The role of co-production in strategy formation: a study of business support for small enterprises in Dorset.
Authors: Ford, T.
This study addresses co-production in business support, arising from interventions between small enterprise owner/managers and business support intermediaries, and the effect on strategy formation. There is a significant amount of literature in the distinct areas of co-production; strategy; and business support, however much of the extant co-production literature focusses on public services, and there is a gap in literature which focuses specifically on co-production in business support and strategy formation. The research was undertaken against a backdrop of major change in business support policy and provision, which had a notable impact throughout the study. A conceptual framework was developed that identified the key components of co-production in business support interventions and how these interact and add value. Taking a mixed methods approach, using qualitative research as the dominant method, the study has focused on relationships between Dorset small enterprises and intermediaries that provided business advice, mentoring, brokerage, coaching and consultancy. A contextual quantitative survey was undertaken to provide baseline data on business support and strategy in Dorset small enterprises. The contributions to knowledge are as follows: 1) This study has responded to a call to extend co-production research into other areas, outside of public services, and has subsequently linked the themes of business support and strategy formation to co-production and value creation; 2) This study has identified where value is added in co-production business support interventions, through the development of the critical mix; and 3) This study makes a methodological contribution by identifying the need for triangulation of owner/managers' perceptions of a range of 'hard' and 'soft' outcomes, to assess the value created though interventions. Implications for practice include: an increased understanding of how the aspirations of owner/managers influence the direction of business support interventions, leading to more targeted provision; the need for improved mechanisms for measuring business support outcomes; and business support has been shown to add value, but sustainable programmes are needed to maximise success.