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= "Co-Production - the outcome of synergistic cooperation; productivity, creative output and social capital created through a group working under a transparent process of co-governance." (James Quilligan)


Co-production = "the means by which the beneficiaries of charity, philanthropy services or public services are instrumental in the design , planning and delivery of specific services or broader social outcomes as a way of improving the service or activity and rebuilding the local community" (See also the policy report)

"'Co-production' has emerged as a general description of the process whereby clients work alongside professionals as partners in the delivery of services." (

"Co-Production is a term used to redefine the relationship between service professionals and the beneficiaries of services as one of mutuality and reciprocity rather than one of dependency. This process may or may not involve the use of a community currency mechanism such as time banking." (

"Co-production refers to the involvement of consumers in the various value creating activities through which products and services are made. These activities include the production and distribution processes which are usually performed in the course of manufacturing a product or creating a service for a given target group of consumers." (



"The term 'co-production' began as a way of describing the critical role that service 'consumers' have in enabling professionals to make a success of their jobs. It was originally coined in the 1970s by Elinor Ostrom and others to explain why neighbourhood crime rates went up in Chicago when police stopped walking the beat and lost connection with local community members. It was used also in the UK in the 1980s by Anna Coote and others at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the King's Fund to describe the reciprocal relationship between professionals and individuals necessary to effect change.

The concept has also been expanded by US civil rights lawyer, Edgar Cahn, who emphasises the involvement of the wider network of families and neighbours. Cahn defines co-production as depending on the following values:

Assets: Every human being can be a builder and contributor.

Redefining work: To include whatever it takes to raise healthy children, preserve families, make neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, care for frail and vulnerable people, redress injustice, and make democracy work.

Reciprocity: The impulse to give back is universal. Wherever possible, we must replace one-way acts of largesse with two-way transactions both between individuals and between people and institutions.

Social networks: Humans require a social infrastructure; this is as essential as roads or bridges. Social networks require ongoing investments of social capital generated by trust, reciprocity, and civic engagement." (

2. From:

"Co-production describes the means by which the beneficiaries of charity, philanthropy services or public services are instrumental in the design , planning and delivery of specific services or broader social outcomes as a way of improving the service or activity and rebuilding the local community" (Sarah Burns (2004), "Exploring co-production- an overview of past, present and future", Unpublished paper, NEF.)

'Participation' by beneficiaries of a service or a public good is not a new idea, and the forms it can take and value it adds has been debated across the world. Co-production is one form of participation but moves one step further in that it's ideal lies on the far end of the spectrum of participation.

The idea has been developed through the work of the American Civil Rights Lawyer Dr Edgar Cahn, who regards co-production as the central principle in successful professional practice. The underlying rationale is based on the suggestion that more positive social outcomes are the result of not only community led initiatives both at a community and project level but also across traditionally state led services such as health and education.

As an approach, it is trying to reframe the debate around how things are currently structured and as such it 'has developed into a practical agenda for system change and the development of social capital' (Burns 2004, p 3, quoting Cahn, 1986 and 2001). It also aims to redefine people's assumptions as to what 'work' is, and how we value the more informal work done in the community. As such, co-production neatly links to time accreditation, a one form of putting value to the vital work that people do in their communities.

On an individual level, co-production is about moving away from the idea of the undervalued and passive individual, to an approach which focuses on the value people can bring to the development of a community. The rationale is that public service are often failing at the point of delivery as they are not reflective of what the public think is relevant for their communities, because of a concern that the fabric of communities unravelling, because of a concern that active citizenship is weakening (Burns p 1-2). A 'partnership' with professional providers or a process of generating these goods or services on a more mutual basis, co -producing with each other in the community seems to be the answer. This also requires different ways of working, including assumptions as to what is possible, on the part of professional within both statutory and voluntary sectors." (

The Two Contradictory Meanings of Co-Production

by Andy Stirling, Adrian Ely and Fiona Marshall :

"Two senses of co-production

The definitions of co-production can sometimes clash with each other.

For example, do we mean that to be useful in addressing any given problem, knowledge needs to be ‘co-produced’ in particular ways and settings by a diversity of different kinds of actor? This ‘positivist’ sense encourages us to look at how specific kinds of knowledge are produced in particular settings.

Or is ‘co-production’ about the unavoidable fact that all knowledge (of whatever kind), is always inherently and unavoidably co-produced alongside the social orders in which it is shaped and driven? In this ‘constructivist’ sense, context, culture and power can help to shape the forms taken by all understandings – for better or worse.

These two senses of ‘co-production’ are not interchangeable. If it leads to a sense of complacency, then the ‘positivistic’ sense – that of inviting new people into a single specific process to contribute to one particular new kind of knowledge – can actually prevent us fully recognising the key message of the second (constructivist) kind of co-production. That message is that knowledge is imprinted by power. While this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it tends to have worse outcomes if undiscussed or unrecognised.

