Co-producing better policy

If we can co-produce services, we can co-produce policy.

With apologies for the public service reform jargon, this is one of the main inspirations for our new think tank project.

‘Co-production’ suggests that effective services rely on the public as much as the public relies on services. It was first developed as an idea in the 1970s by (later Nobel Prize winner) Elinor Ostrom to explain why the police need the community as much as the community need the police. The go-to organisation for co-production in the UK is the new economics foundation, where I work.

I believe the idea can be taken further. If public services are only really effective when they work in equal partnership with the people who use them – in part because users represent an immense hidden resource of insight and experience – then the same must be true for policy.

Yes, it is possible to take a McKinsey view of the world and develop policy abstractly, without having talked to a practitioner or service user. But if we want better policy – policy that works – then we need to ensure that the go-to groups are the people who use and provide the services we are trying to improve, and those who experience the problems we are trying to solve.

(With thanks to Chris)

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