Co-production is a way of designing and delivering public services in a more democratic fashion, giving citizens control over the day-to-day decisions which affect their lives.

NEF defines co-production as "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".  

Co-production is focused around a relationship in which professionals and citizens share power to plan and deliver support together, recognising that both partners have vital expertise. Overall, co-production is fundamentally about seeing people as assets: people are no longer passive recipients of services, but are equal partners in designing and delivering activities to improve outcomes.

Co-production can be applied to the design and delivery of services once a devolution deal has already been agreed. It is relatively low cost and helps to improve outcomes by delivering better designed services in a more efficient and effective way. It brings both staff and citizens into the heart of the design and delivery of the public services they use, which can be incredibly empowering for all involved.

Co-production can be applied to a range of services from a small to a large scale.  As such, it can be practiced in a variety of different settings – from the local to the regional. However, it is worth noting that developing and embedding co-production across services takes time; it requires changing both the nuts and bolts of commissioning practice and changing culture. 

Key considerations for devolution areas

  • An approach to designing and delivering public services, through which citizens share power with professionals in an equal and reciprocal relationship;
  • Can be applied once a devolution deal has already been agreed, but could also generate insights for those developing deals;
  • Could be especially useful in supporting the integration of health and social care, drawing on the expertise of citizens, service users, families and carers as well as staff;
  • Can be applied to a range of services from a local to a regional/combined authority level. 

How do I get started? 

  • Explore the theory and practice further through the Co-production Practitioners' Network,  which has a website of resources, local groups and events;
  • Use a range of asset-based approaches to co-produce an outcomes framework for devolution with residents, service users and service professionals;
  • Using the outcomes developed by residents, identify government activities and/or services which could be improved through co-production with service users and residents – for example, youth services, adult social care, housing, health, employment and skills have all been transformed through co-production in various places;  
  • Start relatively small with a single activity or project before scaling up, allowing time for culture change to take
    place and encouraging local leaders to act as champions for the approach.

Case studies

Lambeth Living Well: a platform of partners aiming to radically improve the outcomes experienced by people with severe and enduring mental health problems by co-producing solutions with a focus on early intervention and prevention;

Lochside Neighbourhood Group: a community-led forum set up in 2012 to use co-design to improve the local area;

Local Area Coordination, Derbyshire: an approach delivered by Local Area Coordinators who are embedded in communities and act as a single point of contact to support individuals with long term conditions.