The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (April 2021)

What will the public services we use look like in the future? Our new monthly digest - 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗧𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁  - pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.

Covid-19, vaccines & lockdowns

So Slow on the Jab, We Need War Effort to End PandemicInstitute of Public Affairs (Australia, March 2021)

In this article by researcher Mattew Lesh, it is argued that Australia’s relatively slow roll-out of the vaccine is leaving it in “Covid purgatory”. The article includes calls for greater investment in vaccine production, changes to the roll-out strategy, and increased transparency around the use of vaccines.

Vaccinations Are Private BusinessCato Institute (US, April 2021)

In this short blog post, it is argued that although ‘vaccine passports’ might be a good policy, they should be left to private companies to implement. “A government‐​mandated vaccine passport will generate hostility and backlash – as the debate over mask mandates illustrates”, the researchers argue.

Lockdown needs innovation, not just risk management Maxim Institute (New Zealand, April 2021)

In this blog its argued that, despite the success of its mitigation policies, the New Zealand Government has not taken the opportunity to “stress test” lockdown processes and partner with innovators to ensure we could avoid some of the worst problems of lockdown – “lost productivity and queues.”

Decline in Trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention During the COVID-19 PandemicRAND Corporation (US, April 2021)

Based on public survey data, this report examines changes in levels of trust in the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) between May and October 2020. This is done particularly with reference to the changing challenges the CDC has faced throughout the pandemic – from testing and communications around mitigation strategies, to the roll-out vaccines.

How to avoid a coronavirus vaccine war Institute for Government (UK, April)

In this article, Institute for Government Director Bronwen Maddox argues that the UK should be prepared to forego its claim to some vaccines to avoid escalating tensions with the EU.

This is the right time for the government to establish a coronavirus inquiryInstitute for Government (UK, March 2021)

In this short piece, the UK think tank calls for Boris Johnson to drop his opposition to beginning a Covid-19 inquiry immediately.

Do Vaccine Brand Preferences Exist?Public Policy Forum (Canada, March 2021)

The Public Policy Forum analyses data to assess if Canadian’s have a preference when it comes to the four vaccines approved by the country’s regulator. Amongst its findings is that Canadians prefer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to the one produced for AstraZeneca.

Post Pandemic PlacesDEMOS (UK, March 2021)

Based on significant polling and focus group research, this research finds that areas with more remote working are likely to see higher levels of local spending, suggesting that hybrid working is key to the Government’s plans for regeneration after the pandemic. The paper finds that 36% of people plan to spend more money locally than they did before the pandemic. Among people required to work from home, this rises to 47%. As such, the think tank calls on the UK Government to promote remote working as an economic regeneration tool.

A safe return to the workplaceTrades Union Congress (UK, April 2021)

This report, by the UK’s overarching body for trade unions, sets out the steps ministers and employers should take to keep people safe at work and to prevent spikes in workplace infections. 

How are Canadian businesses adapting to the Pandemic? Brookfield Institute (Canada, April 2021)

Using Statistic Canada's Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), the Brookfield Institute analyses business trends throughout the pandemic, such as remote working, online sales, and employment and skills demands.

Do We Still Have a Consensus Around COVID-19Public Policy Forum (Canada, April 2021)

Despite news headlines which emphasise non-compliance and dissatisfaction with the Covid-19 response in Canada, this analysis of data finds Canadians broadly agree on the risks of the disease, what measures should be taken to fight it and how much income support individuals and businesses should receive.

Counting the Cost of Australia’s Delayed Vaccine RolloutMckell Institute (Australia, April 2021)

The Australian Government promised 4 million vaccinations would be distributed by the end of March 2021 and that all Australians would have at least one dose of the vaccine by October 2021. The rollout, this report argues, has been severely delayed, with the Prime Minister now rescinding these commitments. Quantifying the economic impact of Australia’s “delayed” vaccine rollout, this paper claims the risk of further lockdowns in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne is AUD$123 million a day.

Covid passportsInstitute for Government (UK, April 2021)

Raising eight key questions, this paper looks at the central issues facing the UK Government ahead of the planned roll-out of vaccine passports.


A State of Preparedness: How Government can build resilience to civil emergencies – Reform (UK, March 2021)

This research highlights deficiencies in the way governments anticipate, prepares for and responds to emergencies, and puts forward a range of solutions to help the UK Government build long-term resilience.

