Co-production: Agree Local Policy First

Filed under: Local Government,Policy — lenand @ 10:37 am
Transforming local public services through co-production is a recent mantra.  Birmingham University has reviewed the evidence and produced one unsurprising finding.

“The case for co-production is often made in terms of its potential relationship to efficiencies and cost-savings. But, the evidence base on co-production is limited and suggests that efficiency savings are not simple to achieve in the short-term.

‘it’s becoming a byword for passing responsibilities onto the communities and that’s leading to cynicism and anxiety’”

But there are also many positive messages and grounds for giving advice on how to move co-production forward.

  • Delivering co-production is less about ‘scaling up’, than taking a localist approach: ‘scaling out’ through sharing practice and spreading innovation between organisations.

They also list implications for policy makers:

  • Neighbourhood community budgets, neighbourhood plans and community rights all offer a potentially significant shift of power to communities providing grounding for transformative co-production of local public services.
  • But how the ambition of transformative co-production is communicated is crucial.  The message needs to engage with values and aspirations in order to motivate and mobilise people to work differently and take action.
  • Communication will need to be different within and across communities, localities and professional groups.
  • Transformative co-production depends on working with communities to bring together existing assets and resources in new and creative ways.
  • Local public delivery partners (as broadly defined, including voluntary, social enterprise, co-operative and mutual models) may be best able to understand and engage with such priorities and values ensuring that opportunities are communicated in credible and locally appropriate ways.
  • Community rights–particularly the ‘right to challenge’–have been communicated as an opportunity for the community to ‘take over’. This message has been interpreted on the ground as exacerbating an adversarial relationship between existing service providers and communities, rather than encouraging collaboration and synergy, and so may be counter-productive.
  • In commissioning services, the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which requires public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public service contracts, can help to ensure that small, local public and community organisations are able to compete fairly.
  • Incentivising and inspiring, through peer-to-peer learning which feels ‘real and relevant’ is crucial to spreading co- production.
  • Neighbourhood community budget pilots have demonstrated that flexible, innovative approaches are important to initiating and continuing the dialogue between professionals and communities. Co-design and creative practice offer ways to build a credible commitment and incentivise different stakeholders.
  • For neighbourhood planning, spatial and visualisation tools (such as digital maps, computer games and touch- tables) seem particularly appropriate way of engaging the community in problem-solving.

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