At a glance

Policy stage: 
Level of involvement: 
Cost: 
Varied
Length of process: 
Varied
Number of participants: 
Small group
Participant selection: 
Service providers and users
Online / Offline: 
Mainly offline

The term Co-production refers to a way of working where service providers and users, work together to reach a collective outcome. The approach is value-driven and built on the principle that those who are affected by a service are best placed to help design it.

Description

Co-production is an approach to decision-making and service design rather than a specific method. It stems from the recognition that if organisations are to deliver successful services, they must understand the needs of their users and engage them closely in the design and delivery of those services. 

Co-production rejects the traditional understanding of service users as dependents of public services, and instead redefines the service/ user relationship as one of co-dependency and collaboration. Just like users need the support from public services, so service providers need the insights and expertise of its users in order to make the right decisions and build effective services. In practice, it means that those who are affected by a service are not only consulted, but are part of the conception, design, steering, and management of services. It is often essential to support the participants and professionals throughout the exercise to ensure that they are able to contribute on an equal footing, e.g. by providing information, training, mentoring, etc.

Participants

Those involved in Co-production should be those on the end of an issue/service, meaning the service providers and users.

Costs

Various: Expenses depend on the length of the process, the number of participants and the level of pay/remuneration given to the participants.

Approximate time expense

Various:  Co-production is time-intensive, as it means involving and supporting users at every stage of the decision-making process.

Strengths

  • Taps into the insights and expertise of those who are at the receiving end of public services
  • Enables users/citizens and professionals/politicians to work together as equals and learn from each other
  • Builds skills, confidence and aspiration among participants

Weaknesses

  • Difficult to manage well when dealing with larger groups
  • Can appear exclusive and unrepresentative to those users/residents who are not invited to take part
  • Requires a considerable time commitment on the part of both professionals and participants

Origin

The term Co-production emerged in the United States in the 1970s and was developed by Edgar Cahn, a civil rights lawyer and speechwriter for Robert Kennedy.

For more

The New Economics Foundation have produced a number of publications exploring co-production in practice, including:

The Scottish Co-production Network have compiled 'Co-production – how we make a difference together' - a suite of resources including videos, case studies and training materials to help widen understanding of this method.

The Co-production Network for Wales has produced an Interactive Co-production Catelogue designed to support good practice.

Photo credit bartek001pixabay CC0 Creative Commons