Co-production and citizen participation

Panel 13: Co-production and citizen participation

Chaired by: dr. Marlies Honingh (RU), prof. dr. Taco Brandsen (RU), dr. Trui Steen (UL-CDH), prof. dr. Bram Verschuere (Universiteit Gent), prof. dr. Albert Meijer (UU)

Over the last years we experience a revival of research addressing the role of citizens in the development and production of public services (e.g. Pestoff et al 2012). Much of this research illustrates that it is not suitable to make a rigid distinction between those that ‘create’ and those that ‘consume’ a service, since clients (citizens) contribute and participate in different stages of public service provision. Think for example about citizens that co-design a service, citizens that participate in planning, citizens that participate in fundraising, citizens as members of a public funded school board or as members of a neighborhood watch team. This small selection of examples demonstrates that there is a wide variety of ways to contribute to and participate in the provision of public services.

Since participation is currently seen as having a cure all potential, it is crucial to bundle theoretic and empiric knowledge about active citizenship, co-governance and co-production. Already a lot can be learned from literature on active citizenship, essays on participation and co-production, literature on governance and literature on social psychology. However, it might that we -due to disciplinary boundaries- do not benefit enough from previous work concerning participation.

Moreover, although it is important to bundle knowledge and test the assumptions underlying these concepts, we need to look further and establish the various factors determining how proper participation can come about in various sectors and which barriers and risks need to be addressed. As such we should not only focus on technical issues, concepts and structures, whilst neglecting sector specific dynamics, the human factor, human interactions and behavioral mechanisms, since we expect these factors to affect the success or failure of proper participation.

This panel invites scholars to contribute to this debate either by bundling theoretic knowledge about active citizenship, co-governance and co-production or by empiric work testing the notions and assumptions underlying the motivations of citizens to participate and/or co-produce, the processes, functioning, and effects and outcomes of co-production and participation in various sectors. It is the ambition of the panel to get a grip on all stages of public service delivery in which participation is in use.

The panel could inform, and be informed by, similar existing initiatives like the ‘seminar on co-production’ (Budapest, November 2012), the SIG on Third Sector (IRSPM 2012) and panel session on ? (third sector : co-production) (IRSPM 2013), the SG on Public Governance of Societal Sectors (EGPA), the SG on Co-production (IIAS, May 2013 and 2014), and the NIG panel session on co-production (November, 2013). As such, the panel could be another opportunity to further establish the growing research community on co-production, acknowledging the position of co-production in the broader debates on New Public Governance, network governance, and the role of the third sector in the public domain.