Community work

March 7, 2010

A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the IPPR entitled “Capable Communities – Public service reform: The next chapter” has appeared. It’s another short one at 24 pages and it follows a long list of other reports concerned with co-production, such as the ones I’ve managed to cover here, here and here (and even back in October 2008, too)

It doesn’t seem that long ago since the Baroness Thatcher decided that “society” didn’t exist, we now have them coming at us from all political directions, along with various combinations of the words “social”, “good”, “value”, “capital” and “public”,  and this report is no exception!

Whilst I support the obvious statement that “services work best when citizens are involved in producing them”, I cringe at some of the expectations of those who must be so detached from the society they are now trying to involve. Most councils struggle for volunteers be they school governors, PTA members, attendees at consultation events, community forums etc, so where are all the additional ones to come from? 

The report is right in that in order for this ever to happen, the state needs to change. Citizens will only spend their time when value is returned to them and the community, not through the penny-pinching or pseudo-consultative exercises that it has been so often in the recent past. Results will have to be delivered before they are expected!

I hope that the survey results from the report are taken with a pinch of real experience before anyone decides that communities are actually willing or able to do many of these exercises without adequate funding or support. If the truth is out, they’ll be initially used as ways of finding savings, and we can then watch community, services and society wither, as well as the state.


Co-production again

December 20, 2009

Christmas greetings and thanks go out to Adrian Barker at the IDeA who, in his blog, pointed out the existence of “The Challenge of Co-production” from David Boyle and Michael Harris published by NESTA, in cooperation with The Lab and nef.

Co-production is no stranger to this blog with some nine mentions of it in the recent past and two particular posts about it from January 2009, the first of which was entitled Co-production.

It’s some 25 pages of tight small print but is  a useful introduction to what might be done, without offering any solutions, but it does clearly point out some of the existing issues:

P.6 – “The ‘choice’ agenda has been at the heart of policy towards public services for most of the past three decades, but there is increasing doubt about whether it has succeeded in delivering what people actually want.”

P.7 – “The increasing use of consumer language has encouraged people to behave towards public services as they would towards any commercial supplier. Equally, by focusing entirely on people’s needs – rather than what they can contribute – services have tended to dissempower their users and have  done little to prevent needs arising in the first place.

P.8 – Reproduces definition of co-production from: Parks, R. B., Baker, P.C., Kiser, L., Oakerson, R., Ostrom, E.,Ostrom, V., Percy, S.L.,Vandivort, M.B., Whitaker, G.P., Wilson, R., (1981). “CONSUMERS AS COPRODUCERS OF PUBLIC SERVICES: SOME ECONOMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS.” Policy Studies Journal 9(7): 1001-1011. which states – “process through which inputs used to produce a good or service are contributed by individuals who are not ‘in’ the same organisation.”

In general a useful addition to the literature on co-production.


January 19, 2009

Whilst researching using Google for some additional sources on ‘co-production’ and ‘systems thinking’ for a paper I’m writing about action research and e-government, I came across a publication written by Zoe Gannon and Neal Lawson from December 2008 published by Compass, the democratic left pressure group that has support within the Labour party from the likes of Jon Cruddas MP, entitled exactly that: Co-production! Strangely, I am on the Compass mailing list but had somehow missed the promotion of the report.

The report provides a useful history of co-production with some practical examples from the UK.

Some questions about anchoring expectations

October 19, 2008

The service user has expectations – are we aware of them?

The service provider has a view upon the service user’s expectations.

Do they equate? The gap may be in the service users favour, if the provider is being generous, but does the service user really want or need that generosity? Can there be too excellent a service?

In contrast, the citizen may be setting their sights too low. From a previous experience they may not expect the quality that the service provider is obliged by law or even common decency to deliver. We should be delivering excellent service quality.

How do we anchor expectations in these terms or provide realistic pledges or promises of service?

I propose that consultation and co-production of processes with the end user can be the only rationale.