From participation to co-production: joint research into action

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM (MDT)
Room: Astor Ballroom I, Astor, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Edward Carr, David Simon
Chairs: David Simon


Participatory development approaches have a long history in policy and implementation, and have been the subject of an extended and well-rehearsed academic literature. Whether motivated by an instrumental desire to gather more and better information to inform the design of more effective projects, or a genuine belief in the traditional and/or local knowledge of the intended beneficiaries, participation became one of many silver bullets to solve development’s problems. Yet, careful consideration of the implementation of participatory approaches has uncovered a range of critical challenges, from the identification of appropriate participants, to the most appropriate processes to ensure the right people participate, to the timing of such processes to reflect and respect the time constraints and financial stresses faced by the poor and marginal. At the same time, widespread incorporation into institutional practice in performative ways, prompted critiques of participation as a bureaucratic ‘tyranny’.
Recently, the terms co-production and co-creation have emerged from this tradition to inform new expectations of project design, where the beneficiaries or users of a given intervention participate in its design, research and implementation. The approach is now widely used in diverse contexts, both South and North – in the latter especially in relation to public sector engagement. In development contexts, drawing on participatory traditions, co-production is presented as a means of identifying and incorporating local and traditional knowledge into development interventions such that these projects perform better. On one hand, co-production moves beyond the problematic a priori valorization of either local/traditional knowledge (perhaps stressed by changing conditions) or scientific knowledge (perhaps not yet able to deliver what is needed in a manner more reliable than local/traditional sources of information) to create communities that can work across and combine these domains. Yet many questions arise, many of which are reminiscent of older participatory rhetoric, raising
• For whom do they perform better, the donor or developing?
• Who participates in co-production?
• What are the most effective means of implementing co-production?
• How are power relations dealt with? Put differently, can or will intended development beneficiaries really say no to a donor?
• (How) can we co-produce monitoring and evaluation and whose interests do these tools serve?


Type Details Minutes
Panelist David Simon Royal Holloway, University Of London 10
Panelist Edward Carr Clark University 10
Panelist Rike Sitas African Centre for Cities 10
Panelist Sandra Valencia Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology 10
Panelist Keiron Bailey University of Arizona 10

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