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Your new favourite group

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Product changes, Working with us

In January of this year, Graham wrote a blog post about GOV.UK organisation types. He outlined the 3 types of page available to groups of people below the level of the organisation (but not meeting the criteria for high profile groups): policy advisory groups, teams and governance groups.

These formats have worked reasonably well for central government departments. However, with the arrival of agencies and arms length bodies we need to model a much wider range of groups: panels, committees, auditors, monitors, steering groups, programme boards, councils and units - to name just a few.

To meet this need quickly, we’ve defined a minimum viable product: remove the ‘Policy Advisory Group’ label from (you guessed it) the Policy Advisory Group (PAG) page and replace ‘policy advisory groups’ with ‘groups’ in the URL and the admin pages.

You’ll see these changes tomorrow.

Instead of a page that defines its content very narrowly, the new Groups template can handle any type of group (although the same guidance applies: don’t create a group page when it’s sufficient just for the documents produced by these groups to be listed).

Use the title and/or summary to tell users what type of group they are looking at.

Existing PAGs will be redirected to their new ‘/groups’ URLs (and if you need to create a new policy advisory group, please use the Group template). We will also merge teams into the Group template.

We chose to start with the PAG template because it has a summary field and supports uploading attachments - unlike the team page. Longer term, we’d like to build on this work by adding image upload functionality and optional tagging for policy, topic and organisation.

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  1. Comment by David Pearson posted on

    Will you be adding workflow (and the associated permissions models) to group pages, and if so, when?

    • Replies to David Pearson>

      Comment by John Turnbull posted on

      Hi David,

      That's certainly something we'd consider, but the priority is low relative to other work to prepare GOV.UK for the transition of agencies and ALBs. We'll look at how the new template gets used before deciding how important this is.

  2. Comment by Simon Ricketts posted on

    Hi John,

    This will be really useful. It's worth noting that because team pages didn't have summaries before they display both the summary and the first line of text in bold.

  3. Comment by E.A. Brown posted on

    Hi John,

    Thanks for this update - this looks like a much more flexible option for us, very useful

    At the moment, you have to associate all teams to an appropriate policy, and current instructions say 'do this by editing the policy page'.

    For groups, are these tied to policy too? or can we leave them un-tied?

    I ask because not all policies that apply to our agency are online (yet), and we don't create policy ourselves.

    • Replies to E.A. Brown>

      Comment by John Turnbull posted on

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I'm glad you think this change will be useful.

      Within the new, more generic category of 'Group' we still have things that are either policy teams or policy advisory groups. These should continue to be associated to the relevant policies (by tagging the policy).

      However, there may well be other types of group that do not have a direct influence on any particular policy; it's fine to leave these unassociated with any policy.

      We'll update the publishing guidance and style guide as soon as possible.

  4. Comment by simonfj posted on

    Thanks John,

    This is going to be so useful as time goes on. So we now have 'topic' groups of which (say) 70% will be operational, 30% policy. (seems to be the percentage in the eu).

    I went looking for the GDS services' teams. Have you got a list?

    If .gov follow the route taken by .edu (universities & their departments) then we'll quickly see a demand for linking between National (and International) groups, and between National & Local gov groups. So just having a group's topic and geography defined would be useful metadata. Cheers.

    • Replies to simonfj>

      Comment by John Turnbull posted on

      Hi Simon,

      I'm pleased this will be useful for you. Do bear in mind, though, that the Group page is for public-facing groups, not internally-facing ones. (I'm not sure which way you're topic groups face, but just thought I'd mention this.)

      Regarding metadata, we will add topic tagging when we can. Tagging for geographic area is not something we've considered; we'll look at whether there's a need for it as we see what kinds of groups are being created.

      • Replies to John Turnbull>

        Comment by simonfj posted on

        Thanks John,

        Thanks for being explicit about 'internal' and 'external' facing groups. It's sooo important.
        Just so we're clear. This is the list so far; No?

        And teams will be merged into this list. Goodoh.
        So e.g. We can expect one for Measurement and Analytics.
        As well as a listing of the other outward-facing GDS teams/groups.

        My thinking (and quite a few others) is that eventually we'll be seeing a need for something like this for groups. (with the .local. taken out) so topic groups can find their audiences, regardless of the level of , and share the learning.

        As Richard says; "Government is a large organisation, and the distance between the user and the people with responsibility for public services can often feel enormous".

        It needn't be that way, so long as people with responsibility for the same service(s), and their users, can find the find the right group., and (maybe) collaborate.

        • Replies to simonfj>

          Comment by John Turnbull posted on

          Hi Simon,

          Yes, is the full list and includes everything that was in the policy team or policy advisory group template before the change. (There are still policy teams and policy advisory groups, of course; it's just that the prescriptive labelling on the template has been removed.)

          I'm not sure that any GDS teams will create group pages for themselves on GOV.UK. They're not external facing in the sense that they work with the public (most of them, anyway). But perhaps, as you say, there's value in a central government version of Knowledge Hub.

  5. Comment by Alan posted on

    Is it the intention for 'groups' to remain clear of any navigational link to parent department and does GDS have to be notified of/agree to any groups being created?

    • Replies to Alan>

      Comment by John Turnbull posted on

      Hi Alan,

      We'd like to add metadata fields to the Group template so that it can be tagged for organisation (parent department), topic and policy. The reason we haven't done it yet is simply that there's been higher-priority work to complete.

