Co-production is a word being thrown around a lot lately, but without much sense that anyone really understands it or is willing to really deliver on what it promises. So, here is a simple test for you - just read these three short extracts from recent political pronouncements.
First from a speech by David Cameron January 26 2007:
This alternative is – if I may borrow from the socialist phrase-book – the New Jerusalem: the liberal-conservative ideal.
It involves a diversity of independent, locally accountable institutions, providing public services according to their own ideas of what works and their own experience of what their users want.
It involves, most of all, individuals and families who are empowered with choice.
Pluralism on the supply side is matched with freedom on the demand side.
The public become, not the passive recipients of state services, but the active agents of their own life.
They are trusted to make the right choices for themselves and their families.
They become doers, not the done-for.
And this, from Nick Clegg in September 2009
The centralisation of Labour’s management of the NHS has, in my view, undermined service delivery and jeopardised equality. They failed to understand that power needs to be dispersed in the NHS, rather than collected in the Secretary of State’s office so no-one can do anything without Whitehall sayso. And they failed to understand that individual patients need to be empowered to deal with the NHS proactively – we should not all be supplicants at the state machine, but enabled to take charge of our health, get the care we need, and manage our own interactions with medical staff.
And finally from Phil Hope, sometime Minister of State for Care Services, speaking at a conference on 18 March 2009:
Co-production changes all this. It makes the system more efficient, more effective and more responsive to community needs.
More importantly, it makes social care altogether more humane, more trustworthy, more valued – and altogether more transforming for those who use it.
More transforming for the man with the whippet and for the six million carers in our society.
More transforming for the 20 million-odd volunteers – a huge untapped source of social capital and community renewal.
And more transforming for the workforce of today, and the care users of tomorrow who we need to engage now to plan effective services for the future.
This quote provides a less partisan definition in its historic context.
What is 'co-production'?
The term 'co-production' began as a way of describing the critical role that service 'consumers' have in enabling professionals to make a success of their jobs. It was originally coined in the 1970s by Elinor Ostrom and others to explain why neighbourhood crime rates went up in Chicago when police stopped walking the beat and lost connection with local community members. It was used also in the UK in the 1980s by Anna Coote and others at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the King's Fund to describe the reciprocal relationship between professionals and individuals necessary to effect change.
The concept has also been expanded by US civil rights lawyer, Edgar Cahn, who emphasises the involvement of the wider network of families and neighbours. Cahn defines co-production as depending on the following values:
- Assets: Every human being can be a builder and contributor.
- Redefining work: To include whatever it takes to raise healthy children, preserve families, make neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, care for frail and vulnerable people, redress injustice, and make democracy work.
- Reciprocity: The impulse to give back is universal. Wherever possible, we must replace one-way acts of largesse with two-way transactions both between individuals and between people and institutions.
- Social networks: Humans require a social infrastructure; this is as essential as roads or bridges. Social networks require ongoing investments of social capital generated by trust, reciprocity, and civic engagement.
Now, having read them, which politician appears to be seeing things in terms of improving the system and which ones seem to understand that this is about people. No prizes!
You know what makes me sick though? Seeing a jumped up prig and a nonentity BOTH making more sense than a Government minister from a party that has consistently claimed since it was elected to be about community empowerment.