Co-production is the provision of services through regular, long term relationships between professionals and citizens where all parties make substantial resource contributions.

Placemaking in front of the Community Sitting Room in Idrija, Slovenia

Civil society is centre stage when it comes to shrink smart and re-grow smaller. Inhabitants have skills, resources and assets that can make a real difference in making the town a better place to live. A simple, low cost action to fight back against decline could be the establishment a volunteer exchange. The small town of Altena in Germany did this by simply providing a building for volunteers to meet. Local groups founded the ‘Stellwerk’ which has now been in operation for 20 years, co-ordinating civil society led initiatives. These range from planting containers on the high street to luncheon clubs for older people. To find out more about this method and how it was transferred to other European towns check out the ‘Network’ page.

Stellwerk volunteer provides ‘language lesson’ for refugees

Shrinking towns need to maximise local resources which means that a strategy to shrink smart and re-grow smaller would need to have a clear focus on collaboration. All the practices the RegrowTown Network shares are based on collaborations between municipal and civil society stakeholders. In developing these practices we learned that talking about co-production is much easier than actually doing it. One thing that did help was to break down the co-production process into four key stages

Courtesy of Elke Loeffler, Governance International

Co-commissioning is about identifying what needs to be done and co-designing a service means that citizens are actively involved in the creation of a project or service. Co-delivery is part and parcel of many public services, for example education or healthcare, where professionals need the co-operation of service users to create desired outcomes. Assessing the quality or impact of a service marks the end of a co-production process or the beginning of a new initiative. Check out the resources at the bottom of the page for more detail on the co-production process.

La Canal a civil society led project in Manresa, Spain, organising volunteering actions in a former restaurant

Making co-production happen requires an environment that is not overburdened with regulations or controlled by professionals. Instead co-production requires a framework in which lay people and professionals can deliberate constructively on their, sometimes conflicting, goals and motivations. This can be difficult because power relations are often in favour of the professional or political representative. Find out more about leadership of co-production process in the resources section at the bottom of this page.

Different levels, motivation, power relations and contexts present challenges for those leading co-production (Schlappa, Imani and Nishino, 2020)


Here are some academic reports and practice based case studies to help you explore the practice and challenges associated with co-production.

Join the network for the small towns of Europe. Check out this page for more details.