideas; collect the evidence to demonstrate their value; and secure the backing of senior leaders, giving them the best possible chance of implementation – so you could see your project rolled out, helping to improve the tools used by public servants and the services received by citizens.

A UK entry presenting their idea

Raise your profile

Public servants will pitch ideas to the judges, champions and sponsors, giving presentations and answering questions. Whether you’re submitting an idea or joining a team, the program’s champions will write to your manager to thank them for your contribution to the project.

Information for participants

The Data Challenge has two sets of goals:

  1. We want to draw out public servants’ ideas on how government could make better use of data, providing the best of those ideas with the resources, expertise, guidance and leadership required to move towards implementation.
  2. We want to support the career development of participating public servants, helping you develop your skills, experience, and contacts across government. 

It is open to all serving federal public service employees: you can submit an idea, apply to join one of those teams, or both.

Office team gathered around a computer

We are keen to hear ideas from public servants of every role, organization, discipline and seniority. While digital and data specialists are encouraged to apply, you don’t need technical skills or knowledge to take part: if your idea is a good one, we’ll build a team round you with the required expertise. Indeed, we believe that staff in fields such as frontline service delivery and policymaking will have lots of great ideas for how to make better use of data: the Data Challenge is designed to surface those ideas, with the ultimate goal of making concrete improvements in the public service’s operations and results.

Similarly, we are open to all kinds of ideas. Your idea might, for example, focus on improving public servants’ tools, departmental systems, the quality of policymaking and evaluation, operational efficiency, or the provision of services to the public. And it might operate by, for example, linking up existing public service datasets, finding new ways to gather data from outside government, applying a new technology to public service data assets, or simply adding new functionality to back office systems. Ideas can operate at almost any scale, from relatively minor technical improvements to the development of new services and systems.

To get a feel for the kinds of ideas that made the most progress last year, check out the 2022-23 longlist. You might also want to take a look at the UK’s Civil Service Data Challenge: on its website www.datachallenge.uk, you can browse the full list of ideas submitted in its first year of operation, view the teams’ pitches, and watch a video shot at the Final.

The only kinds of ideas that sit outside the Challenge’s scope are major, public service-wide structural and strategic reforms: these agendas are managed by central policy bodies, and such changes can only be delivered as part of an integrated, long term, cross-government plan. Our focus is on finding practical ways to improve individual tools, services and organizations.

Joining a team

As well as people providing their own ideas, we are seeking public servants to join the teams formed around those ideas selected for development. Here too we would like to find people working in all roles, organisations, disciplines and seniorities.: teams will need a good mix of skills, experience and contacts to take their ideas forward. Once ideas have been included in the program, they will become the responsibility of the whole team – with members sharing the responsibilities and rewards equally.

Once the ideas ‘longlist’ has been decided, we will identify the capabilities and connections required to develop each idea. At this point, we’ll get in touch with applicants and build a set of suitable teams.

Approvals and time commitments

The program partners anticipate that public service employer bodies will provide participating staff with the time required to undertake research and development work during working hours, along with the flexibility to attend key program events. The time required is expected to total about two days per month for the duration of your participation.

Before applying to join the program, you will need your manager’s permission. Please direct them to the page Information for managers.

Applications for the 2023-2024 programme are now closed – thank you to all those who submitted an idea or volunteered to get involved.