Applied co-creation to deliver public services

Specific Challenge

While efforts have been made to make public services user-friendly and reduce the administrative burden, for example by making them increasingly available online, studies show that service design often does not meet the expectations of citizens and businesses, who require more usability, responsiveness and transparency, reflecting the different needs of users - some of whom may not be computer literate - and the variety of activities public services encompasses. Weak service design and high administrative burden often lead to non-use or non-take up by citizens and businesses of the public services and benefits available to them.

The profound understanding of end users including specific groups, like disabled elderly people, single parent families, disadvantaged citizens or immigrants, the re-design of services to respond to their capacities, needs and preferred delivery channels are important elements for governments to prove their ability to fulfil the needs of citizens and businesses. The old ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not appropriate for all spheres of the public sector; complex and varied service delivery; historical, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds play an important role in the expectations of interactions with public services.

The steady integration of new technologies into the everyday lives of people, businesses and governments is helping to open up public administrations, offering opportunities for more collaborative and participatory relationships that allow relevant stakeholders (i.e. citizens, business and non-governmental organisations) to actively shape political priorities, collaborate in the design of public services and participate in their delivery to provide more coherent and integrated solutions to complex challenges. Co-creation of public services in this context is a public service that is provided by government, citizens, NGOs, private companies or individual civil servants, in collaboration or not with government institutions, based on government or non-government data or services.

Collaborative service creation (co-creation) requires public service actors to engage with stakeholders in the design, production and delivery phases, to gather the necessary user insight, re-define their operational processes and identify appropriate sustainability models to deliver an effective high quality service.

Given the opportunity to actively participate in service delivery, stakeholders (citizens, businesses, civil society organisations, social partners, etc.) can contribute distinctive resources (time, effort, ideas and expertise) and can keep public officials accountable. The increased sense of ownership, greater efforts for the sustainability of public initiatives, as well as more creative ideas lead to an important shift in the role that civil society and the private sector can play in contributing to good governance. It is also expected to help better prioritise and target public spending to the most important purposes and urgent needs.


Innovation actions will pilot the co-designing and co-creation of public services, using ICT and relying on open data or open public services. They need to bring together a variety of actors in society, such as for example public authorities, citizens, businesses, researchers, civil society organisations, social innovators, social entrepreneurs, social partners, artists and designers, to co-create demand-driven, user-friendly, personalised public services and make effective decisions. Proposals need to identify the particular policy area, public institution or function to assess the suitability of incorporating co-creation and the transferability of good practices. Piloting needs to be carried out in a representative set of Member States in order to test different cultural/socio-political context for co-creating public services.

Proposals need to address several of the below aspects

  • Using open services provided by public administrations and allowing third parties to design, aggregate, produce and deliver in collaboration with or without government value added complementary or new public services;
  • Demonstrating how government can act as a broad, open collaboration 'platform' in practice by demonstrating and/or piloting use cases for sharing data, services, tools, cloud infrastructures and assets between public administrations (e.g. experiments of hybrid teams in government) and resulting in re-usable services or processes;
  • Demonstrating how government can act as a broad, open collaboration 'platform' in practice by demonstrating and/or piloting use cases for sharing data, services, tools and assets with third parties and generating new or complementary services or making decisions;
  • Demonstrating how the perspectives of citizens, service users, and others can be taken on board through, for example, the use of design principles or behavioural analysis, in the creation of new public services or policies;
  • Demonstrating how transparency of government data, information or processes and the engagement of relevant stakeholders can lead to accountability and trust;
  • Developing business models that would enable financial remuneration for the public as data (or other asset) providers.

Proposals need to ensure that privacy and data protection issues have been appropriately addressed and that the tools piloted could be re-used. Any policy area may be subject to the piloting, including social policies and those addressing the vulnerable.

Proposals need to demonstrate the feasibility of their service or solution through a number of real-life pilots, demonstrate the concrete commitment of the piloting sites and need to propose a sustainability approach or model for the period beyond the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 4 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Proposals need to demonstrate that they can achieve impact beyond the project phase, inter alia, in terms of efficiency and effectiveness gains, transactional cost reduction, productivity growth, stimulating the growth of new businesses, greater transparency leading to reduced errors and less public spending, administrative burden reduction, improved societal evidence, increased take-up of electronic public services by citizens, user satisfaction as well as in terms of the democratic dimension, such as increasing level of civic participation and social inclusion. Quantitative and qualitative aspects are to be taken into account. Additional impact may be improving the skills and adding new skills of public sector employees as well as third parties being agents and enablers of change and acting as innovation actors.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Open Innovation

Application date
Social sciences