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A pattern and process library for local government

Patterns and processes are blueprints for digital services.

A pattern describes how a service interacts with the user to gather the information it needs to progress a  request. This will often be rendered visually on a screen, but increasingly it's also through voice, and devices such as smart speakers.

It informs the team designing the service of things like which questions should be asked, how many at a time, in which formats, in which order, and what the user needs to know to be able to complete the questions.

Processes are how the service is delivered, describing when and why a process interacts with the user, the service delivery team, third parties, digital elements such APIs, and anything else needed to deliver the service.

A graphic representation of a process for missed reporting bins designed using Business Process Model and Notation is below

but it can also be represented in a machine readable format too.

Patterns and processes are the most tangible part of a service and therefore probably the easiest to replicate from one organisation to another, as part of transformation work. Although patterns and processes need to take account of local user needs, when compared to other aspects such as organisational culture and workforce skills they're a lot more transportable. The problem is, sharing and collaboration isn't happening in local government, not nearly as much as it could.

According to the Local Government Service List there are around 1,000 services a council might deliver, multiply this by 418, the number of principal councils in the UK, and you'll get 418,000 different combinations of service and council.

In reality, not all councils deliver the same services, for example in areas served by both a county and a district the services will be split between them. Regional combined authorities and shared services also reduce this number, as do some suppliers of proprietary platforms who offer pre-designed forms and processes as part of their service.

Whilst all this brings the number down, I would guess that there are still well over 100,000 combinations of service and council, and this repetition and reproduction across the country is huge waste of time, effort and ultimately taxpayers' money. There are two things that would help resolve this; Firstly a single repository for local government patterns and processes, and the harder to achieve, standardisation of a machine readable format for them.

Which this in mind, in June, at a Local Digital Declaration roadshow event in Hackney, as part of the participant led unconference section I ran a session with Ben Cheetham to gauge appetite from councils for this. The session was well attended, with lots of interest in the idea.

As councils are increasingly reliant on digital platforms, many of them proprietary, that only showed me one half of the picture. For the idea of a single library to work, private sector suppliers need to be on board too. So last Friday (20 June 2018) I organised, and with the help of the GLAAndy Sandford, David Durant, and Paul Davidson from iStandUK ran a session for the private sector, at City Hall in London.

Between them the vendors who attended have over 50% of the councils in the UK as clients you can see Leanne Coker's excellent sketch note of the event below

Back in 2016 I helped put together the Local Government Digital Service Standard which has now been adopted by councils across the country, and there seems to be as much enthusiasm for a shared library as there was for the Standard.

So what's next? The two sessions I organised were very much the start of a discovery phase and I'm now asking more widely for people to get involved in one or more of three strands
  • Providing patterns and processes for the shared library
  • Helping to scope, design and build the library
  • Helping define and create the standards
If you'd like to get involved then please complete the form here and help LocalGov Digital help councils to create better, cheaper public services.


  1. Adding my usual plea here for the history of transformation and catalogues and shared patterns to be included / linked when and if this does happen :-)
    As per my contributions to twitter convo here

  2. Aaand Google won't let me change the way I'm named here even though I restyled myself 'Benjamin' about five years ago and all the settings in all my Google and blogspot accounts say 'Benjamin'. Technology, eh? Tsk.


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