What is Co-Production and why should we care about it? As NESTA put it, “Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change.”
In other words, Co-production empowers citizens to become active participants in the delivery of public services. Exciting stuff!
Below are my top three “aha” moments of Co-production:
1. The Timing is Right
The added pressure of recent economic hardships has catalyzed innovative grassroots co-production solutions that not only function better than the status quo but also save time and money. Among my favourite examples is Youth Court of DC, a youth reintegration program where Peer Jurors interrogate and sentence first time juvenile offenders in the District of Columbia, USA. As individuals who were once in the same position as the offenders, Peer Jurors are empathetic and able to connect with Offenders in a way that governments alone could not. This innovative program has reduced the recidivism rate from 30-40% down to 10%. Such co-production bright spots show us that it is possible to adapt to the growing economic and social pressures while improving service and saving resources.
2. New Media Advantage
New media creates opportunities for co-production in the public sector by creating faster and more direct communication with individuals and communities. As we saw in Barack Obama’s 2008 US Presidential election campaign, facebook, youtube and blogs are incredibly powerful tools in connecting, relaying information and mobilizing citizens. These tools are already widely used by citizens and many are free. Directly engaging with citizens is at the core of co-production; thus incorporating new media tools into public service is a great starting point.
Co-production works best when both civil servant and beneficiaries/citizens become equal partners in the delivery of the service. The benefits of this mutuality go beyond getting added “buy-in” from both parties. By operating in this way, both civil servants and citizens receive timelier information and are able to build a relationship based on transparency, trust and respect. Citizens are empowered to reach out in their community, identify issues early, prevent escalation and help each other, ultimately relieving strain on the public service system and creating more self sufficient and robust communities.
The timing is right for Co-production; we have the tools and we know where to start.
Satsuko VanAntwerp is an International MBA Candidate at Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada who worked at MindLab during an exchange semester at Copenhagen Business School. As an Associate at Venture Deli, a firm that builds and capitalizes social ventures, Satsuko brings a strong background in social entrepreneurship. She also runs a blog, thinkthrice.ca, exploring ideas for social innovation and systemic change.