Co-delivery of public services involves citizens being encouraged and/or assisted in performing acts that produce public value, such as recycling or saving electricity. Despite its wide use across the world there is limited quantitative evidence of how likely citizens are to co-deliver this value, and which groups of citizens deliver more than others.
New research published in Public Management Review - International survey evidence on user and community co-delivery of prevention activities relevant to public services and outcomes by Tony Bovaird, Elke Loeffler, Sophie Yates, Gregg van Ryzin and John Alford - outlines the results of several quantitative research projects into co-production and co-delivery of services, including an ANZSOG-funded study measuring co-production in Australia.
The article compares surveys of user and community co-delivery of prevention activities across six countries, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Denmark, exploring both the level of co-delivery, as revealed by citizens, and the characteristics of those citizens most likely to co-produce.
The article focuses particularly on co-delivery activities which seek to prevent problems that might otherwise necessitate more public services or that impact negatively on levels of publicly desired outcomes. The kinds of co-delivery looked at include: recycling, trying to save water/electricity, using public transport, exercising regularly, taking care of sick family members, and intervening to stop anti-social behaviour.
The article states that although there are many differences in detail, the results are quite consistent in relation to most key issues and provide a unique quantitative insight into the characteristics of co-delivery behaviour by citizens.
The empirical results across six countries are based largely on the same survey methodology, and the article states that the consistency of those results, and the high levels of co-delivery, suggests that they should be taken seriously by policymakers in designing (co-designing) their policies to promote co-production with service users and citizens.
The researchers found that rates of co-delivery vary most significantly across policy areas with rates higher in environmental issues and rather less in relation to community safety, with more variation between countries in relation to health. Rates of individually undertaken co-delivery activities appear to be considerably higher in volume than co-delivery which involves interacting with other people, despite the idea of co-production conjuring up the idea of people doing things together.
The findings in most countries and in most service areas suggest that levels of co-delivery are not strongly associated with satisfaction or dissatisfaction with public services, public consultation or being provided with adequate information about services, and do not have a consistent or strong relationship with demographic variables, which the article suggests that governments should not make any assumptions about who is likely to (and who is not likely to) get involved in co-delivery.
The article concludes by saying:
“However, we would suggest that the greatest contribution of these studies to date has been to demonstrate how limited has been our previous understanding of the processes by which public services achieve improvements to the outcomes experienced by citizens. In particular, they highlight how much contribution is being made ‘behind the scenes’ by citizens in a wide variety of ways, and the scope for making much more appropriate use of citizen capabilities, resources and strengths in the future, in a way which may genuinely transform public services and the achievement of publicly-desirable outcomes.”