In this latter ‘constructivist’ view, attempts to engineer a single integration of knowledge will always depend on the situation and people involved. Other ways of integrating will always be possible, and lead to different possible conclusions.

This means there are some very concrete tensions between whether the benefits of co-production are seen to lie in striving towards single comprehensive bodies of knowledge, or a pluralist sensitivity and appreciation for a persistent diversity of understandings." (


Two overlapping categories of co-production exist:

generic' co-production – the effort to involve local people in mutual support and the delivery of services; and

institutional' co-production of the kind advocated by Cahn. Currently this seems difficult to achieve, mainly because of institutional systems in the organisations that might benefit and because of the way public services are managed." (


"The core values which underpin the co-production approach can be drawn upon to produce different models which are appropriate for different contexts towards an optimal social solution. These values include:

  • Assets - every human can be a contributor, there should be 'no more throw away people'
  • Redefining work - to include whatever it takes to rear healthy children, preserve families , make neighbourhoods safer
  • Reciprocity - we need each other, stop creating dependencies or devaluing people
  • Social capital - look social infrastructures, invest in them as thy are essential to positive development of communities

(No More Throw-Away People, Edgar S. Cahn p 23 and 29)" (



"The term isn't new. It emerged at the University of Indiana in the 1970s, when a professor, Elinor Ostrom, was asked to explain to the Chicago police why the crime rate went up when they exchanged the beat for patrol cars. Coproduction was the missing ingredient to crime fighting that only the public could provide.

It was brought to the UK by Anna Coote at the King's Fund health thinktank to explain how doctors also need patients. It was then developed and deepened by Edgar Cahn, the Washington civil rights lawyer behind time banking, who used it to explain the importance of neighbourhood-level support systems - families and communities - and how they can be rebuilt." (


"The term 'co-production' was coined originally at the University of Indiana in the 1970s when Professor Elinor Ostrom was asked to explain to the Chicago police why the crime rate went up when the police came off the beat and into patrol cars. She used the term as a way of explaining why the police need the community as much as the community need the police. It was used again in the UK by Anna Coote and others at the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) and the King's Fund to explain why doctors need patients as much as patients need doctors and that, when that relationship is forgotten, both sides fail.

It was then developed and deepened by Professor Edgar Cahn, the Washington civil rights lawyer, who has written the foreword nef's manifesto for growing the core economy. He used it to explain how important neighbourhood level support systems are - families and communities - and how they can be rebuilt. Cahn recognised that this is economic activity, but in the broadest sense." (


  1. Resource-based Economies, Bartering, Gift Economies,
  2. Complementary Currencies, community reciprocity systems,
  3. Free Shops, Fair Trade markets, producer Cooperatives,
  4. trade unions, entrepreneurial networks, scientific and Academic Commons; and internet modalities such as
  5. Open Source Software, open electronic media, shared licensing,
  6. collaborative knowledge and design, social networks, Attention Economies, Creative Commons copyrights,
  7. wikipedia, websites, file sharing, email and chat rooms


  • In the UK:

"Some of this co-production infrastructure does seem to be emerging. The Rushey Green Time Bank in Catford, south London, recently won the London Health Commission award for partnership working with the NHS. GPs there confirmed that it had "a proven record at improving mental and physical wellbeing among our patients by supporting people in their environment, targeting unmet needs, and creating a partnership between patients themselves, health professionals and allied workers".

The Newcastle upon Tyne group KeyRing has put mutual support at the heart of their work with people with learning difficulties, and is experimenting with helping people with personal budgets to club together to get a better deal." (


Co-production vs. the Consumer Care model

From the Guardian:

"That's why the New Economics Foundation has just published a report explaining that co-production means something very specific. It means the equal partnership between professionals and clients - not to consult them more, or get them to sit on boards, but to use their skills to deliver services. ... The difficulty is that co-production is an awkward term and is used increasingly loosely by policy wonks to cover almost everything from being a bit nicer to patients to the current catch-all solution, personal budgets.

Of course, clients often know best what priorities they have and how the money allocated to them should be spent. But if all public services do is give clients a budget and tell them to get on with it, it flies in the face of the basic ideas behind co-production - that people need to be rooted in mutual support networks, and that not everything can be bought."

"The charity In Control makes a similar distinction between individual budgets and what they call "self-directed support", in which money is just one asset that people can draw on. It is vital, but it isn't enough. Those who advocate only individual budgets risk flinging clients into a world of isolation, where they can be alone with their budget, where they might be forced, for example, to spend some of that scarce money on buying people to keep them company - like the engineer Mike Hammond, who advertised in April for someone to take his father to the pub twice a week at £7 an hour.