Responding to shocks: 10 lessons for government Institute for Government (UK, April 2021)

Drawing on interviews with public servants and politicians put under pressure by the Covid pandemic and the fallout of the EU referendum, this report looks at how well the UK Government anticipates shocks, organises itself to responds to crises, and then is held accountable for the decisions it takes.

Health & social care

Enrolment in nongroup health insurance by income group Brookings Institute (US, March 2020)

US healthcare coverage is generally provided by an employer or a public program like Medicare or Medicaid. However, some people are unable to access coverage through these programs, and therefore seek ‘nongroup coverage’. This is obtained either through the ‘Marketplaces’ established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or outside these ‘Marketplaces’. This highly-detailed statistical analysis identifies who requires ‘nongroup healthcare coverage’, how enrolment in these schemes varies by income, and how many people remain unenrolled.

Structured markets: Disciplining medical care with regulated competition American Enterprise Institute (March 2021)

This research argues that medical care cannot be delivered “efficiently or equitably” through an unregulated market, but argues that a blend of regulation and private incentives can drive out waste and improve outcomes more reliably than episodic political interventions.

State of health and care: The NHS Long Term Plan after Covid-19 – Institute for Public Policy Research (UK, March 2021)

Outlining the disruption of Covid-19 to the NHS Long Term Plan and across several major health conditions, this analysis recommends six changes to healthcare in the UK to ‘build back better’.

A post-pandemic plan for the healthcare workforce – Institute for Public Policy Research (UK, March 2021)

This paper aims to resolve the tension between ‘building back better’ in health and care services, and the immediate workforce constraints. It argues that the government should develop a plan to support staff who are struggling, retain those who considering leaving, and attract new people to join the sector.

Covid-19 one year on: how can the health and care system recover? The King’s Fund (UK, March 2021)

In this article, King’s Fund CEO Richard Murray sets out the need for the health and care system to learn lessons from the pandemic and sets out the organisation’s intention to publish a framework for how a public inquiry should approach this.

Time to update: Moving away from legacy IT in healthcare Reform (UK, April 2021)

In this write-up of a ‘hackathon’ event, Reform analyse the problem of outdated, ‘legacy IT’ systems in the delivery of healthcare services in the UK. In particular, they look at three policy areas where legacy IT could create issues – risk; people, skills and ways of working; value for money.

Shaping the future of digital technology in health and social care The King’s Fund (UK, April 2020)

This latest report from health specialists The King’s Fund pulls together evidence on how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, smartphones, wearable devices and the internet of things are being used within care settings around the world. The report also looks back at recent developments in digital technology in the health and care system before the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as how digital technologies have been used during the pandemic, in England in particular. 

The next steps for aged care: Forging a clear path after the Royal Commission Grattan Institute (Australia, April)

Extra funding, universal provision and an aged care levy on taxable income are all recommendations of this report on the future of care for older people in Australia.

Reducing Hospital Spending: Three Policy Options RAND Corporation (US, April 2021)

The authors analyse three policy options that have been proposed as ways to reduce hospital prices paid by private health plans: regulating prices, improving price transparency, and decreasing concentration in hospital markets to enhance price competition. Of the three options, the report concludes, regulating prices would reduce hospital spending the most.

Barriers to Price and Quality Transparency in Health Care MarketsRAND Corporation (US, April 2021)

According to this research, consumers of health care in the United States often lack information on the actual prices of the care they receive and can also lack access to information about the quality of their care. In this paper, RAND researchers bring together information on how health care prices are set, price variation in health care markets, barriers to price and quality transparency for consumers, and the extent to which price and quality information is used in marketing efforts.

Employment & skills

Uneven steps: Changes in youth unemployment and study since the onset of Covid-19 Resolution Foundation (UK, April 2021)

In this analysis of UK Government data, the Resolution Foundation finds that in education, skills and employment, younger people have borne the brunt of the impact of Covid-19 and its consequent lockdowns. As such, the report author argues that the UK Government “must build avenues to help young people into the workplace; provide them with support to stay in – or return to – education and training; and work with employers and employment support providers to tackle bias and discrimination in the hiring process and career progression more generally.”

Finding the right skills for the civil serviceInstitute for Government (UK, April 2021)

This paper examines the skills that the civil service has and those it needs to meet the demands of government in the future. It considers how the civil service workforce is managed and reviews progress made in recent years.


Optimising Australia’s Permanent Skilled Migration Committee for Economic Development of Australia (March 2021)

This research finds that 1 in 4 skilled migrants are working in a job beneath their skill level, to the detriment of these individuals, their families, and the economy. The paper makes some recommendations on how to solve this issue.

