In a previous blog post based on the Public Deliverable ‘D1.3 Research report on experiments’ we discussed the factors that can stimulate citizen engagement in the co-Production of public services under the Public Service Logic (PSL). The underlying assumption here is that different factors may result in different level of co-production. These factors have to do with the type of information provided to citizens and the willingness (motivation) of citizens that might affect the process of co-production.
The PSL places at the centre the participation of citizens as skilled and resourceful actors in the production of public services and creation of value. Yet there is little understanding about which factors can prompt more active citizen engagement in the co-production of public services. To provide empirical evidence, Dr. Natalia Oprea (Bocconi University) used the experimental design to examine the impact of a number of intervening factors in the process of co-production.
Offering information from different sources can affect citizens’ behaviour in the process of co-production on at least two levels:
- First, information represents new knowledge that integrated with previous experience increases citizen’s engagement.
- Second, receiving information from the direct beneficiary of own activity contributes to the awareness and clarity about how active engagement might have a positive impact on other service users and community in general.
In the first experiment, it was found that information provided directly by a beneficiary has a clear effect on co-production compared to one-way information sources. However, this finding has several implications:
- Providing information has an impact on the process of co-production: Other studies using experimental methods corroborate this finding (Jakobsen and Serritzlew 2015).
- While the official source of information, i.e. the centre’s official leaflet, has no relevant effect on citizen’s engagement, information delivered through direct means, possibly by beneficiaries of own efforts, strongly affects citizens’ willingness to co-produce.
In the second experiment, the results were somewhat less definite compared to the first one. It was found that providing citizens a private incentive, for example, an immediate and individually enjoyed benefit, in the context of co-producing services for a health organisation has no effect on their effort. This finding is not completely surprising in contexts of prosocial activity where it was found that incentivizing effort has no effect (Ariely et al. 2009). However, it was interesting to detect that private incentives can win the argument among citizens when information is delivered by the beneficiary of their efforts. Although the result is not very strong, the interpretation might be that citizens’ willingness increases when the outcome of their effort is enjoyed collectively as much as individually.
From the findings mentioned above relevant points can be drawn for present and future research on co-production of public services:
- First, in trying to harness effective co-production, public agencies should pay particular attention to information and how it is disseminated, as for instance to appeal to citizens’ intrinsic motivation. Information is powerful when citizens know how they can use it for their own benefit as well as others’.
- The second consideration has to do with the design and use of incentive systems in the co-production process. Although the role of financial incentives was at best weak in this field of co-production, their role cannot be ruled out in other sectors, in particular when more consistent rewards are offered (Voorberg et al. 2018).
Dr. Oprea concludes that further research could analyse whether and how monetary incentives can be complemented with other types of motivators (e.g. intrinsic) as to lever greater effort and willingness from citizens in co-production activities.
Read D1.3 Research report on experiments here.
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