Not the usual suspects: creating the conditions for and implementing co-production with marginalised young people in Glasgow

Published date01 April 2024
AuthorJane Cullingworth,Richard Brunner,Nicholas Watson
Date01 April 2024
Subject MatterArticles
Public Policy and Administration
2024, Vol. 39(2) 278297
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/09520767221140439
Not the usual suspects: creating
the conditions for and
implementing co-production
with marginalised young people
in Glasgow
Jane Cullingworth
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK
Richard Brunner
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK
Nicholas Watson
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK
Co-production is now an established part of public service delivery. Despite its popu-
larity, there is only a limited understanding about how co-production works in practice,
particularly with marginalised groups. This paper identif‌ies and explores insights from
three case studies of a successful co-productive approach in Glasgow, Scotland. Op-
eration Modulus is a criminal justice initiative involving public and third sector partners in
the co-production of services with marginalised young people to reduce their in-
volvement in crime and antisocial behaviour. The data highlighted the importance of
leadership, the role of public service professionals and the process of working with
marginalised young people; these are explored, all within the context of the authorising
environment created at the level of a collaborative governance body. The f‌indings un-
derscore, f‌irst, the importance of distributed leadership and process in developing trust
amongst partners and in turn in the relationships of partners with young people. Second,
the essential role of effective co-management amongst service providers in creating the
requisite conditions for meaningful co-production with marginalised citizens. Third, the
potential for and importance of shared management to facilitate changes in profe ssional
Corresponding author:
Jane Cullingworth, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, 40 Bute Gardens, Glasgow
G12 8RT, UK.
relationships and ways of working, even if these do not lead to organisational systems
change. Fourth, the signif‌icance of public service professionals having the authority and
agency to explore collaborative ways of working.
Co-production, co-management, distributed leadership, trust, public service
professionals, marginalised young people, ethos
The design, delivery and management of public services are no longer the preserve of
professionals and policy makers. There has been a shift to shared or collaborative
governance in which the public, third and private sectors work alongside service users and
citizens to co-produce services. Premised on the idea that the involvement of service users
and community members in all stages of the public service cycle produces more effective
services, co-production is now a critical part of new public governance (Pestoff, 2021).
Co-production changes the role of civil society in arelationship where professionals and
citizens share power to plan and deliver support together, recognising that both have vital
contributions to make in order to improve quality of life for people and communities
(Slay and Penny, 2014:7) (emphasis added). However, the work to f‌latten historic power
dynamics between public services and citizens can involve an ongoing, uncertain, and
challenging renegotiation amongst multiple actors (Loeff‌ler and Bovaird, 2021;Schlappa
et al., 2021).
Despite its popularity, co-production remains a maturing concept, one of a series of
woolly words’” used to describe public policy (Osborne et al., 2018:18). Similarly, while
research in co-production is proliferating furiously(Ersoy, 2017:201), signif‌icant gaps
remain. Many of the processes that underpin co-production are unexplored (Turnhout
et al., 2020;Vennik et al., 2016), much of the work of co-production is blackboxed, its
actual workings made invisible, risking the assumption that co-production just works
once a commitment to it has been made. For example, gaps in knowledge include the role
of public professionals (Fledderus, 2018;Steen and Tuurnas, 2018;Van Eijk and Steen,
2014;Vennik et al., 2016), the role of leadership (Schlappa and Imani, 2018), the dy-
namics of power relationships in co-production in contemporary public governance
contexts (e.g. Strokosch and Osborne, 2021;Turnhout et al., 2020), and the involvement
of marginalised social groups (Brandsen, 2021;Loeff‌ler and Bovaird, 2021;Vanleene
et al., 2018;Verschuere et al., 2018).
In this paper we aim to go some way to f‌illing these gaps. We draw on case studies of a
co-produced public service intervention, Operation Modulus (OM),aimed at tackling
anti-social behaviour and criminal activities of young people in three geographical areas
of multiple deprivation in Glasgow, Scotlands largest city. The initial success of the
model resulted in its adaptation in two other communities. We focus on three key themes
that emerged from the data: the role of leadership, the role of public service professionals
Cullingworth et al. 279

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