Many ‘Delivery Units’ fail to live up to expectations

New research finds that many ‘delivery units’, a Blair-era innovation that’s become a multi-million-pound industry exported around the globe, are quietly being axed almost as quickly as they’re being created.

Published today by the Institute for Government, ‘Tracking Delivery’ says the delivery unit model can be effective, but must be properly set up if they are going to live up to the global hype.

Delivery units are small teams that gather and analyse performance data on a single issue and report directly to a head of state. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set up a delivery unit to restore public trust in government institutions and Sierra Leone’s President set up a new delivery unit to revive the economy after the Ebola epidemic.

Governments and international NGOs alike hand out huge contracts to consultancies to help create new units. They now support heads of government in some 25 countries. The past two years alone have seen them spring up in Costa Rica, Ghana, Kenya, New South Wales, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Serbia.

However, many units that were once announced with great fanfare are now being axed. Eight have closed in the last two years alone, including one close to home in Wales.

But simply abolishing them isn’t the answer, because they do help political leaders understand what is happening on the ground. In the UK, David Cameron axed the original delivery unit (created under Tony Blair in 2001) only to reinstate it in 2012 when he realised how crucial it was to an effective premiership.

Dr Jen Gold, report author, said:

“Delivery units are now a remarkably popular government innovation with genuinely global appeal. But it is important to realise that there is a growing list of countries where they haven’t lived up to political leaders’ expectations. By looking at where some have gone wrong, this report offers specific advice for governments who want to see their units succeed.”

The report makes six recommendations for a successful delivery unit including the need for strong political backing, a tightly defined remit and the right hiring strategy.


The Institute for Government