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Panel Leader: Conducting Evaluation in an Era of Co-Production

It was my privilege to be Panel Chair at IRSPM 2018 with Prof Michael Macaulay. The Panel was titled 'The complexities of building an evidence-base and conducting evaluation in an era of co-production' and we were delighted to be joined by internationally-know names.

There were numerous examples of how both projects and evaluation has been co-designed and co-produced.

Panel Call:

Co-production, as well as co-creation, co-innovation and multi-agency concepts, have captured the attention of public manager practitioners and scholars in recent years (Bovaird, 2007; Osborne, 2010). Definitions of co- production vary, but fundamentally, they concern the delivery of public sector outcomes through the involvement and collaboration of several parties, including ‘citizens, clients, consumers, volunteers’ and ‘community organisations’ (Alford, 1998).

Yet, there has been little discussion in public management or evaluation arenas on the repercussions of this shift to the co-production of public outcomes on the methods, approaches and practice of public evaluation. Contrariwise, there is little consideration of the impact of evolving evaluation approaches on public management, and in particular co-production (might increasing participatory evaluation approaches lead to criticism that, together, evaluation and co-production have eroded good governance and accountability?).

On the one hand, co-production could work to positively influence the evaluation function and the development of an evidence base, for instance through the pooling of evaluative resources (Barker, 2010; Daykin et al, 2017), or enhanced senior buy-in. Reflecting on the ‘dark side’ of co-production, the very nature of more collaborative approaches gives rise to a complex stakeholder environment and complicates the task of those who seek to evaluate such collaborative efforts (Bovaird and Loeffler, 2012; Evers and Ewerts, 2012). Greater stakeholder diversity is linked with greater dysfunctional conflict and politicking in evaluation and it is therefore conceivable that co-production could disrupt evaluation practice.

Theoretical, conceptual and empirical papers are invited that demonstrate innovative approaches to the evaluation of co-produced initiatives that examine the effects of co-production on evaluation (and vice versa) and support future approaches to the efficient evaluation of public programmes where co-production has occurred. Contributions may wish to address the question: What is the impact of coproduction on the function of evaluation and the development of an effective evidence base in the public sector? In particular, contributions are welcomed that explore the below issues:

  • The implications of co-production on the professional practice (core competencies, professional development needs) of those evaluating public programmes. Does co-production stimulate a need for new skills amongst those who conduct evaluation? Does co-production create a shift in who conducts evaluation and what are the implications of this?

  • The impact of co-production on the way we conduct evaluation. Co-production has brought various stakeholder groups together and with it the opportunity for knowledge transfer, what impact has this had on the methodological practice towards collating evidence and evaluating public programmes (for instance Daykin et al (2017) suggest longer lead times due to planning)? Does co-production create new avenues for data to be collected (for instance supporting participatory or user-centred approaches)? Are there limitations to this? Certain groups are said to be disadvantaged through co-production (Poocharoen and Ting, 2015; Jakobsen and Andersen, 2013), does such inequality influence evaluation findings? There is ongoing debate as to whether co-production enhances trust (Fledderus, 2015), how does co- production and factors such as trust influence the evaluation environment?

  • Consumption of evidence. Has co-production supported the utilisation of evaluation findings or the evidence base? Does co-production support senior leadership buy-in to the results of such collaborative efforts, therefore enhancing the utilisation of evaluation findings?

  • Co-innovation and the evidence base. As we look towards co-innovation what are the implications for those collecting evidence – might this hinder objective-based evaluation efforts when innovation itself is still proving difficult to define?

Alford, J. (1998). A Public Management Road Less Travelled: Clients as Co-Producers of Public Services, Australian Journal of Public Administration, 57(4), pp.128–37. Barker, A. (2010). Co-production of Local Public Services London, Summary Report, Local Authorities & Research Councils’ Initiative (LARCI), January 2010. Bovaird, T. (2007). Beyond Engagement and Participation: User and Community Coproduction of Public Services, Public Administration Review, 67(5): pp.846–860. Bovaird, T., and Loeffler, E. (2012). From Engagement to Co-Production: The Contribution of Users and Communities to Outcomes and Public Value, International Society of Third Sector Research, 23(4): pp.1119– 1138. Daykin, N., Gray, K., McCree, M. and Willis, J. (2017). Creative and credible evaluation for arts, health and well-being: opportunities and challenges of co-production, Arts & Health, 9(2) pp.123-138. Evers, A., and Ewert, B. (2012). Co-Production: Contested Meanings and Challenges for User Organizations. In T. Brandsen, C. Pestoff, and B. Verschuere, New Public Governance, the Third Sector and Co-Production, pp.61–78. New York: Routledge Fledderus, J. (2015). Building trust through public service co-production, International Journal of Public Sector Management, 28(7), pp.550-565. Jakobsen, M. and Andersen, S.C. (2013). Coproduction and equity in public service delivery, Public Administration Review, 73(5), pp.704-713. Osborne, S. (2010). The New Public Governance? Emerging Perspectives on the Theory and Practice of Public Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. Poocharoen, O. and Ting, B. (2015). Collaboration, co-production, networks: Convergence of theories, Public Management Review, 17(4), pp.587-614.

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