An interview with Tony Bovaird

Tony-BovairdTony Bovaird worked in the UK Civil Service and several universities before moving back to the University of Birmingham in 2006. He was a member of the OECD e-Governance Task Force, chaired the Evaluation Partnership set up by the UK government to coordinate the evaluation of the Local Government Modernization Agenda from 2002 – 2008 and was a member of the CLG Expert Panel on Local Governance. He undertook evaluation case studies of the Civil Service Reform Program, commissioned by the Cabinet Office and recently led the UK contribution to an EU project on user and community co-production of public services in five European countries. He is currently directing a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on using ‘nudge’ techniques to influence individual service co-producers to participate in community co-production. He helps to organize the European Public-Sector Award, is on the Strategy Board of the Local Authorities Research Council Initiative and author of Public Management and Governance (2009).

On the 12th of July 2018, we had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Bovaird about his work as part of the 2nd annual Global Governance Symposium on “boundaries” and “resilience”.

What do you think is the role of new technologies in user and community co-production in public services and policies? (e-governance)

E-governance will be highly important in many aspects of co-production. In co-commissioning, it will allow much more opportunity for citizens to participate in community decision making processes. In co-design, it will allow simulations of redesigned services, so that service users can comment on which new designs they prefer. In co-delivery, it will allow citizens to keep in touch with their peer groups, with particular advantages to patients of health care services and citizens who need social care because they experience isolation and loneliness. And in co-delivery, it will help all service users, and citizens more generally, to provide more feedback on their reactions to public services.

In the public value model of your project “Governance International” you speak about changing the public-sector approach to respond to citizens’ needs based on behavior change and co-production. Do you think that this approach could address the issue of certain social groups feeling marginalized in our current liberal democracies?

Yes, behavior change and co-production can involve all social groups. For example, in the case study of participatory budgeting in Recife, Brazil, on the Governance International website, the main participants were residents in the favelas and poorer areas of Recife. This form of co-commissioning is now being practiced in many parts of the world and governments can decide which target groups should be most involved.

In times of new threats through terrorism and large-scale cybercrimes, how can community co-production contribute to emergency response?

Where citizens can see evidence of potential cyber-crimes or terrorism, they can notify the police and security forces of their suspicions, just as they can in relation to any crimes. This was one of the areas of co-production which was first highlighted by the Oestrous in the Political Economy Workshop in Bloomington in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, the criminals who operate in cybercrime and terrorism may be particularly careful to hide their operations from the eyes of other citizens, so the scope for co-production here may be less than in other aspects of crime.

Based on the Survey on co-production in 2008 IN 5 EU countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and UK): which are the public sectors in which co-production is more commonly used and why?

These surveys only looked at three public sectors (as did the follow-up survey in Australia in 2014). From these surveys, it appeared that co-production was most evident in local environment improvement, least evident in community safety, with health in between these two.

Is there a public sector in which implementation has been particularly difficult?

From our work, crime is the most contentious, partly because many citizens believe it is wrong to allow other citizens to have any role in policing matters, which should be reserved purely for state officials.

Co-production seems to rely on stable democratic government structures willing and able to adapt its system to citizen’s needs. Is this concept translatable to less democratic/ non-democratic countries?

I think this question is based on a misconception. Citizens appear willing to engage in co-production with the state where they think it will bring advantages to themselves and others, whatever the level of democracy in the state. Of course, democratic states may, in some cases, be more willing than less democratic states to respond to the improvements to public services which are identified in co-production. This means that citizen action (‘co-delivery’) may be the most relevant aspect of co-production in less democratic states, while citizen voice (‘co-commissioning’, ‘co-design’, ‘co-assessment’) may be less relevant. However, this should not be assumed a priori – there are many democratic states where governments are also reluctant to respond to the suggestions of citizens.

During the Symposium you mentioned building resilience in the public sector requires resource redundancy; resource redundancy opposes the national interest in economic efficiency: Do you think in our current neoliberal market economy building resilience is possible?

Since there is huge inefficiency in market economies, resource redundancy is inherent in both private and public sectors. The question is the public sector can make use of this redundancy to increase the resilience of users, communities, service providers and the overall public service systems. This is a matter of the will of the government, not the structure of the economy.

 

Lucia Von Borries and Lavinia Apicella.

 

Image source:http://innovategov.org/2014/01/01/public-sector-innovation-officers-a-growing-trend/

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