Independently whether you are starting from here (or not), in understanding the chances and barriers towards positive transformation for (mental) well-being, the role of your society at large. cannot be underestimated. Obviously, we are clearly conscious of the facts going beyond the societal orientation. In many ways, welfare in sustainable relation to nature; and mental health; have become during the last three to four decades largely global issues. However, we will limit this training part to the societal level – and emphasize that nature-based methods and communal actions should always cover the sustainability of nature.

Contrary to the individual and community orientations, we have lacked tried tools and methods for transformation on societal level. This is partly due to rapid changes in all (western) societies; partly due to lack of courage and know-how in building societal models (and practices!) of well-being. So, it seems to be both a theoretical and practical problem to be thoroughly tackled.

However, the conceptual frameworks and practical innovations of co-production and social capital help us grasp the meanings and necessities of the dynamics of positive transformation in modern, western societies.

One of the most tried and useful theoretical tools comes from the theoretical work of American social philosopher Nancy Fraser (b. 1947). Her conceptual definitions and developments on redistribution, recognition and representation put the improvement of welfare in proper perspective. To put it shortly, the well-being of a society, or a community as a microcosm of a society, will not be possible without tackling simultaneously: economic inequality (redistribution); cultural diversity and multiculturalism (recognition) and politically democratic decision-making in new ways for direct democracy (“representation”). All of this, might seem to be you a bit difficult and/or out of context, but we can guarantee that it is worth thinking over! As a famous Finnish sociologist Antti Eskola (1934-2018) put it aptly: “nothing is more practical than a good theory”. And we know it, at least from quantum physics and the practical “use” of nuclear weapons.

We have decided to start with more practical thematics on co-production and the ideas on social capital. They will be followed by Nancy Fraser’s conceptualizations, where by reading extra materials, you can see, how these concepts have been put into practical use.

On this section, you can proceed from reflecting on co-production and social capital towards “fundamentals of societal transformation for well-being” – before concluding by making a “retrospective” step in what you have learnt. And then maybe going back to the beginning in doing a second round!?

Let me tell You about my biggest and longest dream in promoting mental welfare in Finland! When returning back from my eye and mind opening adventure from the beautiful country of Italy to my differently beautiful home country of Finland, I had realised that selling one’s labour in a communal manner – instead of the prevalent individual selling – can be much more health promoting, productive, and even more fun! Basically, the practice of social cooperatives means delivering services and selling products in the market in a way that production process promotes (mental) health and is not being harmful to one’s health. Which, of course, means it takes a critical standpoint towards capitalist production, which is based on profit making at the cost of the health of the employers.

Without doubt, my experience and the dream of establishing work and social cooperatives went unnoticed and ignored for years – my dream, as if I was ‘speaking Hebrew’, was not near to anyone else’s dream up here in Finland at that time. After a few years, things changed momentarily for better, and now for the last few years this dream has again lost its appeal.

Read more from:

P. Villotti; S. Zaniboni & F. Fraccaroli:

Les entreprises à économie sociale en Italie. Social cooperatives in Italy. (in French with an English summary) (obs! download not for free)

L’Encéphale. Volume 40, Supplement 2, June 2014: pp. 57-65.

A Case study:

Community Mental Healthcare. Trieste, Italy.


However, there are other practices and concepts that strongly touch on cooperative production. They include co-operation, co-production of welfare and social capital.

The definitions of these concepts you can find below…

Co-production is not just a word, it is not just a concept, it is a meeting of minds coming together to find shared solutions. In practice, co-production involves people who use services being consulted, included and working together from the start to the end of any project that affects them. When co-production works best, people who use services and carers are valued by organisations as equal partners, can share power and have influence over decisions made’.

On producing social services, co-production can be defined as:

‘Co-production is an approach where people, family members, carers, organisations and commissioners work together in an equal way, sharing influence, skills and experience to design, deliver and monitor services and projects.
Co-production acknowledges that people who use social care and health services (and their families) have knowledge and experience that can be used to help make services better, not only for themselves but for other people who need them, which could be any one of us at some time in our lives.

Theoretically, there are different definitions of co-production. Two of the leading scholars in this field, Victor Pestoff and Tacho Brandsen have worked on this topic for some time. Pestoff gives a simple definition which includes co-production alongside co-management and co-governance:

Co-production refers to an arrangement where citizens produce, at least in part, the services they use themselves. Co-producing citizens do not rely on financial or other inputs from public agencies to develop a new or improve an existing service. However, at the site of service co-production we frequently find public officials providing direct support to citizens, community groups or small non-profit organisations.

Co-management refers to a situation where different organisations work alongside each other to co-ordinate the delivery of a service or project. For co-management to occur, direct user or citizen participation is not necessary, but actors from different sectors and organisations use their respective resources to directly contribute in practical ways to the delivery of a specific project or service.

Co-governance is about the strategic planning of a service or a project. Actors from different organisations and sectors determine shared policy priorities and may translate these into strategic plans. Co-governance comes perhaps closest to what many regeneration partnerships are primarily engaged in. It is important to note that in the development and delivery of every project or service we are likely to find all of these three dimensions to some extent. However, each of these dimensions is distinct from the other. Directly co-producing a service is different from working closely with another organisation to co-manage its delivery. There is also a clear distinction between co-production and co-management, which are directly concerned with the provision of a specific service or project, and co-governance, which is primarily concerned with strategy and policy making.

  • Are You familiar with practices of co-production?
  • Could co-production be helpful in realising your communal dreams?
  • What could be the next two steps you could take to promote mental health in co-productive ways?

Social capital is among its theoreticians and practical developers a rather complex issue. However, despite of its complexity we would like to draw your attention to this matter. To start with, we will give you one of the basic definitions from the classic research on people’s engagement in civic life. Robert D. Putnam (1995) defines social capital as ‘features of social organisation such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.’

More short versions of the definitions of social capital may be found if you clicking:


    • Do you think that a conscious recognition of social capital and its different manifestations could be useful in promoting welfare in your community?
    • Which forms of social capital do you find that your community is best equipped with; which forms are moderately equipped with; and which would need real changes and transformations to be achieved?
    • Are there barriers in making social participation and direct democracy work qualitatively better and quantitatively enlarged?