In recent years, there has been a radical reinterpretation of the role of ‘policy making’ and ‘service delivery’ in the public domain. Policymaking is no longer seen as a purely ‘top down’ process but rather as a negotiation between many interacting policy systems. Similarly, services are no longer simply delivered by professional and managerial staff in public agencies, but rather co-produced by users and their communities. This paper presents a conceptual framework for understanding the emerging role of user and community co-production and then illustrates how different forms of co-production have played out in practice in a number of case studies of radical improvement of local public services. It suggests that traditional conceptions of service planning and management are now out-dated and need to be revised to take into account the potential of co-production as an integrating mechanism and incentive for resource mobilization, a potential which is still greatly underestimated in its potential to raise the effectiveness of public policy. However, co-production in a context of multi-purpose, multi-stakeholder networks raises a number of important public governance issues, which have implications for public services reform.
This article was originally published by the Carnegie UK Trust in December 2006 as part of their Commission For Rural Community Development and is available here >