Last year, we shared the work we’d been doing to build a shared service patterns library for local government in partnership with Essex County Council, called LocalGov Patterns.

While the LocalGov Patterns platform goal was intended to start a conversation among local authorities with a focus on transactional services, what the voluntary sector needed was quite different. We wanted to create something that could really speed up the process of digital innovation for charities. We needed to go a step further.

Since January, FutureGov has been working with Catalyst as a remote-first team, to build on our service patterns work and design something similar for the voluntary sector. We believe in the importance of reusing what already exists and building on what works, so it was a natural step to reuse the LocalGov Patterns platform.

Service patterns for the voluntary sector

There are 185,000 registered charities in the UK who need support to work together to identify common services and reuse what already exists and works. With so many organisations to bring together, we needed to narrow the scope of work, aware that every charity, as is within government, is unique but similar.

We decided to focus on services that are currently being delivered in an exceptional way, examples of what’s possible that we can learn from quickly. For each service, we started mapping the organisation offering it, the service proposition, the life event and the service pattern.

An example of life events and service patterns for the voluntary sector.

For the service ‘Get funeral poverty support’, there are two life events likely happening. ‘Going through bereavement’ and ‘going through a crisis’. The main service pattern is ‘getting specialist support’, which can take place in two ways; browsing information independently or calling someone.

We quickly realised we needed to define a common vocabulary to help us mapping all the services in a consistent way.

A service pattern is a common interaction or task in a service, things like ‘buy something’ or ‘get a reminder’. Learning about someone else’s service pattern or case study is useful if your organisation offers similar services or is interested in doing so soon.

Life events stand for what’s happening to people in their life, the things that are shaping the services they’re interested in accessing, such as ‘looking for a job’ or ‘having a child’. They’re the ‘trigger points or underlying problem that someone is trying to solve. They’re the reason that people interact with or contact your organisation.’

New emerging service patterns and life events

We believe in the power of service patterns and life events to change how organisations think about their services and design for them. They help organisations go beyond one specific service, thinking more widely about their whole offer. What if we could structure services and organisation departments based on life events?

Even though with FutureGov we’ve gone through a similar process, this was the first time for us to apply our thinking to the charity sector.

For service patterns, we always focused on transactional services, this time we had to include non-transactional ones.

A non-transactional service is characterised by multiple interactions between citizen and council over time and each interaction doesn’t necessarily close a phase. Non-transactional services can include transactional services (identity confirmation, payment) and are generally more complex to design, as they often rely heavily on personal interaction, usually face to face.

Now more than ever, there’s a need to design for those to make this kind of experience smooth for the end-user and in-depth enough for service staff to get the individual case details they need. How can the non-verbal be picked up when people can’t meet in person?

For life events, we had an evolving list that used the LGA work, but soon realised there are some we never identified that are actually very common for the people using charitable services. Life events like ‘going through a crisis’ or ‘going through an emergency’ are more relevant than ever given what’s happening across the world, and are unfortunately common for people getting in contact with charities.

We’re now working hard to get this service live in the next phase of work in collaboration with Catalyst, Snook and other charities that have case studies to share, as we believe it could empower the voluntary sector to deliver better services.

Even though the emergency we’re living through at the moment is challenging and stressful at times, we believe this is an opportunity to rethink our default setting for service delivery in the long term.

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