Co-production in Arts & Culture: A Review of Evidence

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This review of evidence explores the notion and potential of co-production in the art and cultural sectors. To approach this task, keyword searches were conducted using the term co-production alongside, co-production AND museum, co-production AND exhibition, co-production AND culture, co-production AND arts. This returned both academic and grey literature of relevance. These documents were reviewed and – where appropriate – the reference lists appended to these sources were scrutinised for more, relevant material. To discover practical examples of its usage in social, arts and cultural settings, the term co-production was then entered into a more generalised internet search. It soon became apparent that co-production as an idea is both poorly defined (leading to conflation or interchangeable use with other similar terms and ideas) and yet, used widely across a range of social, cultural, public service and policy areas. Furthermore, while the arts have been recognised as having great potential for increasing stakeholder engagement through co-production practices, there are significant differences in how the arts are operationalised across different contexts. As noted by MacGregor et al. (2022), co-production through the arts can be influenced by the relationship between researcher and stakeholder, ethical issues with collaboration, approaches to stakeholder engagement, the balance in the co-production of knowledge, capacity-building resources and the communication between multi-stakeholder partners (MacGregor et al., 2022:206).

In this review, we explore some definitions of co-production and adjacent concepts, noting that co-production can be differently understood by different stakeholder groups (e.g. Brandsen et al. 2018; Voorberg et al. 2015) and, that the degree to which citizens or community members are enabled to participate in the production of an outcome can vary widely (e.g. Brandsen et al. 2018). Examples of co-production in the arts and cultural space that emerge from the literature are given. These underscore the variety of practices and approaches that might be considered as co-production. Brief summaries of two of the projects contributing to the Future Paisley programme of cultural regeneration follow. These projects (both ongoing at the time of writing) have aimed to foreground co-production as a key tenant of the approach taken.

We hope that this review provides insight into the range of practices considered as co-production – ranging from tokenistic to citizen-led. It can be seen that awareness of co-production (and adjacent concepts such as co-creation) has increased but that terms are often conflated and used interchangeably (e.g. Voorberg et al., 2015:1347). The utility of examining some of the differences more closely lies chiefly in the ‘benefits for comparability of empirical findings’ that a more nuanced insight offers (Brandsen et al. 2018:7). Further, there are practical benefits to those stakeholder groups engaging in co-production type collaborations if all parties are clear regarding the extent of their engagement from the outset.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPaisley
PublisherUniversity of the West of Scotland
Commissioning bodyRenfrewshire Council
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781903978733
ISBN (Print)9781903978726
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


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