What is Co-Production?    
A Guest Post by Edgar S. Cahn

publisher’s note, This piece was extracted from What is Co-Production?, with four added hyper links.

Co-Production is the essential contribution to change efforts needed from the ultimate consumer in his or her capacity as student, client, recipient, patient, tenant, beneficiary, neighbor, resident, or citizen. Experience with Time Dollar programs leads to a hypothesis: Without Co-Production, nothing that professionals, organizations or programs do can fully succeed. With Co-Production, the impossible comes within reach. If this hypothesis is true, community-based groups, policymakers, and human service agencies must be convinced of the indispensability of that contribution, and they must begin to intentionally generate Co-Production from the recipients, targets, or consumers of their efforts. Reciprocity must be central to achieve social change. This is the Co-Production Imperative.

Co-Production is not simply a euphemism for expanding or enhancing specialized social services with free labor contributed by the consumer. Its function and its power are far more fundamental.

1) If undertaken as a priority and intentionally, Co-Production can yield new and more effective services and outcomes. It triggers processes and interactions that foster new behaviors. It alters conventional distinctions between producers and consumers, professionals and clients, providers and recipients, givers and takers, investors and managers. By creating parity for individuals and communities in their relationships with professional helpers, it achieves systemic change.

While Co-Production values what professionals have to offer, it also poses a challenge to prevailing notions of “best practice” to the extent that “our best thinking” has led us to where we are — paralyzed or frustrated by our inability to make inroads on major social problems because we have failed to incorporate Co-Production as a pervasive strategy that redefines roles, relationships, processes, and outcomes.

Yet as critical as It is, Co-Production-the essential labor needed from the ultimate consumer — is never fully funded and rarely directly funded, even partially. Instead, we fund specialized programs, professionals, outreach workers, and local organizations-paying staff while the extensive and essential labor from the individual, the household, or the community goes uncompensated.

2) We rarely lay out this inequity so explicitly. In part, that is because the cost of actually purchasing that labor at market prices, even at minimum wage, would be prohibitive. So we tiptoe around the issue, calling for “community involvement,” requiring “citizen participation” — without insisting on it too directly lest somebody ask us to pick up the real cost. (Think of the family as a good example of Co-Production)

3) Time Dollars are a mechanism for rewarding that reciprocity and converting that contribution into compensated labor. They are a mechanism for securing Co-Production.

4) Taken Co-Production Mainstream 

If you want to discuss the above ideas, Contact Tony Budak