In my concluding article for the forthcoming special issue on Strategic management of the transition to public sector co-creation , I review the contributions from the other articles in the collection and considers what has been learnt. Building on the questions raised in the introductory paper, my article considers:
- basic definitions of co-production and co-creation along with the claim made of a move from lower order co-production to higher level co-creation. It is argued that it is not clear whether the organisational capabilities needed to support such a major transition are as yet present in an intensive and extensive enough form. The evidence from the empirical and case-based papers in the edition is mixed.
- the link between co-creation and co-production and different models of strategic management which may help manage organisational wide transitions and get beyond small scale projects. The article considers why strategic management is important and which schools are the most promising. The public value school is seen as a critical ‘lynchpin’ (as the goal of co-production and co-creation activity may be to create public value enhancing innovations). In addition, the strategic planning and culture schools are seen as promising. The question of how strategy is formed in diffuse multi agency networks as opposed to single agencies is an important and unresolved one so it may be helpful to bring in additional literature on cooperative forms of strategy.
- the potential role of digitalisation in the move to co-production and co-creation with ‘open platforms’ being designed by government and the third sector seen as promising;
Following this reflexive summary the article then considers further issues and themes arising from the earlier papers. Specifically, it examines the potential role of leadership as a potentially critical resource in supporting any transition to co production and co-creation at a strategic level. It suggests that an engaging and ‘soft’ leadership style rather than the traditional command and control may here be appropriate: authentic, transformational and possibly distributed. It also suggests that leadership ‘cannot do everything’ and that an awareness of wider context and structure is also important.
The article also explores whether the co-creation literature is better aligned with certain models of public management or not (where there is a lively controversy). It concludes it is indeed better aligned with network governance, Digital Era Governance and also public value schools of public management and less so with Traditional Public Administration/Weber and New Public Management based approaches. The implication is that co-creation work needs to link in more with literature from all these three preferred schools of public management and consider how it can develop them further.
The concluding discussion then makes some general observations and considers future research. The argument is made that in this rapidly developing literature much of the initial theoretical ground clearing work has now been done, so there is now a need for more sustained empirical work (both well designed comparative case studies and large scale surveys).
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:
Ferlie, Ewan (2021) ‘Concluding discussion: key themes in the (possible) move to co-production and co-creation in public management‘, Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557321X16129852287751
Read the other blog pieces in the series:
Blog 1 – Public value as the game changer for co-creation of innovative solutions in the public sector
Blog 2 – Co-creation: the new kid on the block in public governance
Blog 3 – How public leaders can use co-creation to make things better
Blog 4 -Big dreams and small steps: regional policy networks and what they achieve
Blog 5 – Digital platforms for the co-creation of public value
Blog 6 – Strategic Management as an Enabler of Co-creation in Public Services
Read the entire special issue for free until 31 May 2021:
Strategic management of the transition to public sector co-creation