International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index 2019 FAQ

Background and context

1. What is InCiSE?
The InCiSE Index is an exciting initiative which enables a country to discover how well their civil service is performing compared with others, and to learn from each other.
2. What does the InCiSE acronym mean?
InCiSE = the International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index.
3. What does InCiSE seek to do?

InCiSE draws together a wealth of existing data which is already available globally to provide information about how effectively civil services are performing relative to others.

4. Why does civil service effectiveness matter?

An effective civil service plays an important role in driving forward a country’s progress and prosperity. An ineffective one can act as brake on these things.

5. Doesn’t something like InCiSE exist already?

Assessing civil service effectiveness is not straightforward. Previous initiatives have sought to develop measurement tools with varying results. A number of other initiatives also combine assessments of civil service functions with broader assessments of the political aspects of government. Nevertheless, there are many existing data surveys and indexes available globally that could be pulled together to provide a realistic and comprehensive set of information on a regular basis to look at how civil services around the world are operating. This is what InCiSE aims to do.

6. Who is InCiSE aimed at?
So far InCiSE has been of interest to a wide audience, most notably governments (especially senior leaders and civil service training and research institutes), as well as think tanks, academics and civil society organisations with a strong interest in governance issues. Specialist media has also shown interest in the InCiSE results.
7. Who developed InCiSE?

InCiSE is a collaboration between the Blavatnik School of Government and the Institute for Government, supported by the UK Civil Service, and has received funding from the Open Society Foundations.

8. Who was consulted about its development?

InCiSE has been the subject of a literature review and a wide range of experts were consulted about its development, before and after the pilot edition in 2017. The InCiSE methodology and approach were also the subject of an international peer review process in 2017, as well as an additional academic review of the methodology updates for the 2019 edition. Country results were provided in an anonymous form to ensure that the reviewers focused on the InCiSE methodology and approach.

9. Does InCiSE measure the performance of the whole of the civil service?

InCiSE is focused on the central government civil service functions only, at a national/federal level. It does not seek to measure service delivery outcomes for citizens, for example healthcare and education. This is because effectiveness is often driven by other parts of the public sector as well. Nor does it seek to measure the effectiveness of sub-national civil services (eg. those of state/regional governments or municipalities/local government).

10. How many countries does InCiSE cover?

The 2019 InCiSE results cover 38 countries spread across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia. Country coverage is determined by whether sufficient data is available. The coverage in 2017 was 31 countries.

11. Where can I find the InCiSE Index reports and results?

InCiSE information is available via two partners’ websites: the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University and the Institute for Government. There are two reports: a results report which presents high level country results data; and a technical report which provides details about the InCiSE data and methodology. Interactive country graphics are also available on the two websites.

Methodology and approach

12. Why develop an Index?

InCiSE has been developed as an Index to provide a comparative assessment and focus attention on country performance. The Index allows countries to see, at a glance, how their civil services are performing compared to others and then learn from each other.

13. How is the InCiSE Index compiled?

InCiSE begins by defining the core characteristics of an effective, central government civil service. To do this, it assesses effectiveness based on two interrelated elements:

  • Core functions: these are the key things that civil services deliver in each country (‘what’).
  • Attributes: these are the main characteristics or traits across every part of a civil service which are important drivers of the ways in which core functions are delivered (‘how’).
14. How many InCiSE indicators are there?

The InCiSE framework identifies 11 core function and 6 attribute indicators. Because of gaps in existing data, to date it has not been possible to measure all of these indicators. So far 8 of the 11 core functions have been measured, and 4 of the 6 attributes.

15. Have there been any changes in the range of indicators measured in the 2019 Index?

For the 2019 edition a new core function indicator was introduced – procurement. However, another indicator – social security administration – which was included in 2017 has not been measured for the 2019 edition. This is mainly because of feedback during the Pilot phase about data reliability. Alternative data sources have still to be identified for this indicator. For the attribute indicators, 4 out of 6 have been measured, as in 2017.

16. Have the same metrics been used for the 2019 Index?

Most of the 76 metrics in the 2017 Pilot edition have continued to be used in the 2019 model. Of the 70 metrics in the 2017 Index that are directly comparable to the 2019 edition, 33 have had updates which have been incorporated in the InCiSE model. A further 46 metrics have been incorporated, bringing the total number of metrics to 116.

