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26. February 2018


How commissioners can achieve better public value through community and user co-production

As a commissioner, you may currently be preparing for the next round of cuts of public services. As budgets get ever tighter, the danger of service failure grows greater. Traditional approaches to increase public service efficiency are clearly no longer sufficient.

The Governance International Public Value Model provides you with an asset-based co-production approach to work towards sustainable budgets.

We have developed an externally certified one day training workshop to support commissioners to achieve better public value. In particular, our Public Value model …

  1. focuses not just on services, but on public value;
  2. shows you how service users and local communities can help you improve public outcomes through co-production;
  3. identifies how public service providers can reduce their own resources by harnessing the resources of service users and local communities and reducing demand for public services;
  4. helps you identify better pathways to outcomes which improve user, service and organisational resilience;
  5. outlines a new social contract between the public sector and communities based on agreed standards for shared governance, setting out how ‘experts by experience’ and 'experts by profession’ will work with each other to co-produce better outcomes.

So let’s take you through our Public Value Model to give you an appetiser of what you will learn in our Training Workshop on Outcome-Based Commissioning. We start from the demands expressed by citizens. These have to be clearly determined and understood. Moreover, this can’t simply cover the demands of the most vociferous residents. Some demands are not publicly expressed – for example, vulnerable groups may not be able to make their voices heard. This is where elected politicians come in, with the responsibility of balancing different stakeholder interests. This requires consultation and negotiation with different stakeholders to prioritise those demands which are to  become recognised by the public sector as “needs”.

The conventional approach has been to respond to needs through commissioned services, partially supplemented by community support and services delivered by voluntary organisations. This is where an entirely new vision is necessary.

The Governance International Public Value Model proposes a ‘new quantitative and qualitative public value equation’, based on behaviour change and co-production.

Commissioners now need to focus on enabling behaviour change. By definition, behaviour change of citizens is not within the direct control of public services.  What they can and must do, however, is to put into place ‘strategies of influence’, which successfully get citizens to contribute to achieving their own outcomes and those of other citizens. For example, if disadvantaged groups who are most at risk of ill-health are enabled to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, they are less at risk of developing serious health conditions, which require costly medical interventions. Our case study on behaviour change through community health trainers in Manchester shows that there is a net cost of £4784 per QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Year). Anything under £10,000 is considered good value for money, highlighting the success of the programme. Behaviour change is at the heart of such long-term prevention projects, which have so far been given too little attention by public services.  However, behaviour change is also key to achieving short-term and medium-term savings, for example through digital services and minimising the effects of winter flu outbreaks.

However, behaviour change is not enough. Commissioners must also enable more effective forms of co-production, so that service users and communities make inputs which will directly reduce public sector inputs and/or lead to further reductions in the demand for public services. Many approaches to co-production also directly improve outcomes. For example, if former NEET young people are trained and supported to help other NEET young people this will improve their employability (and quality of life), which means less demand for public services from the local council and potentially also fewer costs to the police and the NHS.

Moreover, co-production also has a positive impact on the way in which the remaining public services need to be commissioned. Specifically, most services should now be co-commissioned, making use of the insights of service users and communities and getting their commitment to innovative service models. These co-commissioned services can be delivered by public, private or social sector organisations but co-commissioning is especially likely to embed innovative forms of co-production, whoever the service provider may be. Our case study on the transformation of young people services in Surrey County Council shows how extraordinary results both in terms of improved outcomes and cost savings can be achieved, if this is done effectively.

Innovative service provision models are not only able to produce better personal outcomes for individual service users but also better outcomes for the community and business. In the UK, we have neglected these collective outcomes, although they can be highly significant for local communities and can shape voting decisions.

A key issue in co-production is that some of the benefits which it brings do not accrue directly to the public service which supports the co-production, but to partners and other stakeholders who are only indirectly involved. For example, the intensive co-production of Services for Young People in Surrey CC not only saved 25% of the budget of the County Council but also reduced  by 90% the number of young people becoming first-time entrants to the criminal justice system, with significant reduction in policing and court costs. These police savings were not able to be recouped by the local authority. However, our Public Value Model highlights these indirect benefits of co-production. By modelling the full range of pathways to outcomes, the model helps commissioners to develop effective partnerships, with sharing of both benefits and costs, to achieve collaborative advantage.

Our Public Value Model demonstrates how some outcomes are directly produced by behaviour change and by co-production, without requiring public services. Embedded within the model is our portfolio of ‘influence strategies’, which show commissioners how to mobilise more contributions by service users and local communities to improve priority outcomes. In turn, the impact of behaviour change and co-production on service users, communities and business determines determine the level of future demand by citizens for public services.

All public services entail a level of risk, to service users and to the commisisoners and providers of those services. The transformation of the commissioning cycle which is outlined in our Public Value Model requires commissioners to work towards appropriate risk enablement strategies, rather than crude risk avoidance. It shows how to strengthen system-wide resilience in order to reduce the negative consequences of risk in case of system failure, whether that occurs in traditional or co-produced services.

Finally, results are not the only thing that counts.  The way in which the results are achieved is also important in the public realm.  Commissioning based on public value must embed agreed standards for shared governance. These public governance principles are key in managing expectations and creating a framework for organisational learning. Our Public Value Model gives you a template for a Co-production Charter to which all stakeholders can be invited to sign up and which can inspire a commitment by your stakeholders to behaviour change and co-production, signalling an entirely new way of improving your priority outcomes.  

So, if you’re interested in achieving better public value through co-production with your organisation or partnership, we’re happy to get you started. We suggest you begin with our one-day in-house Outcomes-Based Commissioning Workshop. All delegates will be issued with a CPD certificate of the CPD Standards Office, which can be used as a formal CPD record or as evidence in a CPD audit by a professional institute or regulator.

Check out our offer on Outcome-Based Commissioning Training.

Contact: to discuss how to tailor the inhouse training to your needs.

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