What makes co-production different?

Unfortunately with the increasing use and profile of the word "co-production", there is also increasing misuse. To understand what co-production is, it is important to understand what it is not.

Co-production builds upon a range of similar approaches such as consultation, engagement and co-design. Clearly showing the difference between co-production and these related, but different, approaches is important if real co-production is to be put into practice.

The ladder of co-production is a useful way of making these important distinctions.

Co-production ladder

Consultation, engagement and co-design encourage people to input by asking for their ideas, experience and opinions (See Developing a new day care service). Co-production is different because it also needs people's actions. This can happen through 1-2-1 relationships with professionals where people play an active role in shaping and implementing their own support, or in wider peer or community support between people and professionals. Co-production means that power is shared more equally between those who use services and those who provide them. Everyone's skills and personal resources are put to use.

Quite often words describing co-production are mixed up with words describing co-design. Co-design and other ways of involving people using services in the design of services mean that the planning of services is done jointly, but this doesn't always lead to involving people using services, families and communities in the delivery of the service - i.e. actually making it happen. The following table by Boyle and Harris helps to explain this (opens new window):

User and professional roles in the design and delivery of services table