The Challenge of Co-production

It’s been about 30 years since Margaret Thatcher said ”There is no such thing as society”. I always felt that was a pernicious and cynical point of view, and gradually I think we’re witnessing the realisation that policies based on that view are unsustainable.

Nesta’s recent document on The Challenge of Co-production is an energetic manifesto for re-engaging society in public service provision. This goes beyond participation politics, with its consultations and surveys, as well as co-design, which involves users in developing the service. It proposes that shared responsibility for full service delivery is both more effective and more efficient. This is nothing short of a sea change of conventional wisdom. It’ll be very interesting to see how far the ripples ride on this one. Politicians from both sides are dropping already hackneyed words like “choice” in favour of “co-production”. But one wonders whether they have the legs to implement something so radical.

When Thatcher announced the end of society, what she marked was the division of public service from the public being served. Society no longer affected change. It was the individual, her dynamo of wealth creation, that did all the work. Well, as we can all now see, this provided a financial boon, but now things have gone awry  it turns out we might need society after all.

1 thought on “The Challenge of Co-production

  1. Hi Joel,

    Nice post and good to see the report seems to be getting plenty of readers.

    It’s a good read and firms up a lot of the thinking around this approach to service delivery, giving it more weight. However, I thing your right to say that the way we’re dropping terms like choice in favour of the ‘next big thing’ does make me a little skeptical.

    I see co-production as an interesting new approach that may work with some services but it’s not the answer to everything and should not be the holy grail politicians are billing it to be. The idea that this alone will answer all our budget cut problems is very wishful thinking.

    I was asked to give my view on the report by Design Week who highlighted the lack of referral to co-design in the process which I though was interesting. I posted about this here: Since this article they have also run a “Is co-design a good idea”poll” – you can see the results here.


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