Beyond Engagement and Participation: User and Community Coproduction of Public Services


Tony Bovaird is a professor of public management and policy in the Institute of Local Government Studies, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham. He currently directs a five-year project on the Meta-Evaluation of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda, commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government in Whitehall, and cochairs the Local and Regional Governance Research Network on behalf of that department. He is also a director of Governance International.


In recent years, there has been a radical reinterpretation of the role of policy making and service delivery in the public domain. Policy making is no longer seen as a purely top-down process but rather as a negotiation among many interacting policy systems. Similarly, services are no longer simply delivered by professional and managerial staff in public agencies but are coproduced by users and their communities. This article presents a conceptual framework for understanding the emerging role of user and community coproduction and presents several case studies that illustrate how different forms of coproduction have played out in practice. Traditional conceptions of service planning and management are now outdated and need to be revised to account for coproduction as an integrating mechanism and an incentive for resource mobilization—a potential that is still greatly underestimated. However, coproduction in the context of multipurpose, multistakeholder networks raises important public governance issues that have implications for public services reform.