What’s it all about (Alfie*)

(* 1960s reference for those of mature vintage)

Several people have said that they are enjoying the blog pictures and the funny bits but that they have no idea what co-production is and therefore no idea what I’m getting so excited about. So here goes…

Co-production (also known as asset-based delivery) is a method of delivering public services across all sectors, health, community, environment, housing etc. It’s a radically different approach which – through collaboration with users on both design AND delivery – can make services massively more effective for the public, more cost-effective for policymakers, and more sustainable for all of us. Cowen lush as we say in Wales.

NESTA/nef define it thus:

Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change.

Typically, communities are involved in defining/clarifying the need or problem, in designing the solution, AND in delivering it, either with professionals or independently, or anything in between. An example from America: long-term hospital patients were asked to give feedback about the quality of care they were receiving. Responses revealed that they were generally happy with the hospital care but that they had serious concerns about leaving hospital which were inhibiting their recovery. They were anxious about whether there might be a re-occurrence of their health problem, whether they could manage alone, about being isolated, about having to resume responsibility for their own shopping, cooking, cleaning, bills etc. The hospital had no way to address these anxieties but had the bright idea of setting up a meeting between current and former long-term patients. This led to a buddy programme where current patients were paired up with an ex-patient in their locale. Buddies were only available to those who agreed to buddy someone in return, thus ensuring sustainability. Apart from solving the immediate problem, this co-produced solution led to a host of additional benefits. The ex-patients felt valued and useful, increasing their sense of wellbeing. No-one wanted to stop being a buddy so the network of available buddies grew and grew. They started visitor buddies who would visit hospital patients who had no friends or family nearby; they ran book-clubs in the hospital, and subsequently in the community; they began to meet up socially, to go on trips together. They got involved with patients well before discharge to lessen their anxieties and fed back to the professionals so that their services were more effective.

Significantly, co-production is not just a pragmatic response but is underpinned by a set of humanitarian principles, and a redefinition of work.

Most work takes place outside the money economy, in what Edgar Cahn refers to as the core economy. Core economy work includes whatever it takes to raise healthy children, care for the old, ill or vulnerable, build a sense of neighbourliness and community, redress injustice and make democracy work.

On this basis, it is clear that the real wealth of society is in its people. Co-production works on the principle that we are all equal partners and all have something of value to contribute. At the heart of the approach are reciprocal relationships, built on trust, respect and mutuality, and on the universal human impulse to give back.

Given this foundation, the additional benefits of co-production are even more cowen lush.

Co-production projects encourage participation, mutuality and respect for others. They value the experience, skills and knowledge that each participant brings and also provide opportunities to extend those skills and knowledge. Confidence grows, new relationships are made, and sense of community emerges.

Research by the new economics foundation into wellbeing suggests that there are five factors which contribute to our sense of wellbeing: connecting / learning / giving / awareness / being active. Co-production ticks all the boxes. It’s the holy grail!

Any clearer? If not, have a look at these examples of co-production in action:

Castle Vale Community Housing, Birmingham

Resident-led CVCH manages 2,400 homes in a deprived area of Birmingham. It develops services for the homeowners on Castle Vale and other neighbourhoods in Birmingham, through community regeneration activities, an award-winning community safety service and initiatives to deal with social exclusion. Their work has increased life expectancy on the estate by 7 years, and the neighbourhood is now one of the safest places to live in Birmingham.


TB Wales runs a number of projects including Time for Young People, an inspirational programme unlocking young people’s creative potential within communities, placing value on community action, active citizenship and building social capital. The project is now being rolled out across six South Wales local authority areas.

Glasgow Homelessness Network

Glasgow Homelessness Network is a voluntary and membership organisation working with and for people affected by homelessness. Based on partnerships of  equality and respect, GHN uses the knowledge and expertise of members to improve policy, practice & perceptions around homelessness and related social exclusion issues.



    • Thanks Pam – this is really useful. As soon as I have a moment I’ll add in Cahn’s core values to the page. Also, I was up in London at a network meeting yesterday and someone pointed out that the fifth wellbeing element is ‘be active’ rather than the less enticing ‘exercise’. So that’s cheering!

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