Developing capacity within the British civil service: the case of the stabilisation unit

John Connolly, Robert Pyper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the training and development dimensions of a relatively recent entity within the British civil service—the Stabilisation Unit (SU). Now accountable to UK National Security Council, the unit came into being in 2007 in order to co-ordinate work between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, and the Ministry of Defence in the wake of military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit now has a broad crisis prevention and response function. This paper shows how the unit has become an important training and capacity building feature of the modern British civil service. The concluding argument is that there is considerable potential for the unit to be an organizational agent for joining-up government as part of a renewed modernization agenda for civil service learning, training and development. This paper examines an under-researched aspect of crisis management operations in the British civil service—the work of the Stabilisation Unit. This unit offers important lessons in the delivery of joined-up government and application of civil service training functions as a crucial element in building capacity within the machinery of government. The Stabilisation Unit, although not without its challenges, has the potential to provide a blueprint for organizing external crisis management operations as part of the work of a modern bureaucracy, across other parts of the UK system of government, and also within other states. This paper was researched and written before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the findings here regarding the enhancement of crisis management capacities within government have a clear relevance in that context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-606
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Money & Management
Issue number8
Early online date28 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Apr 2020


  • civil servants
  • civil service
  • crisis management
  • Stabilisation Unit (SU)
  • training


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