In 2012 South Ayrshire Council made a commitment to work together with local people and third sector organisations to co-design local services in Lochside – a small area in South Ayrshire with a population of around 4,300 people. Three local residents joined up with the Council's Head of Service and community engagement staff to set up a community-led forum with a mandate to use co-design to improve the local area.
Over two years this developed into an organisation called the Lochside Neighbourhood Group, made up of third sector organisations, faith groups, and both private and public sector organisations.
Through the group, local residents identify issues of interest and concern as well as skills, knowledge and strengths which lie within the community. They have been involved in the design and delivery of a wide range of services including roads, waste management, community safety, housing, parks department, neighbourhood services, local churches and housing associations.
The group has had a large impact on the local area. For example, the plans for a new housing development were revised to incorporate changes suggested by group members. Community involvement has increased, with 138 residents involved and informed of developments via email, word of mouth, meetings, one-to-one interviews, focus group discussions, Facebook updates and events. They have run Community Capacity Building programmes which have given residents the necessary skills in participating in committees, governance and management, promotion and marketing, funding and social enterprise.
The design and delivery of services and campaigns have been co-designed and co-delivered throughout the history of the organisation – giving Lochside residents a real say in how local services are delivered in their area. The networks established through the group have become a key method for enabling staff from public services to engage with a wider set of community members and organisations than they had previously through consultations.
- Local government can begin the process of co-production by making commitments to work with local people and organisations in a way where power is shared between them, whether by working more closely with neighbourhood forums or co-designing outcomes frameworks with service users and their families.
- Citizens provide local expertise which helps to provide tailored, asset-based solutions and more effective service delivery.
- Co-production can be used alongside other methods of democratic engagement and citizen participation, such as digital engagement.
- When citizens are actually involved in producing activities with government bodies through co-production, their engagement in deliberative decision making may also increase because they know they can have an impact.