      GDS does not have to be notified when you create a new Group, although we will be keeping an eye out for examples of the template being used wrongly eg as a de facto microsite rather than a succinct overview of the work of a group.

      CORRECTION (8.4.14): after discussing this with GDS content team colleagues, we've decided that GDS *should* be notified when you want to create a new Group page. We allowed editors to create their own policy advisory groups, but because the Group template is much more generic, there's greater scope for misuse of the format.

      • Replies to John Turnbull>

        Comment by simonfj posted on

        Hi John,

        Just catching up with how you're on getting your groups together. It's a bit easier to see this evolution from the outside as govs are going through what every samo, samo group inside an edu institution/department has already experienced.

        Seems you already have the broad metadata which will help bring similar groups together. Your (similar) groups often have a departmental names in front. Some, like GDS, just act as a compilation of various teams (and then point to their aggregated blogs) , while others are just individuals who are probably hoping their operational peers might join them. e.g. So there's obviously get no strategy about what the aim for 'groups' is yet. Early days.

        You might find it useful to just add a "groups" header to the topic pages, and add a few 'appropriate' groups to the 'appropriate' pages. e.g. I'd be adding to this page. Just so you can start aggregating similar groups under a common theme.

        It's nice to see that you've already got 'consultations' on the topic pages. The silos are still in 'send us an email' mode, so it's a bit hard to see what might happen if we start to run inquiries and always leave them open, as you would with open research. e.g. One would find a list of docs, and forum discussions on this page rather than opening and closing within a month, and then "we're analyzing your feedback". Very 20th century.

        Either that or use a 'Occupation' header on the groups page (like 'webmaster' or 'outreach') so peers inside the silos can build their contact list. Maybe before long we can start building some collaboration spaces/services for them. Would sure beat watching them duplicate in splendid departmental isolation 🙂

        Just to be clear about the knowledgehub approach. We don't want a central gov version.We just want one hub where peers from central and local can share and collaborate. That's very important. We need the two perspectives in order to create utility. I'll flag this one again.

        You'll find, if you go through the hub, it's composed of subject/topic specific groups. That's just human nature. So long as a hub is open people naturally gravitate to their interest group(s). Mind you, we do need some good moderators. All the best.

        • Replies to simonfj>

          Comment by John Turnbull posted on

          Hi Simon,

          Thanks for your comment.

          To respond to some of your points:

          "there's obviously get no strategy about what the aim for 'groups' is yet"

          We haven't published any guidance yet on how the group page should be used, but that's in the pipeline. We did slightly get ahead of ourselves in a bid to 'unblock' some of the organisations transitioning to GOV.UK who have units within them for which there was not a suitable template. We've added a "Do not create groups without consulting GDS" message to the admin interface, and at some point after the guidance is published we'll need to review the existing groups to ensure all comply with it.

          "We just want one hub where peers from central and local can share and collaborate."

          As the GOV.UK proposition will make clear, once it's published, GOV.UK is not the place for "intranet or workflow services exclusively for civil servants". That's not to say there isn't a valid need for such a hub, but on GOV.UK information about groups should be published only where there is a need for the public to know about their work and a reason for the public to contact them.

          Adding groups to topic pages.

          We're doing some work to make the application of metadata more consistent across the various content types, and at some point we'll add metadata to groups. Once groups can be tagged to topics we'll consider the value of displaying them on topic landing pages.


          Formally constituted inquiries are modelled as organisations on GOV.UK - see

          The type of open-ended research you're referring to would, I think, fall outside of the GOV.UK proposition - although the results of that research, assuming it feeds in to government policy/action, may be published there.

          • Replies to John Turnbull>

            Comment by simonfj posted on

            Thanks John,

            Please never think I'm being in any way critical of what your teams/groups are doing. Just terrific to see things progressing in a methodical manner, and being so open about it.

            It's always the hardest thing when it gets to the strategy about 'groups'. Everyone ends up getting a bit schizophrenic = are these internal or outward facing groups? That's hard enough. Then one has to try and get the metadata (which describes them) "consistent". It's just very useful, from an outsider's perspective, to know that an internal group exists. e.g.The inclusion team will be building groups between so many institutions - some gov, some private. Their challenge is to "Bring digital capability support into one place".

            So that's always going to come down to bringing the various peers (webmasters, outreach, people who run consultations, etc) together and get them coordinating their activities. (inclusion people are the "border riders").


            I think you're right. The "open" approach does seem to fall outside the (publications) remit. I'm just trying to understand how one might link from a publication to the "operations" of an inquiry, and back to the publication, especially as the people who run consultations develop their "Action 14" skills.

            Just going through the "All organisations" list on your 'policy-results' link. Whew! The "other departments and public bodies" list is interesting as it has lots of groups/committees, boards, commissions. teams, etc, etc. How many ways can one describe 'groups'? 🙂

            It's a difficult one, and obviously can't be rushed. I'm a great believer in as light a touch as possible (as I'm sure you are). So the 'guidance on how groups will be used' can always wait. They always seem to fall into 'occupational' from an internal perspective. (just stick up "webmaster" as a title and watch them add their details:) And with outsiders, even though they will be trying to collaborate, the perspectives and language are just so different.

            In the meantime, you've got a 4 out of 5 as a moderator. Cheers.