Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Co-Production By Young People and Public Service Organisations of Quality-of-Life Outcomes for Young People: A Comparison of International Evidence

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 3:50 PM
Johnson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tony Bovaird, University of Birmingham and Elke Loeffler, Governance International
Much of the literature and many of the empirical studies of user and community co-production have focused in particular on services and outcomes for older people. However, our surveys of five EU countries in 2008 suggested that age was not a particularly important fact in determining the level of co-production. Moreover, those studies unexpectedly demonstrated that young people expressed a higher level of interest in undertaking more co-production activities than did older people. Consequently, this paper explores a conceptual framework for understanding the role of young people (and other citizens) in the co-production of publicly desired outcomes for young people. The conceptual framework draws on several literatures, including psychosocial studies of risk factors, health studies, social work, employability studies and community safety studies. It distinguishes between behaviours by young people which are likely to be predictable (and therefore able to be influenced at micro-level by public policy) and other behaviours by young people which are likely to be highly interactive, dependent upon their network and milieu and therefore difficult to influence, other than as a complex adaptive system.

The empirical testing of this framework in the paper draws on five recent quantitative studies – four surveys (partly designed through qualitative focus groups with key stakeholders) and one quantitative in-depth evaluation of young people’s public services in a large area of England. The surveys were based upon representative citizen panels, carried out through phone interviews. The earliest set of surveys was in five EU countries in 2008. The second set was undertaken in five local areas of England and Wales in July 2011-12. The third source was a survey of 1000 citizens in Germany in 2014. The final survey was a near-repeat of the 2008 questionnaire, this time with 1000 citizens in Australia in 2014. All the questionnaires focussed on co-production approaches to improve the quality of life of citizens, and each of them had questions which probe the co-production behaviours of young people. The German survey contained much more detail about the behaviour of young people and the range of psychological drivers behind co-productive activity.

The paper then explores the implications of this evidence base for public policy in relation to young people’s services and the outcomes which are sought by and for young people. It suggests that the pathway to outcomes offered by co-production is likely to be much more effective, at least in relation to those outcomes which are desired by young people, than pathways dominated by inputs from public service providers. It explores the reasons why councils and other public agencies do not systematically make fuller use of the potential roles which young people might play in co-commissioning, co-design, co-delivery and co-assessment of public services and public outcomes. It shows how an understanding of the drivers of co-productive behaviour by young people can help to identify more cost-effective interventions by public service providers, whether from the public or third sector. Finally, the paper suggests some further research directions to improve the evidence base for co-production approaches.