Whole of Government

Status: Ongoing


Better outcomes for communities, children and families require the joining up of practice, policies and systems. CES works to strengthen the links between policy makers, service commissioners and practitioners. In 2014, CES conducted a review of whole of government work in a range of jurisdictions across the island of Ireland and internationally, to learn more about different approaches to joining up policies, practices and systems.  

Whole of government work may also be known as joined up government, or cross departmental work. CES describes a whole of government approach as one where government departments and agencies use joined up structures and processes to eliminate silos and achieve seamless government. Whole of government approaches usually involve connecting up policies and putting arrangements in place to manage organisational, financial or service boundaries. Recent policy developments in Ireland such as the Civil Service Renewal Plan 2014, the Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016 and the Northern Ireland Programme for Government 2011-2015 have all prioritised whole of government work.

This project gathers evidence about ‘what works’ in developing whole of government approaches, and how the study of implementation can help policy makers undertaking this work. 

Overview of CES work

The CES Primer on Implementing Whole of Government Approaches considers the benefits of whole of government work, some of the challenges to working this way, and some of the lessons learned from the examples featured. The Primer also highlights how the study of implementation can help policy makers in planning, operationalising and measuring the outcomes of whole of government work. A briefing paper summarises the main messages emerging from the Primer, considerations for policy makers, and outlines what needs to be in place when planning whole of government approaches.  

The Primer was launched in Belfast in June 2015 at an event featuring a keynote address by Sir Peter Housden, then Permanent Secretary with the Scottish government. During his address, Sir Peter spoke about some of the challenges in implementing whole of government work, and some of the learning from the Scottish experience of developing joined up policy and services.