An Executive Order Worth $100 Billion: The Impact of an Immigration Ban’s Announcement on Fortune 500 Firms’ Valuation – Cato Institute (US, March 2021)

In this report, researchers analyse the impact of Donald Trump’s executive order restricting individuals from entering the US on a nonimmigrant work visa.  Nonimmigrant visas are primarily granted in response to demand from firms and are both employment‐​based and temporary. They outline the immediate economic impact of this executive order on the largest U.S. firms by estimating the “cumulative average abnormal stock returns for Fortune 500 firms” following the policy announcement. They conclude that the shock on the day of the policy announcement eroded the market valuation of the 471 companies in their sample by an estimated $100 billion.

Stuck in the middle with you – Social Market Foundation (UK, March 2021)

In response to the UK Government’s proposals in its 'New Plan for Immigration', this report argues that the UK should amend its existing immigration rules to allow safe and legal routes for more people to enter the UK on humanitarian grounds who can more easily integrate and make economic contributions to the UK.

Artificial Intelligence-based Capabilities for the European Border and Coast GuardRAND Europe (March 2021)

This study looks at how the European Border and Coast Guard can maximise the opportunity provided by AI to support the management of the European Union's external borders. It provides an overview of the opportunities, requirements and barriers for integrating AI in border security.

Breaking the citizenship taboo in the UAE – Middle East Institute (UAE, April 2021)

This short paper examines the UAE’s recent announcement that some expatriates to the country can now become Emirati citizens without giving up their original nationality. It looks at how the change in policy is impacting the UAE’s ability to attract talent post-Covid-19 and the broader cultural and legal considerations regarding citizenship in the UAE.

Prisons & criminal justice

Applying Procedural Justice in Community SupervisionUrban Institute (US, March 2021)

Procedural justice is a “framework for authority figures to treat people with fairness and respect”, which this report claims can improve probation supervision and core supervision outcomes. Analysing a series of data points, this paper claims that “preliminary indications” show “participating in procedural justice training may make probation officers’ treatment of people under supervision fairer and more respectful and improve supervision outcomes”. 

COVID-19 Testing in State Prisons – Council on Criminal Justice (US, April 2021)

This report, prepared for the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, studies 32 US prisons and their response to Covid-19. It claims to find that “more testing, early testing, and early mass testing” may have been strategies that helped some states achieve lower rates of Covid-19 mortality in prisons.

Transforming Juvenile Probation: Restructuring Probation Terms to Promote SuccessUrban Institute (US, April 2021)

This guide provides a framework for how to define and structure youth probation terms to reduce the harm inherent in probation supervision, leverage community partnerships, and build community capacity to wrap youth and their households with any supports, resources, and services needed to promote success. 

Organizational Justice in Corrections SettingsUrban Institute (US, April 2021)

Examining the idea of organisational justice – the concept of fairness in process, outcomes and treatment in work – this report looks at how staff in correctional facilities (for example, prisons) treat inmates based on their own experiences of ‘justice’ in employment terms.

Outcome Evaluation of the National Model for Liaison and DiversionRAND Corporation (US, April 2021)

Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services identify and support people in the criminal justice system who have vulnerabilities such as mental and physical health issues and learning disabilities. RAND's evaluation of the National Model for L&D was conducted at 27 sites in England from both the healthcare and criminal justice sectors. The research found that there was no evidence of an impact on offending, but also no evidence that outcomes became worse due to L&D referral.

Home Detention Curfew (HDC): Expanding eligibility and improving efficiency Prison Reform Trust (UK, April 2020)

The UK’s HDC scheme is an effective tool for easing the transition from custody to the community as well as managing existing and future prison population pressures. However, its use is being hampered by overly restrictive eligibility criteria and inefficient systems, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust suggests.

Defence & security

The Integrated Review: The UK as a Reluctant Middle Power? – RUSI (UK, March 2021)

RUSI Deputy-Director General, Malcolm Chalmers analyses the UK Government’s Integrated Review – its cross-Departmental analysis of foreign, defence and security policy. RUSI’s paper claims the Integrated Review has made significant progress in attempting to develop a coherent narrative on the UK’s role in the world. However, Chalmers says the UK Government remains reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the challenges the UK faces, and notes references in the Review to the country as a ‘superpower’, which he claims underplays the hard choices which, as a “strong but vulnerable middle power”, the UK needs to make. 

