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Although there is no fixed definition of co-production, NEF and Governance International have provided good starting points: ‘Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours’ 1 or ‘the public sector and citizens making better use of each other’s assets and resources to achieve better outcomes and improved efficiency’ 2. It is about encouraging people to use their skills and experience to help deliver public or voluntary services. According to Elizabeth Hoodless at Community Service Volunteers, it refers to “broadening and deepening” public services so that they are no longer the preserve of professionals or commissioners, but a shared responsibility, both building and using a multi-faceted network of mutual support. NEF and NESTA have established 6 principles which, when all in action, demonstrate the co-production is happening:

People are recognized as assets

It is built on people’s existing capabilities

Supports mutuality and reciprocity

Engages via peer supported network

Blurs distinctions between professional and recipients

Promotes facilitation rather than delivery by professionals

It can also be useful to consider what co-production is not. It is not, except in the broadest sense, about consultation or participation, nor about consulting more, or involving people more in decisions.

Spice is one of the most prominent examples of social enterprises that developed agency time credits as systematic low cost and sustainable methodology for engaging many more people in communities as active participants, volunteers and in ‘co-producing’ public and community services. 3






  1. New economics foundation (2008) Co-production, a manifesto for growing the core economy, available at
  2. Governance International –
  3. Spice
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