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Should we evaluate co-production and can we evaluate in a co-productive way?

Steven Marwick discusses evaluating co-production and how this can be done in a co-productive way

Should we evaluate co-production?  What methods should we use to measure co-production?  Can we evaluate in a co-productive way?

Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) works with third sector and funders so that they can measure and report on their impact and use learning to improve practice and inform policy. 

One of our roles is to facilitate the Third Sector Research Forum.  In May 2017 the Forum published Evidencing Genuine Co-production in the Third Sector.  This paper summarises what third sector research and evidence says about what genuine co-production looks like in the third sector.  

The paper is not in itself an evaluation tool – although it might help you think about what to look for and measure in ‘good’ co-production.

So at ESS we’ve been wondering if we should work with the sector to develop tools and methods to evaluate co-production. 

But do we need to?  After all co-production is a Good Thing.  Do we really need prove it? 

Plus co-production is not an end in itself.  It’s a way to achieve positive outcomes for people and communities.  So surely we should be measuring those outcomes rather than the co-productive processes that achieve the outcomes. 

Well one reason you and I might want to evaluate co-production is to learn about what works and doesn’t in particular approaches to co-production.  Another reason might be to generate more evidence and examples about what excellent co-production really looks like in practice. 

ESS is also super keen on co-production in evaluation.  Why Bother involving people in evaluation and How to evaluate asset-based approaches in an asset-based way  are two of our resources drawn from our work with the third sector about how to take a more person-centred and relevant approach to evaluation.  We’d love to do more.

There are of course resources and guides out there already.  So we don’t want to reinvent wheels or add more stuff to already full in trays. 

So in this important week to celebrate co-production, we’d love to know what you think.   Do you care about evaluating co-production?  Or about co-productive evaluation?!  Do you have good tools to share?  Or do you think there’s an evaluation gap to fill?

Please tell share your evaluation thoughts by commenting, tweeting @EvalSupScot or emailing