Collaboration in the public domain
Co-production it is called: collaboration between citizens and public servants with reference to public services. Carola van Eijk defends het PhD thesis on this subject at the Institute of Public Administration in The Hague. Defense 11 October 2017.
Parents participating in the primary school of their children. Members of the client council contributing to the delivery of good quality care. Teams of residents trying to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood. Co-production fits into the efforts towards active citizenship, ‘the-right-to-challenge’, and an enabling state. It will bring us wonderful things, proponents claim: better services, encouragement of self-help and resilience, increased feelings of ownership, more wellbeing…
Co-production is the subject of the PhD thesis of public administration expert Carola van Eijk. She mainly looked at the motivations of both the individual citizens and the public professionals involved. Why do they engage in co-production? And how do they perceive each other’s engagement? Citizens can have very diverse reasons for taking on the role of co-producer. Wanting to ‘contribute to society’, or expecting benefits for themselves or their loved ones. And sometimes they seem mainly motivated by a ‘Let’s just do it’ mentality: solving problems instead of complaining about them. For professionals co-production is often simply part of their job. But high levels of engagement will undeniably increase the chances of success.
Clear roles and expectations
How does co-production function in reality? Can the high expectations be met? ‘That’s somewhat outside the scope of my thesis,’ Van Eijk admits. But during her research she did see some matters of concern, such as disappointment among participants. Her advice (to both parties): ‘Before you start collaborating, sit down together and discuss the roles and expectations. Preferably with professionals acting as mentors. And don’t forget to show your appreciation during the process.’
Is co-production here to stay? She thinks so, but also sees potential pitfalls. ‘State officials sometimes tend to forget it’s co-production, and withdraw way too far. Citizens, on the other hand, may want too much. And they can withdraw as well, of course. They have no time, or aren’t interested any more. And that can endanger the continuity of the service delivery process.’
On the 11th of October 2017 Carola van Eijk will defend her PhD thesis ‘Engagement of citizens and public professionals in the co-productions of public services.’
- Prof.dr. T.P.S. Steen
- Prof.dr. R. Torenvlied