This book advances an emergent critique that conventional, constituted approaches to policy making and analysis are limited in their potential to address ‘wicked’ and ‘squishy’ policy problems which we face as a society. These problems range from the challenges of a super-diverse society to environmental sustainability to the future of public services. Experiences of failure in conventional policy designs are unremarkable. To ordinary citizens, this policy failure often ‘presents itself as a glaring discrepancy between the official rhetoric on an issue and the reality on the ground, as being de facto abandoned by public officials or as being excluded from the central institutions of society’ (Wagenaar, 2007, p. 28). Failures are extreme cases, but there is also a growing sense, shared by some policy makers and other policy actors, that current models are simply insufficient to generate the level of creativity and innovation needed.
Yet it is vital to retain a commitment to the idea that the policy process has the potential to be more than a ‘fuzzy gamble’ (Dror, 1986). The arguments presented in this book go beyond critique, to draw on and appropriate the rich lineage of co-production as a lens for contesting and reimagining the concept of power, the visions and grammars that frame, inform and guide policy design. Modelling a commitment to incomplete design (Garud, Jain and Tuertscher, 2008), the book aims to offer a contribution to ‘the practical work of experimentation’ (Lowndes and Roberts, 2013, p. 189) and begin to theorise co-productive policy designs.
This book has worked with grounded, powerful reflections on the potentialities of co-producing policy from policy makers, researchers, practitioners and activists. These contributions are important, not for developing a ‘how to guide’ of who, what, where, when and how for co-producing policy, but rather because they embody the importance and value of policy experimentation. From these insights, it is asserted that there can be co-productive alternatives which are able to ‘mobilise and use the knowledge, resources and energies of empowered citizens’ (Agger, 2012, p. 29), that also reinvigorate rather than dilute Lasswell's (1971, p. x) vision of the policy process as ‘creating knowledge needed by the democratic polity’.