Reductions in budgets for public services are forcing all areas of government to consider how we best deliver public services to meet these new fiscal conditions. One potential solution is to engage citizens to assist in the production of services with government officials. This method, known as ‘co-production’, shares the burden of cost whilst capitalising on the skills of the citizenry.
The viability of this solution for government services in the UK is an open question. Generating empirical evidence and investigating the appropriate design of such a scheme requires a government organisation ready to undertake the appropriate research. US states have frequently trialled different approaches to public service delivery, with successful examples taken up by other states. To date, however, there has been limited use of rigorous evaluation methods in evaluating the organisation of government in the UK and determining ‘what works’.
The UK’s local councils have the potential to be laboratories for effective public policy in the same way as the US states are. In this project, we have partnered with Lambeth Council to design a randomised controlled trial that tests the efficacy of different incentives for citizens to involve themselves in the co-production of public services.