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Innovation in the UK

All posts tagged: timebanking

A tour de force for co-production

3 May, 2011 Posted by: -

If the concept of co-production was once restricted to the margins, it’s certainly beginning to make its way into the mainstream. Over the last six weeks, the Co-Production Roadshow visited five cities across the UK and welcomed over 500 delegates – from leaders of local authorities to frontline workers – united by their interest in co-production and eager to learn how to put it into practice.

The response we received, the challenging discussions that took place and the inspiring examples of co-production in practice that were shared are exciting signs that that idea that of co-production is gaining momentum. 

At its heart, co-production is the belief that involving users in the design and delivery of their services will lead to more effective and cheaper public services. It’s about a shift of power and radically rethinking the roles of professionals and communities. It asserts that simply delivering services to citizens neglects the skills, capabilities and time of the people receiving the services, and is ultimately a fundamentally inefficient way of addressing social needs. 

Jointly hosted with the Co-Production Practioners Network, new economics foundation and a range of partners across the country, the roadshows were an opportunity to explore how the concept of co-production could be translated into practice across the country and brought closer to mainstream public service commissioning and delivery. The workshops in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and London were opportunities to showcase examples of co-produced services and provide a space for practitioners and decision makers to talk about how to deliver better, cheaper public services that involve people in improving their lives and their communities.

What we found was heartening. People across the country are motivated by co-production and are hungry for help and advice to put it into practice. They were inspired by the examples of co-produced services that were present. In Edinburgh, we heard from Sam Hopley who spoke about the role of timebanks as vehicles for co-production bringing examples from his experience as CEO of Timebanking UK and from his work at Camden’s Holy Cross Centre Trust. In Cardiff we were inspired by the work of Sandra Jones who shared her experience of developing Denbighshire Nightrider - a volunteer operated service which uses spare capacity in the Council’s bus fleet in the evening to provide low cost transport to elderly residents enabling them to lead more active and connected lives. And In Manchester the work of the RSA project who co-produced an area based curriculum in Peterborough inspired many to see how an idea can be translated into reality.

From all of the roadshows it was absolutely clear that there is a growing appetite for co-production - more and more people want to talk about how it can help them to find better solutions. Several themes emerged which we can use to help drive co-production even further into the mainstream: 

• The importance of evidencing the impact of co-production on public services and building a business case around it to start dismantling unhelpful service silos
• The importance of investing in people’s and communities’ capacity to get involved in co-producing public services
• The need for trust, leadership and certain soft skills as pre-conditions for making co-production happen
• The role of politicians to as catalysts for co-production
• The fact that risk aversion and bureaucracy are the greatest enemies of co-production and that we need to change systems - from commissioning to performance management - to make space for co-production in public services
• The consciousness that we are all changing the system from within, and a strong sense of shared responsibility for driving the change that we want to see, especially at this time of public sector reform

Through the Co-production Roadshows, we’ve seen for ourselves that a movement is building around co-production. If we work together to get co-production right, we can look forward to better public services, where users, their families and communities are as responsible as the professionals who deliver the services to them.

Francesca Cignola is from NESTA’s Public Service’s Lab. To read more about NESTA’s work on co-production, visit

Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life by providing investments, grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery.

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