The Integrated Review: Technology, Not People, Is the UK’s Finest Asset – RUSI (UK, March 2021)

Alongside other RUSI reports examining recent UK Government defence announcements, this analysis claims that the UK Government has “bet big” on technology, whilst sidling key questions regarding personnel.

A Globally Postured Regional Navy RUSI (UK, March 2021)

In this report, which sits alongside other RUSI papers on the UK’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper, the change in operations for the Royal Navy is analysed.

On Fewer Wings and a Prayer for the Future: The RAF and the Defence Command Paper – RUSI (UK, March 2021)

As part of a series of RUSI papers on recent UK defence announcements, this report examines what lies ahead for the British Royal Air Force (RAF).

Article: The UK's Integrated Review - Ambitious, but is it deliverable? – Serco Institute (March 2021)

Analysing at the UK Government’s Integrated Review, this article looks at some of the key features of the policy document, what it might mean for the armed forces and how it might be delivered in practice. Particular attention is given to the UK Government’s Whole Force’ policy.

How creating an Armed Forces Indigenous community assistance programme would pay off – Institute for Research on Public Policy (UK, March 2021)

This article cites Australia as a model of where the military and indigenous communities work together to develop human and physical infrastructure that encourages reconciliation. The author discusses whether this model can be transferred to Canada for the benefit of indigenous communities and the armed forces.

Why slashing the Pentagon budget would be a disasterAmerican Enterprise Institute (April 2021)

In this short op-ed, two ex-defence officials argue against the case made by 50 members of the House of Representatives to cut the Pentagon budget. They argue that other nations – such as China – are already out-spending the US in many areas of defense. The article also highlights the global responsibilities of the US and how significant portions of defense spending support service men and women and their families.

What should you know about the defense audit? American Enterprise Institute (April 2021)

This briefing paper makes the case, despite failing to pass its audit cleanly, the Department of Defense’s budget request should approved by Congress. It also argues that the audit enabled the department to respond more quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organising Defence in a Competitive Age – RUSI (UK, April 2021)

If UK defence is to achieve the levels of coordination required to meet the aspirations of the Integrated Review, RUSI argue that a bold reorganisation of the current command structure and supporting systems is required.


The geopolitics of space: Why did the UAE send a probe to Mars? Middle East Institute (UAE, March 2021)

In this article, the recent success of the UAE’s Mars probe is explored, and the motivations for the project examined. Space is emerging as a new field of competition between Middle Eastern powers, the article argues, and that rivalry has been given a big boost by the Emirates’ Mars Mission. 

Eyes in the Sky: Space and the Defence Command Paper – RUSI (UK, March 2021)

RUSI outlines that the bigger role given to space in recent UK Government policy announcements, arguing that this “comes as no surprise” considering the global context. However, they argue, despite the UK’s Integrated Review and a Defence Command Paper there is a lack of detail around the issue which still leaves some questions unanswered.

Responsible Space Behavior for the New Space Era: Preserving the Province of Humanity RAND Corporation (US, April 2021)

As a “New Space Era” begins thanks to increasing spacefaring by nations and companies, this report examines the development of space governance and key problem areas. The authors identify challenges and barriers to further progress and offer recommended first steps on a trajectory toward responsible space behavioural norms “appropriate for the New Space Era.”


Impact of COVID-19 on Passenger Railway Demand in Saudi Arabia – KAPSARC (Saudi Arabia, April 2020)

This data analysis shows the impact of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Covid-19 mitigation measures on passenger rail in the country. It shows that despite growing demand between 2014-19, overall demand dropped by 60% in 2020.

The High‐​Speed Rail Money Sink: Why the United States Should Not Spend Trillions on Obsolete TechnologyCato Institute (US, April 2021)

Rejecting Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s proposal to make the United States a “world leader” in high‐​speed rail, this report says that it is costly, requires unnecessary infrastructure and not “resilient” in the context of the post-Covid-19 world. It argues that transport funding should be focused on relieving congestion, improving safety, and increasing people’s access to jobs and other economic opportunities by improving existing roads that could be paid for with user fees.


The Public Square Project: The case for building public digital infrastructure to support our community and our democracy The Australia Institute (April 2021)

Australians are increasingly concerned about the role and power of social networks such as Facebook, this report argues. The authors argue that there is a need to create a digital public square, building on the role of the state broadcaster, to help better engage citizens. This includes creating new channels for the community to interact with government.

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