Can citizen involvement in the recruitment of front-line employees help to identify candidates who will be effective at co-production?

Trischler P&PJakob Trischler

In our recent open access article in Policy & Politics, Johan Kaluza and I take as our starting point for our argument the point that public service organisations should recognise citizens as active co-producers rather than passive recipients in service design and provision. Indeed, there are a number of studies showing that citizens are capable and willing to contribute to public service outcomes that are beneficial not only to themselves but also to the broader citizenry.

However, an important question in the co-production debate is how organisations can effectively engage and enable citizens to become co-producers. We argue that one answer to this question lies in the role taken by front-line employees. Through direct contact and collaboration with service users, they can ‘activate’ citizens to co-produce. Taking this argument one step further, we ask if the actual recruitment of these front-line employees could be a co-produced process with respective service users involved? But what happens when relevant users are actually involved in the recruitment of social workers, teachers, or employment officers?

To find answers to these questions, we conducted a study with three public service organisations in Sweden which piloted citizen involvement in front-line employee recruitment. We used co-design workshops and a series of interviews to capture the experiences and perceptions of stakeholders who were part of this pilot study.

An encouraging finding was that the involvement of citizens in recruitment seems to attract professionals who take a user-centred approach. Communicating that representative service users will be involved in the recruitment process might particularly encourage applications from those who believe in a close collaboration with citizens.

Yet, there are also a number of challenges. For example, users need to be carefully selected and prepared before their involvement in order to ensure the equality and equity of their contributions. Not only is recruitment a process that is run by highly skilled professionals, but also users of social services or employment services can be vulnerable individuals with specific needs. This means that additional time and costs are needed in order to ensure that users are well informed and can participate equally during the recruitment process.

However, we believe that such a resource commitment ultimately pays off because having users involved in processes that are typically managed internally within organisations helps to build a more open culture, enhances the employer’s brand, and, importantly, attracts professionals who possess the skills and motivation required to instigate co-production. 

Here is the author summarising the research in a short video:


You can read the original Open Access research in Policy & Politics:

Trischler, Jakob; Kaluza, Johan (2020) ‘Co-production in the recruitment of frontline public service employees’Policy & Politics, DOI: [Open Access]

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Fit to govern? Comparing citizen and policymaker perceptions of deliberative democratic innovations [Free]

Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors’ positions?

Co-experience, co-production and co-governance: an ecosystem approach to the analysis of value creation [Free]


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