Search for Coproduction

1. Introduction

Search for coproduction will review where Local Authorities (LA) are practicing coproduction. Forums perceive that LAs ‘Engage’ through surveys and consultations in developing Well-Being Plans. Hence, there is limited experience within LAs for developing relationships based on coproduction.

Introduction to Co-Production

‘Involve’ and “engage” are words that are easy to understand. Yet, people use them with very different meanings in spectrums of engagement. This article will take a broad look at this confusing picture. Critically, it will draw attention to the definition of “Involve” as they should apply it in Wales.

2. Engagement

A dictionary gives several definitions of ‘engagement’, depending on the context. Here we are considering Local Authorities and their residents. Engagement in this article refers to the entire spectrum of interactions.

“Engagement is the generic term that refers to the entire range of interactions between an organisation and the people who access, benefit from, or have an interest in its activities, services, and/or policies. This will include professionals in organisations and service users and members of the public.”

The Co-production Network for Wales

2.1 The Engagement Spectrum – the range of public participation in decision making

Sherry Arnstein wrote the influential “A Ladder of Citizen Participation”. It characterised 8 elements on a “ladder”, in three groups; non-participation, tokenism, and citizen power. These are now often referred to as an organisation (the LA) doing TO, doing FOR, or doing WITH their residents. We will look at the latter two.

NCVO: This diagram (developed by the New Economic Foundation) shows where other forms of involvement sit in relation to coproduction. Note the use of “Engagement” where some other ladders use “Involvement”.

2.1.1 Doing FOR

When the LA provides information to their residents or holds a consultation, we categorise this as doing something for their residents.

Providing information is a one-way process.

Surveys, consultations, and participation permit limited ‘engagement’. They allow for the views of interested groups and individuals to be provided. Consultation can contain an element of participation where the LA runs workshops.


2.1.2 Doing With

Hands illustrating working with, cooperatingAn Artificial Intelligence (AI) source searched for “Consultation and Engagement” policies on Welsh LAs. In particular, did their policies go beyond consultation?

There was a significant range of responses found in the AI search. For 9 LAs, it could not find a specific policy document for consultations and engagement on their website. Carmarthenshire had a link to the English version of the National Principles of Public Engagement, a one-page poster. 5 other LAs had a link to the Welsh version that no longer exists.

LA Policies on consultations and engagement

Three LAs have built policies that include the Spectrum of Public Participation. One of these has changed the spectrum to: Inform, Consult, Empower, and Co-Produce.

The Spectrum of Participation: Inform; Consult; Involve; Collaborate; Empower.

The Spectrum of Public Participation describes five general modes of participation. They fall on a scale of increasing public influence over decision-making in a civic-engagement process. It can help community groups define and determine the public’s role in a democratic decision-making process. It is simple and descriptive, Which makes it useful for those who are new to public-participation work. Source: International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)

One of the Gwent PSB LAs uses this in their policy document. However, the development of their Future Generations Well-Being Plan did not use “Involvement”, as defined above.

3. Co-Production and Involvement.

Age-Friendly Updates - WHO principles and steps to follow.The WHO has established “Engagement” as the initial step in developing Age-Friendly Communities.

The definition of Coproduction and Involvement in Wales

To implement this step effectively, it is essential to understand the details of coproduction and involvement. In this context, “Involvement” has a specific definition in Wales.

The Co-Production Network clearly defines the Welsh context for “Involvement”.


The revised version of the National Principles of Public Engagement provides a detailed explanation.

The National Principles for Public Engagement in Wales

“The National Principles for Public Engagement in Wales are a set of ten principles for engaging with the public and service users. The principles aim to guide engagement to make sure it is good quality, open and consistent. They offer a set of guidelines to organisations within the public and voluntary sectors in Wales.”

“They provide standards of good practice in public engagement, for use by government officials, elected representatives, public administrators, service providers, policy makers, participation and engagement practitioners, and anyone working to deliver effective public engagement.”

The Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), with support from the Co-Production Network for Wales, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), the Officer of the Commissioner for Future Generations, the Welsh Government, One Voice Wales, and participation and engagement practitioners reviewed and published these principles in 2022.

Definition of Involvement

“This requires organisations to be open to influence from citizens and stakeholders, moving to a culture of ‘working with’ rather than ‘doing to’. In contrast to consultation, involvement approaches work with people at earlier stages. For example, helping to identify issues and potential solutions. Also, being supported to remain involved right throughout design, implementation, and evaluation processes.”

4. Discussion

Attendees made observations about Age-Friendly Communities progress in the March Forum Representatives meeting.

  • ‘Engagement’ is about the development of a partnership. Are residents involved in the planning? Many [LAs] see ‘engagement’ as surveys and consultation. We need to move beyond that and see engagement as the development of relationships that are maintained and ongoing.
  • An AFC plan is not a Council Plan, it does not belong to the Council. Everybody must recognise that it is a partnership plan.
  • The essence of engagement is meeting and chatting with people, having a dialogue and discussion. This has to happen repeatedly to get to know and understand one another.
  • The role of councils needs to be as the facilitator, not the owner. Involvement in Age-Friendly Communities needs changes in engagement practice and culture to be more co-productive.

The approach of LAs to consultations and engagement, described in Section 2 above, appears to be very diverse. There are, in practice, signs that some councils are implementing greater engagement. This was not apparent in their documented policies/processes. It is not surprising that many appear to be struggling to adopt co-production/Involvement with their residents. This is despite the current Age-Friendly programme being 2 years old.

Swansea Engagement

This video presents how Swansea Ageing Well programme has approached ‘Engaging’ its residents. It describes their successes.

You can read their article on the COPA website in ‘Forum Focus’. READ Here.