Workshop A4 at the Transnationality in Progress seminar on 21-22 June 2016 discussed the important things to keep in mind when co-creating new models for partnerships and policy change.
The principle of co-creation is the process of creating new public policies and services with people and not for them.
As Benedict Wauters, the ESF Transnational Platform’s expert on governance and public administration, explained, the question that crops up when trying to improve public services and policy-making is whom to involve. "Who gets to get into the space?” The answer is citizens and civil society, of course, but when it comes to governments, Mr Wauters pointed out that both politicians and public services need be represented as “these two are not the same thing”. One thing is sure, no one actor should dominate and “certainly not the politicians”. Everyone should interact with one another because they each have distinctive information, outlook and perspective to bring to the debate. “It is a network where lots of interesting things can happen.”
A citizen perspective on innovation
Once the actors have been identified, the second question is: what is meant by innovation and on what do we innovate? According to Mr Wauters, it is essential at this stage to stop and think before we innovate. Using the example of the Danish tax system, which has seven different ways for companies to deduct the cost of the coffee they buy, Mr Wauters pointed out that “the question is: are we trying to make the wrong things more efficient or are we trying to do the right thing in the first place? And the answer is: we figure that one out by looking at what is going on in the field from the perspective of the citizens”.
The citizen’s perspective is indeed the third essential aspect of co-creating, and as Mr Wauters pointed out, politicians do not necessarily know what it is. “It is essential that politicians are informed about what it is like as a citizen to deal with policies that at policy level look like they make sense but do not work so well at citizen level. The question therefore is: do we need to bring this all the way up the chain or should we try to bring the politician all the way down to the level of the citizen?” This would certainly be an interesting way of thinking about it and Mr Wauters believes that “both are possible”.
At the end of the day, he concluded, what really matters is that all stakeholders (and this also means that the citizen does not exist as there are lots of different kinds of citizens) should have the opportunity in processes like this to really get into each other's perspectives to understand where the others are coming from, understand their possibilities and constraints. “If you understand someone else’s possibilities and constraints, rather than just looking at yours, a lot more becomes possible”. This certainly does make for an interesting dynamic.