Common Ground is both a challenge and an opportunity for municipalities

Local governments are always on the lookout for opportunities to improve their services for their citizens. Common Ground is here to support them and expand their possibilities. Several municipalities are already on their way to make internal automation and information provision to their residents easier, smarter and more flexible. However, this incredibly rewarding work does not come without its challenges! In this article, I describe how Common Ground works, while highlighting points of attention for local governments. The article also includes some best practices for municipalities that are ready to start their journey towards better service provision.

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Common Ground: unlocking data from applications and work processes

Common Ground is designed to improve your information provision to your citizens, while unlocking more opportunities for your municipality. By freeing data from applications and work processes, local governments gain the freedom to redesign their information provision. Anyone who needs data, can retrieve it from a single source of truth. This puts an end to the practice of copying and saving data again and again, making the system more efficient and sustainable.

This single source of truth – that we call Common Ground – allows local authorities to respond faster to the many social challenges we currently face. Common Ground can help municipalities with guiding and controlling their transition towards more sustainability, healthcare expenditure, civic participation and enforcement.

Meeting the expectations of the citizens of today

A simpler, smarter and more flexible system of information provision allows municipalities to help their citizens in the way they have grown accustomed to.

With social media and e-commerce, we have all gotten used to easy access to information, along with open and transparent communication. Think, for example, about the status information of your order or tracking and tracing a package. Citizens want to experience that same level of transparency and clarity with regard to their permit applications, local processes and so on.


A growing number of local governments are working with Common Ground. However, as this implies a system change, there are afew challenges that need to be addressed along the way. The biggest one is linked to the role of the municipality in relation to its suppliers, where it now must act as the IT client as well.

Local governments must be ready to take control in this area, since they are not only the client, but also the owner of the digital ecosystem. One thing we notice, is that it can be difficult for municipalities to avail themselves of the ICT expertise that is required for proposing and designing the IT architecture and the necessary applications.

Additionally, municipalities are often ‘trapped’ in commercial systems, where it is difficult to access data. Please note that it is crucial to make the right choices now, to prevent getting locked into a similar situation in the future.

There are also a number of software development requirements, more specifically linked to the cross-app usage of data in the Common Ground vision. This means that the importance of alignment between departments and certain focus areas has grown, which also makes it more complex to develop software.

Best practices for Common Ground

Although the transition to Common Ground is fairly recent, we can already distinguish a number of best practices:

  • Action is golden: start with the implementation of your new service, and use and test the software to retrieve user feedback
  • Design your infrastructure in such a way that it allows for the inclusion of generic components and copying data is a thing of the past. Communicate to your suppliers that they are using data from a single source of truth, and prevent the establishment of duplicate systems and databases.
  • If data from objects, such as a lamppost or waste bin in your municipality, has not yet been made accessible, take a look at the object API, to start registering and unlocking data in a standard format.

When you decide to use the available software from the Common Ground Component Catalogue, please ensure that you use the data components as is, so that these too, are frequently updated.

First wins in Dutch municipalities

Unfortunately, Dutch municipalities – including some of the 50 largest municipalities of the Netherlands – are not replete with IT expertise. This occasionally leads to delays when adopting Common Ground, although this does not have to be. In fact, there is plenty of ICT expertise available in the Netherlands, and Worth systems has been supporting Dutch municipalities for many years.

For the municipality of The Hague – the Netherlands’ third biggest city – for example, we build tools that simplify the lives of civil servants and residents alike. One such tool is an app that allows for the fully digital processing of a citizen's application.

This is only one of the examples that deserve to be widely adopted, as also mentioned in the advisory report on the implementation of Common Ground by the association of Dutch municipalities (VNG). The report stresses that decisive action is required to turn this principle into a viable change programme.

A little bit of help to drive adoption

The transition to Common Ground is a desirable one, both from the perspective of municipalities and from that of citizens. However, local governments can use a little bit of help with laying this important foundation. Many municipalities lack sufficient knowledge to develop their digital ecosystems, leading to risks like errors and overly expensive implementation projects.

By engaging external expertise and experience, you can ensure a sound infrastructure with safe hosting and management. This allows your municipality to do what it does best: helping citizens with the smooth processing of their needs and providing insight into the status of their applications. A clear win-win for all, as well as the start of a journey towards a modern relationship between a municipality and its residents.

In search of more inspiration? Why don't you check out our experiences with the municipalities of The Hague and Utrecht, the third and fourth biggest cities in the Netherlands.

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