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"'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." (


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." (


Emerging Forms of Co-Production, according to James Quilligan:

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

Research Summary

"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." (

More Information

  1. Co-production by people outside paid employment, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  2. The Co-Production Principle. By David Boyle of Timebanks


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.