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Chief Economist

For more than 70 years, Citizens Advice has provided free, independent and impartial advice and information to help people resolve their legal, money and other problems. This year they have helped over 2 million people to solve over 7 million problems. Their national network of Bureaux delivers services from over 3,500 locations in England and Wales.

Needing to evolve to ensure their service offering is as efficient and effective as possible during a time of increased demand, a significant transformation programme is being implemented across the organisation. As part of this transformation programme Citizens Advice is creating a more effective approach to how policy, influence and campaigning is managed and delivered. Alongside significant investment into policy research, their new strategy outlines how they work, fresh thinking, exciting new work plans and simpler, flexible structures backed up by technical expertise.

The challenge

With the wealth of data collated from their services nationally, Citizens Advice is uniquely placed to gather the best real-time evidence of disadvantage and the challenges people face across all of England and Wales. This data provides them with an extremely rare and potent tool to create informed, impactful policy positions and influential campaigns like no other organisation. They use this information to influence policy makers through framing debates, asking insightful questions and providing thoughtful and innovative solutions.

The role of Chief Economist is pivotal to ensure that the development of Citizens Advice’s economic policy solutions, service design, impact analysis and research functions are robustly modelled and implemented. The role would help harness the power and advantage of Citizens Advice’s national data collection, enhancing the organisation’s work in influencing public policy.

We were looking for an outstanding candidate who had experience of leading and managing economic and technical policy research programmes across a range of methodologies with the ability to think creatively about economic policy narratives. A dynamic communicator and natural leader they needed to have the scope to perform complex modelling whilst always seeing the potential story behind the data.

Implementing

Working in close partnership with the Deputy Chief Executive, Prospectus devised a detailed and far reaching three pronged strategy:

  • Detailed research and proactive approaches targeting candidates from a focussed pool of sectors including think tanks, relevant commercial sector businesses, charities and organisations in the civil service like the Treasury, Cabinet Office and Department of Work and Pensions
  • Alongside our search, we utilised our deep networks and contacts to permeate the beyond profit sector and get first hand recommendations on outstanding and developing thinkers in the space. We capitalised on the wealth of candidates captured in our recruitment database, approaching those with suitable experience and skills
  • Designed an online, mixed-media campaign that reached a wider pool of candidates and ensured open access to the opportunity while providing a platform to promote Citizens Advice’s brand, values and transformation

Our long-list of 6 candidates came from a range of sectors including the civil service, beyond profit, think tanks and commercial. Several of the candidates had a blend of both commercial and public sector experience. Following initial interviews with the Prospectus consultant, 4 candidates were presented to the client for panel interviews. The candidates were required to make presentations and an appointment was successfully made on the day.

The appointment

Citizens Advice appointed Hugh Stickland who started in September 2013. Hugh was Senior Policy Adviser in the Deputy Prime Minister's Research and Analysis Unit in the Cabinet Office. Here he had been leading on providing advice to the Deputy Prime Minister on a whole range of economic policy issues, including macroeconomic and fiscal policy, labour markets, economic development and youth policy.

Hugh stood out as he has exceptionally strong analytical skills with the required technical expertise and experience across a range of issues yet combined this with an ability to explain complex concepts clearly to the non-expert. He was able to demonstrate his ability to form excellent relationships with a wide range of people and was clearly an effective and generous team player.

Prior to joining the Cabinet Office, Hugh was a Senior Economic Advisor at the Department of Work and Pensions.