Get Yourself Active, a programme led by Disability Rights UK, has focused its efforts over the last 5 years on increasing understanding and knowledge of co-production and increasing the voice of Disabled people in the design and delivery of physical activity. We are working closely with other Disabled people’s user led organisations and the sport sector to embed co-production in practice when it comes to tackling inactivity. Co-production is often thought of as something that is important in the social care and health sectors, but it is essential that any organisations that work within the community are looking into the work they are doing and involving people as much as possible.
The Get Yourself Active evaluation of a small co-production pilot showed that a co-production process provided Disabled peoples user led organisations and physical activity providers with an opportunity to pool their expertise in addressing barriers to physical activity participation. Our work shows the positive outcomes that can be achieved by implementing co-production approaches, demonstrating that working together makes us stronger.
This year, which is reflective of the current pandemic we are living through, the theme for co-production week is ‘Co-production in a changing world’. We believe co-production is now more important than ever. The Covid-19 crisis has increased the marginalisation experienced by Disabled people and means that many people are experiencing further disadvantages when it comes to being active. As lockdown continues to ease, concerns around physical health and keeping active are continuing to rise as shown in the recent survey by Research Institute for Disabled Consumers. It is more important than ever that organisations are making efforts to hear what Disabled people have to say when it comes to improving our health and wellbeing through being active and moving more.
Whilst we are living in this ‘changing world’, now is the time for the physical activity sector to take a fresh look at ways to engage more Disabled people and other inactive groups in a conversation about how to improve access to physical activity. The physical activity sector has an opportunity to play their part in creating a society whereby Disabled people and other groups can have the leadership and power to create their own futures. As the leisure industry plans to re-open following guidance from the government, you can start to get a better sense of demand for activities or services once you begin to build stronger relationships with the people who access services. You can also start to build a broader understanding of the wider issues affecting people on a daily basis which may prevent them from being active and help you start to build solutions.
Although, taking into account the fact that we are all working in a changing world, co-production may not seem as straightforward as it once was, and the Covid-19 outbreak has brought about new challenges to the way we work and collaborate. We are all learning together, so it’s important to communicate and share what works and what doesn’t when involving people during this time. Get Yourself Active has posted a guide to co-producing during Covid-19 which may be useful as we adjust to new ways of working.
We have also been hosting a range of webinars around different topics to do with co-production, which could be a good starting point in developing the knowledge needed to embed co-production in practice. Having a shared vision within an organisation is an essential starting point to taking part in co-production. We might think we’re doing it, but we may have a different understanding and realise we are on a different page. Having this shared vision and understanding can be what is needed to change practice and ensure that co-production is central to the work you are doing. Even starting to make small changes in the way you involve people can result in big improvements, both for your organisation, professionals and for people who use services.