If there was some kind of genuine co-production infrastructure in place, Hammond's father could have got the companionship he needed and kept the money for something else. Using a time banking approach, he would also be encouraged to identify how others in his community could use his skills and support. Personal budgets were never intended to cover every aspect of people's lives, to replace relationships with market transactions. But when they are used by policymakers instead of rebuilding social networks, this can be the outcome: the recipients will have less money and less confidence than before.

By themselves, the budgets entrench the ineffectiveness of the consumer model of care, encouraging users to "buy solutions" rather than have an active stake in delivering their own. If public service modernisation is about "efficient" professionals delivering narrow units of help to passive clients, or just gives people budgets and sends them away to fix themselves, it is hardly surprising that demand mounts and costs spiral out of control.

If, on the other hand, we can redefine public service clients as assets who have skills that are vital to the delivery of successful services, then we have a way that public services can start to rebuild the neighbourhoods around them. The point is that there are some services, like friendship, which friends provide very much better than professionals. Co-production is about broadening public services so that these human needs can be met. (

More Information

  1. Co-production by people outside paid employment, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  2. The Co-Production Principle. By David Boyle of Timebanks
  1. David Boyle is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation. The pamphlet, Co-production: A Manifesto for Growing the Core Economy, is available at (

"nef's manifesto charts the development of co-production, its growth in the UK, and sets out a ten point plan for what will be, in effect, the biggest revolution in social policy since William Beveridge introduced the welfare state."

Nesta reports

3 reports by Nef/NESTA in the UK:

  1. The first report, The Challenge of Co-production, published in December 2009, explained what co-production is and why it offers the possibility of more effective and efficient public services.
  2. The second report, Public Services Inside Out, published in April, described a co-production framework.
  3. The discussion paper Right here, right now – Taking co-production into the mainstream (pdf) is the last of three reports ow is the right time to move co-production out of the margins and into the mainstream. The report provides the basis for a better understanding of how to make this happen.

Key Book to Read

  1. No More Throw-Away People: the co-production imperative. Edgar S. Cahn. Essential Books, 2000

Research Summary Rowntree/NEF report

"The Joseph Rowntree Foundation with the New Economics Foundation and Wales Institute for Community Currencies researched co-production amongst people outside paid work (see articles) and concluded:

There is an emerging 'co-production' sector – both inside and outside public services – where service users are regarded as assets, involved in mutual support and the delivery of services.

Co-production, where it has been happening successfully, has generally been outside nationally funded services that are supposed to achieve this, and usually despite – rather than because of – administrative systems inside public services.

A key characteristic of public and voluntary institutions that successfully involve their users, as well as their families and neighbours, is an understanding that people who have previously been treated as collective burdens on an overstretched system are untapped potential assets. Co-production projects can help participants to extend their social networks and friendships and the range of opportunities open to them.

Some kind of reciprocal relationship between users and organisations can broaden the social reach of the projects: 'time banks' are an effective – though not the only – way of valuing their contribution.

Co-production project co-ordinators can be isolated and over-stretched, even those based inside public services: developing staff capacity is as important as developing the capacity of people outside paid work.

The researchers conclude that:

Organisations that want to develop co-productive ways of working need to focus not just on clients' problems, but on their abilities.

The benefits system needs to be able to provide incentives for those outside paid work to get more involved in their neighbourhoods without endangering their basic income.

To be successful, co-production needs to retain its informal approach. Local intermediary agencies – in particular properly resourced time banks – may be best placed to achieve this." (


Needham, C. and Carr, S. 2009. Co-production: An Emerging Evidence Base for Adult Social Care Transformation. London: Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Pestoff, V., Osborne, S.P. and Brandsen, T. 2006. ‘Patterns of co-production in public services: Some concluding thoughts’. Public Management Review, 8, 591–595.

Boyle, D. and Harris, M.T. 2009. The Challenge of Co-production. London: NESTA.

Bovaird, T. 2007. ‘Beyond Engagement and Participation: Users and Community Co-production of Services’, Public Administration Review, 67, 5, 846–60.

Fotaki, M. 2011. ‘Towards developing new partnerships in public services: Users as consumers, citizens and/or co-producers driving improvements in health and social care in the UK and Sweden’, Public Administration, 89, 3, 933–95.

Alford, J. 2002. ‘Why Do Public-Sector Clients Coproduce?: Toward a Contingency Theory’, Administration and Society, 34, 1, 32–56.

Alford, J. 2009. Engaging Public Sector Clients: From Service-Delivery to Co-Production. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Glynos, J. and Speed, E. 2012. Varieties of co-production in public services: time banks in a UK health policy context. Critical Social Policy, 6(4), 402–43.

Baker, J. 2010. Co-production of Local Services. London: Local Government and Research Councils.