Service coproductions as reciprocal activities

In addition to extrinsic economic exchange, #JohnMCarroll #JiaweiChen #ChienWenTinaYuan #BenjaminHanrahan @ISTatPENNSTATE say service coproductions relying on all participants to collaborate in both economic exchange and social exchange.

Service coproduction is a special case of service provision in which the roles of service provider and service recipient both require active participation. Examples include healthcare, education, and music instruction. Service coproduction raises particular challenges for user interface design. Because the recipient plays an active role, interaction protocols cannot be fully specified at design time and it is difficult to clearly define what the provider is providing and what value to attach to the provider’s contribution.

A coproduced service is a reciprocal collaboration, and it is both an economic exchange and a social exchange. [1] [Carroll, Chen, Yuan, Hanrahan 2016, p. 27, editorial paragraphing added] [….]

  • [1] J.M. Carroll and V. Bellotti, “Creating Value Together: The Emerging Design Space of Peer-to-Peer Currency and Exchange,” Proc. 18th ACM Conf. Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW 15), 2015, pp. 1500–1510.

A more radical example of service coproduction is timebanking, in which personal services are exchanged and valued according to the time to produce them. [2] In timebanking, no money is exchanged; services are valued by the doing itself. Moreover, because these exchanges occur in a local (face-to-face) community context, an exchange’s value includes personal recognition of a neighbor’s effort and reciprocal recognition of the value inherent in helping a neighbor. Timebanking service exchanges are, by design, not simple and succinct pay-and-receive services, like music streaming. Indeed, participants can spend earned time credit only on arranging further cooperation with neighbors. [1] [Carroll, Chen, Yuan, Hanrahan 2016, p. 27] [….]

Services are often construed as an exchange between a provider and a recipient in the form of material or money. The provider delivers a service to the recipient; for example, a taxi driver transports passengers, or a media company streams content to a subscriber. In return, the recipient pays the service provider. [….] However, some services are not as straightforward as that. For example, an educator cannot “deliver” knowledge and skill to a student; if the student does not react (through, say, practice and reflection), learning does not happen. Many services or activities pertaining to health and learning are, in this sense, coproduced social exchanges. The provider and recipient actively cooperate to produce social values that both parties share. [Carroll, Chen, Yuan, Hanrahan 2016, p. 27] [….]

In other words, the shared, interdependent aspect of the production process is key in successful coproduction activities. This means that service coproductions can be improved and customized by leveraging the expertise of both providers and recipients, enabling increased diversity and choices. Recipients can be more responsive to the services provided, and costs can decrease. [5] [Carroll, Chen, Yuan, Hanrahan 2016, p. 28]

  • [5] T. Brandsen and V. Pestoff, “Coproduction, the Third Sector and the Delivery of Public Services: An Introduction,” Public Management Rev., vol. 8, no. 4, 2006, pp. 493–501.

The article makes the ideas concrete with a research smartphone app WithShare (on iOS).

FIGURE 1. Screenshots of our timebanking smartphone app (names anonymized).
(a) The task list view (offer). (b) The add-task view (request). (c) The task details view (offer).
(d) The user profile view. Users can set up service exchanges; in Figures 1b and 1c, a
mother home alone with a sick child is requesting someone to obtain medicine for her.


Carroll, J. M., J. Chen, C. W. Yuan, and B. V. Hanrahan. 2016. “In Search of Coproduction: Smart Services as Reciprocal Activities.” IEEE Computer, July 2016, pp. 26-32. , cached at


#service-science, #service-systems