Structuring Co-Production

8 Jun

In a previous article, I wrote about the value of focusing on barriers and negative opinions when co-producing a service. In this article, I add to this by suggesting a structure of questioning which can be used to improve the chances of effective co-production.

To re-cap, co-production is a method of designing services which involves all stakeholder parties at all stages of service development. For example, this means involving leaders who are proposing the service, frontline workers who will be delivering the service, and in the case of the public sector, citizens who will be receiving\accessing the service. All these stakeholders would be involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of the service.

A focus group format is a popular mechanism for capturing a variety of different stakeholder views in one place. A focus group provides a chance for stakeholders to hear from a wider perspective of people and examine ways in which opposing views could be synthesised, making this method popular for co-production. If a focus group format is going to be used, what structure should the questions take to be most effective?

A potential structure is to ask the focus group respondents to write down some of their key views before sharing with the group. This disaggregates errors, a condition where participants are commenting mostly on each other’s opinions rather than expressing their own (see Kahneman, 2011 for examples). To support this, the focus group participants should be asked to reflect on three levels when writing down their views. The three levels are summarized below-

  • How do stakeholders think the proposed service will affect them personally?

For example, a frontline worker might reflect on how the service would affect their personal routine and how it might enhance or dissolve their success.

  • How do stakeholders think the proposed service would affect other members of their team or other members of their community?

This level is asking the respondent to reflect beyond their personal experience and compare this to people they work with or live among. This answer could contrast with the earlier level. For example, if the proposed new service is built around technology a frontline worker might be concerned about how they would personally be able to apply the technology, whilst reflecting that other members of their team would thrive.

  • What do stakeholders believe are the leadership intentions behind the proposed changes?

At this level, participants are invited to reflect what they think the leadership’s intentions are behind introducing the new service. For example, some members of the public might see it as purely a cost saving exercise which ultimately diminishes quality. This question provides an opportunity for everyone to understand the mind set which generates opinions and intentions. Without clear knowledge of the intent behind the varied stakeholder views, the potential for misunderstanding and conflict is high.

The third level provides a space for different stakeholders to understand how each other are approaching the new service, and once this is shared, the awareness makes it easier to understand the source of different stakeholder views and work towards shared understanding, and ultimately effective co-production.

Reading

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

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