Co-creating Public Services?

Private companies such as Procter & Gamble, Apple and Amazon have achieved great success by tapping into the ideas and creativity of others to co-create products and services. The success of the iPhone, iTunes and iPad has been driven by the thousands of apps customers have created on the platform provided by Apple. The world is full of smart and creative people who are willing to contribute their talents to improving products and services. As such, businesses are thinking of their customers as not just purchasers of goods, but as co-creating partners. Companies that embrace expertise that exists outside of their employees gain a tremendous innovation advantage.

Government officials can and should learn from the open innovation approach being utilized in the private sector. Open innovation can be utilized in government as well by engaging the public in co-creating public services.

Advantages of co-creation

According to Christian Bason, author of Leading Public Sector Innovation, Co-creating for a better society, Co-creating with people to find new public solutions offers the following advantages:

  • Gives bureaucracies an ‘outside-in’ perspective on current practices, opening public servants’ eyes to the experience of their users and promotes creativity.
  • Helps public servants to see how services could be made more valuable to the public, while benefiting from people’s own networks and resources.
  • Takes some of the risk out of the innovation process by designing and testing ideas that are based on genuine need.

As Bason states:

Co-creation is the process of creating new solutions with people, not for them. For instance, co-creation could mean redesigning healthcare services and how patients subjectively experience them, by involving patients themselves through observation studies, interviews, workshops, and interactive ‘prototyping’ and testing of new service solutions and approaches.

Co-creation generates more and better ideas that will work in practice, and it creates the ownership needed for all key stakeholders to see them through. Embracing co-creation to identify more powerful government responses to ‘wicked’ social problems is to recognise that ultimately, citizens are experts in their own lives. It is only by connecting with their experiences, motivations and engaging their resources that decision-makers can create the future public sector we need. At this critical time, what is the alternative?

In order for co-creating between citizens and government officials to work, the following is necessary:

  • Involving citizens in policy making
  • Supporting citizen decision making with better information
  • Focusing on long-term outcomes
  • Having a strategy for encouraging local innovation

What do you think can and should officials engage citizens by co-creating government programs and services? Are government officials prepared to share power with citizens?

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Pat Fiorenza

Enjoyed this – thanks for sharing! I think the real challenge is not only in co-creation and generating ideas – but having the resources and ability to implement the ideas to produce a benefit. Open Innovation platforms are great and hold a lot of promise, but I’d like to see agencies create better implementation strategies and move from ideas to implementation. It’s a challenge for sure, but that’s where the real innovation comes from.

Paul Wolf

You make a good point Pat. Engaging citizens in generating ideas for improving government services is important but actually acting on and implementing new ideas is where the real innovation comes from. Thanks for checking out my blog and for submitting your comment.