Book News: March 2nd, 2010

By David Boyle and Michael Harris

Co-production as a new way of thinking about public services has the potential to deliver a major shift in the way we provide health, education, policing and other services, in ways that make them much more effective, more efficient, and so more sustainable.

Co-Production redefines the relationship between public service professionals and their clients with a move from dependency to mutuality and reciprocity. Professionals encourage service users to contribute their time, skills and ideas to design, deliver and improve services. Volunteers are valued and rewarded for their contributions. Public and voluntary institutions that involve their users, as well as their families and neighbours, treat them as untapped potential assets rather than burdens on the system.

Public services face an unprecedented set of challenges with increasing demand, rising expectations, intractable social problems and reduced budgets. Reform can’t confront these challenges effectively and radical innovation in public services now needs to move from the margins to the mainstream.

This paper provides the basis for both a better understanding and a stronger evidence base for co-production. Given the current diversity of uses of the term, the paper also explains what co-production isn’t. It demonstrates why, properly understood, co-production looks set to create a revolution in public services.

THE CHALLENGE OF CO-PRODUCTION is available from Nesta.