What is it?

Co-production is an approach to designing & delivering public services that values professional training & lived experience equally.

Designing & delivering services is a partnership between citizens and professionals.

Co-production blends best practices

• community resilience
• network and field building
• well-being and happiness research
• asset-based community development

What’s in it for me?

Governments save money, both immediately and preventatively.
Frontline service providers & civil servants are enabled to use their expertise to develop customized solutions, increasing their impact.
Citizens experience improved service outcomes and are valuable partners in the delivery of their own care.
Designers create holistic services that are user-centric, responsive to on the ground realities, efficient and encourage well-being.

Ladder of participation

While many service providers strive to consult with and engage users in service design, co-production goes a step further by ensuring users are an integral part of service delivery.

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Is your service co-produced?

        1. An asset-based approach: Does your service acknowledge and celebrate the assets of users and the community, rather than focussing on deficits?
        2. Working on capabilities: Does your service build the skills of those involved?
        3. Developing mutuality:Does your service broker a true partnership and shared responsibility between professionals and users?
        4. Growing networks: Does your service support, connect with, learn with, and reflect with individuals other than the usual suspects? Does your service provide forums for users and professionals to connect and share expertise?
        5. Blurring roles: Are professionals and users of services viewed as crucial to delivery?
        6. Acting as catalysts: Does your service provide professionals with the opportunity to act as coaches and facilitators to service users
“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.”

—Nesta & nef, The Challenge of Co-Production, 2010


When does it work? Public services that traditionally have long-term relationships with citizens, such as caregiving, health care, justice and education, make particularly good candidates for co-production re-design.
Is this downloading services onto citizens and communities? This approach is about listening to citizens and working together with them to create better outcomes. The co-delivery aspect distinguishes it from self-organized approaches, emphasizing that both professionals and citizens are crucial for the services to work.
Is this really an innovation? Co-production blends best practices from a number of longstanding approaches, including asset-based community development, citizen engagement and network theory among others. It provides a language and framework that helps guide and assess the work that many services are already attempting to do.

“Co-production emphasizes that people who use services have assets that can help improve those services rather than simply having needs which must be met.”

—Catherine Needham and Sarah Carr, Co-production: An emerging evidence base for adult social care transformation, 2012

Examples of co-production


A time-banking community where residents use time as a currency fo exchange for services. An hour spent helping someone entitles you to an hour of someone else’s help in return. In time-banking models, all tasks have equal value – an hour spent helping someone with computer skills is worth the same as an hour spent keeping an isolated person company, walking a dog or helping someone fill out a form. The model emphasizes that everyone has something to offer and uncovers hidden assets within communities.


A nursing home where there are no ‘staff rooms’ or rules and restrictions for residents. Employees and residents share roles and responsibilities; the lines between the two are blurred. Residents spend their daily lives working and living as contributing members of the Merevale community, leading to improved self-confidence and quality of life.


This program connects families who are going through tough times with families who have struggled and come out the other side. Through spending time with another family who has ‘been there, done that,’ families experience new and different ways of dealing with challenges. Professionals play an indirect role in motivating, prompting and problem-solving with family pairs, rather than assessing, diagnosing or directing change.


An alternative sentencing program in which first-time juvenile offenders are judged by a jury of their peers – all of whom are previous offenders. Youth jury members investigate what led to the arrest and what activities and situations may have contributed to the problem. This approach gets to the root cause of criminal behaviour and effectively reduces recidivism.

Co-production grid

Table: User and Professional Roles in the Design and Delivery of Services

Designers have long embraced co-design and user-centred design; however, it is less common to incorporate end users in the ongoing delivery of the service—that is, for the end users to be co- deliverers alongside the professionals.


Download this resource to share with your community.

If you would like to read further thinking about the opportunities and possible barriers for Co-production, read our article, Being Human: Collaborating with Community for a Stronger Whole in Public Management Magazine.

We’d like to thank MindLab, nef, and Nesta for their advice and inspiration in putting this piece together. For further resources on co-production, please visit:





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