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What Factors Can Stimulate Citizen Engagement In The Co-Production of Public Services?

Co-VAL > Blog > News > What Factors Can Stimulate Citizen Engagement In The Co-Production of Public Services?

In the newest published Public Deliverable ‘D1.3 Research report on experiments’, Dr Natalia Oprea (Bocconi University), aims to test empirically how extrinsic participation of citizens in service delivery can be improved. The general question is: What factors can stimulate citizen engagement in the co-production of public services?

In the recent calls for better and inclusive public services, the Public Service Logic (PSL) emerged as an alternative approach to other theoretical strands guiding the reform of public service management. The PSL emphasises value creation and effective citizen participation as main characteristics in reforming the design and delivery of public services. Accordingly, value creation is the main pursuit of public service organisation and service users are at the centre of the value creating process. Based on the conceptual framework developed on D1.1 ‘Literature review on public service reform models’ in order to understand value creation in public service delivery, the aim of this deliverable is to test empirically how extrinsic participation of citizens in service delivery can be improved.

As part of the findings of the D1.1, a need to further understand the process has emerged. Previous research has identified a number of factors influencing co-production, willingness and ability among others (Voorberg et al. 2015). In other studies, information and different sources of delivering it were found to have an impact on value creation in different forms (Porumbescu et al. 2017, Bellé 2013).

This study seeks to assess, through the experimental method, which factors affect the process of coproduction. Laboratory experiments allow researchers to identify causal mechanisms under conditions of tight control over endogenous and exogenous variables. For this purpose, two laboratory experiments were designed and conducted at the Bocconi Experimental Laboratory for the Social Sciences (BELSS) of Bocconi University.

  • The aim of the first experiment is to test how different sources of information influence citizens’ willingness to coproduce.
  • The aim of the second experiment is to understand how the willingness to coproduce can be increased, manipulating information and offering a private incentive.


The analysis of data from the first experiment shows that citizens who receive information directly from a beneficiary are more willing to co-produce.  This is explained by the fact that citizens act as resource integrators: based on their experience, they use the information received as knowledge to engage more in the process. Simultaneously, the contact with beneficiary influences their intrinsic and solidary motivation to contribute, through their effort, to other service users (social value).

The analysis of data of the second experiment yielded mixed results regarding citizens’ effort in the process of co-production. The monetary reward alone has no impact on influencing citizens in the production process. Instead, when the personal reward is coupled with a benefit for others, that is information delivered by a beneficiary contact, citizens are willing to deploy more effort in the process of co-production.

These findings suggest that not only information is essential, but also the means of delivering it so that it supports an effective contribution of citizens in co-production. As the case here shows, meeting the beneficiary of own action activates values that connect with citizens’ intrinsic or solidary incentives. Related to this is the role of financial incentives that proved effective only partially, when the information was received by the means of a beneficiary contact. This adds a variation to claims about the effect of money on co-production. Given the complexity of motivation driving citizens to coproduce, material rewards may have, at best, a complementary role.


Read the Public Deliverable ‘D1.3 Research report on experiments’ here.


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