17. How much data is InCiSE able to collect about a country’s civil service?

InCiSE covers a very wide range of core functions and attributes. It therefore produces a wealth of data about each country’s civil service that can be used to help improve performance. Having a large array of data should also enable countries to learn from each other across a wide range of subject areas.

18. How recent is the data?

The 2019 Index uses the most recently available data as at 30 November 2018. Some InCiSE metrics are collected annually, some are biennial or longer, while others are ad hoc in their repetition. As a result, while InCiSE uses the most recently available data, some metrics may use data that does not accurately reflect the current situation.

19. How comprehensive is the existing data?

For most indicators, all 38 countries have generally good data quality. However, for 4 indicators (capabilities, crisis and risk management, digital services and procurement), a small number of countries have no available data at all. The UK achieved the highest overall data quality score, followed closely by five other countries – Italy, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Slovenia.

Countries with the highest missing data points will inevitably have a larger proportion of estimated metrics and this should be borne in mind when interpreting results.

20. How reliable is the data?

InCiSE uses existing data which have been published and quality assured by the relevant data owners.

21. How reliable is the estimated data that has been used for some indicators?

Estimated data has been compiled using a standard and well recognised methodology. Full details are set out in the InCiSE Technical Report.

22. Is it right to compare countries with missing data to those with the full set?

The Index uses standard approaches to estimate missing data and is transparent where metric estimation has been required. The degree to which estimated data is used to produce a country’s indicator score should be borne in mind when interpreting results.

23. How will you address missing data in future?

Data collection plans by other organisations may help to fill some of the data gaps in future. In other areas additional data collection may be needed. We will strive to close these data gaps as InCiSE evolves, as well as actively support others’ data collection efforts.


24. What are the headline results from the 2019 Index?
The UK is ranked top overall. New Zealand is ranked 2nd and Canada is ranked 3rd.
25. Are there any performance trends that can be observed?

Some broad trends can be observed. For example:

  • No single country consistently appears in the Top 5 positions for every indicator, although there are some strong all-round performers.
  • As with the 2017 pilot edition, the four Commonwealth countries in the Index (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK) appear in the Top 5.
  • The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) are also placed highly, with all but Iceland in the Top 10.
  • The remaining countries of northern and western Europe tend to rank more highly than countries in southern and eastern Europe.
  • Countries from outside Europe are distributed throughout the Index.
26. The high scoring countries seem to be mainly from Anglo-Saxon and Commonwealth countries. Does this mean that the methodology works in their favour?
We are not aware of aspects of the InCiSE methodology that might favour particular countries or government systems. Looking ahead, we will continue to test the InCiSE methodology to ensure that it is as objective and robust as possible.
27. Does the InCiSE methodology take account of federal government systems?
We are not aware of aspects of the InCiSE methodology that might favour or disadvantage federal government systems. Looking ahead, we will continue to test the InCiSE methodology to ensure it is as objective and robust as possible. We will also consider ways in which InCiSE can identify and learn from the strengths of different government systems.
28. If a country performs well does that mean they don’t need make improvements?

No. When analysing results, it is important to keep in mind that all country scores are relative to others in the Index, not an absolute measure. This means that even where a country which scores well in a particular area they may still have performance issues. The InCiSE Index provides a comparative assessment, highlighting opportunities to learn from others.

29. Is there a risk that lower ranking countries could feel demotivated or might even dispute the results?

It is important to bear in mind that InCiSE data is not new. It is drawn from a wide range of existing international data sets which have already been published, many of them on an annual basis. Countries should therefore be aware of many of the results already.

The results report highlights the huge diversity of scores and performance across all countries, including within specific indicators. All countries can learn from each other no matter where they are on the overall Index.

Next steps

30. How do you plan to improve InCiSE?
The main tasks over the next 12 months will include: further expanding the country coverage; developing InCiSE as a practical learning and development tool, including by enhancing the interactive website; continuing to strengthen data collection and fill gaps; and targeted outreach work.
31. Can InCiSE be expanded to less developed countries given data collection is likely to be challenging in many of these contexts?

Expanding InCiSE to less developed countries is a key project goal. The project is exploring the feasibility of this and we have already completed two in-depth country case studies to inform this important strand of work.

32. How can I provide feedback on InCiSE?

We welcome feedback on all InCiSE content. We would also like to hear how InCiSE data is being used and whether it was helpful. Contact: