Who you are/where you live: do neighbourhood characteristics explain co-production?

Paper by Peter Thijssen and Wouter Van Dooren in the International Review of Administrative Sciences: “Co-production establishes an interactive relationship between citizens and public service providers. Successful co-production hence requires the engagement of citizens. Typically, individual characteristics such as age, gender, and income are used to explain why citizens co-produce. In contrast, neighbourhood-level variables receive less attention. Nevertheless, the co-production literature, as well as social capital and urban planning theory, provides good arguments why neighbourhood variables may be relevant. In this study, we examine the administrative records of citizen-initiated contacts in a reporting programme for problems in the public domain. This co-production programme is located in the district of Deurne in the city of Antwerp, Belgium. A multilevel analysis is used to simultaneously assess the impact of neighbourhood characteristics and individual variables. While the individual variables usually found to explain co-production are present in our case, we also find that neighbourhood characteristics significantly explain co-production. Thus, our findings suggest that participation in co-production activities is determined not only by who you are, but also by where you live.

Points for practitioners In order to facilitate co-production and participation, the neighbourhood should be the first place to look. Co-production benefits may disproportionaly accrue to strong citizens, but also to strong neighbourhoods. Social corrections should take both into account. More broadly, a good understanding of the neighbourhoods in the city is needed to grasp citizen behaviour. Place-based policies in the city should focus on the neighbourhood….(More)”