More about Co-Production

Co-production is a term which describes a way of working which is based on a more equal and reciprocal relationship between public service providers and the people who use services. Traditionally, professionals run public services that are consumed by service users. But co-production is about really listening to people and engaging at community level, starting a conversation and jointly exploring the best solutions and the best way to deliver them – this enables all parties to have a stake in being able to achieve the kind of outcomes we all want to see. It means drawing on the ability, resources and knowledge of individuals, and communities to develop joint solutions to issues, and in shaping and reviewing services.

Key to a co-production approach is the idea of a shift in power, and this is often described by communities as ‘taking control’. Co-production is not a brand new phenomenon. After all, communities have always self-organised and self-mobilised around the issues they experience. And the term itself has been widely used by policymakers in the UK for 10 years or more.

It is an idea that has firm roots, and for a variety of reasons. Public service delivery has evolved based on a deficit approach – focusing on the problems, needs and deficiencies of individuals and communities, and designing services to fill the gaps and fix the problems. Arguably this has led to individuals and communities becoming both disempowered and dependent. In effect, we continue to generate demand rather than address the root causes of social and health inequality.

In Scotland, there are many community-led organisations helping people and groups to organise around issues as varied as local environmental improvement and supporting people with dementia to live longer in their own homes. And who knows better than the people living in those communities and experiencing those issues when it comes to designing and implementing solutions?

Although a lot of this work sits outside the mainstream, it shows that public services actually partnering with the public to design and deliver services can lead to better outcomes. That sense of ownership, involvement and collaboration, a stake in what happens: all are powerful tools in the ongoing need for improved services and results. For co-production to be meaningful, communities must be support to work with service providers, to co-produce solutions to issues that they have identified. To do this, there must be sound community engagement, and community capacity building support available, particularly for the most disadvantaged communities, so that they have resources they need to play an equal role.