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What it takes to co-produce well

This practical guide, explains how to make the most of Co-production to produce better services and products.

Reading Level: Medium
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Remember the basics!

Although they may seem simple there are some basic practical things that we may sometimes not give much thought to which make sure your project runs smoothly.

It is important to create the right environment where people can be at their best. Taking time to understand who’s who and what brings them to your work helps unlock what matters to and motivates them, and helps others understand their point of view.


Simple measures like giving everyone a name badge, having someone to meet and greet people, using ice-breakers, covering people’s travel costs and offering free tea and coffee go a long way to make people feel welcome and included.

Providing refreshments is also a really simple way of putting people at ease – sometimes the best conversations come from sitting around with a cup of tea and some cake.

Make it accessible

For co-production to work, everything needs to be accessible to those involved. You don’t want people to face any barriers that may prevent them from sharing their views or getting stuck into conversations.

We’ve created a short checklist of things you can do to ensure your project is accessible:

  1. Check that the timing and length of your event is appropriate to the needs and lifestyle of the people you want to reach.
  2. Choose a venue that offers people easy access, that is also served by good public transport.
  3. Have regular refreshment/rest breaks at any events you are holding.
  4. Invite people to bring someone with them if they feel anxious about participating for the first time or about travelling.
  5. Offer training for anything that might be seen as technical
  6. Provide a British Sign Language interpreter or induction loop facility for service users with a hearing impairment.
  7. Offer to provide documents in large print or Easy Read format
  8. Use plain language and avoid unnecessary jargon.

We might all be more comfortable with the idea of having virtual meetings, but there are several things to you also consider with accessibility when it comes to online meetings. You can read more about this on our specific virtual meeting guide here.

Be creative

An important step to remember is being creative in how you find people. If you work in the sports sector, you can, of course, engage with people who already attend activities but don’t forget those people who might not be active for various reasons. These people could provide a different and interesting insight that can help you to develop your activities.

You could consider involving local Disabled People User Led Organisations (DPULOs), as well as local (support) groups, faith groups, people who have strong links to their communities (like community leaders). Other organisations such as local charities, schools, colleges, hospitals can also help you get the word out amongst their networks.

You should be creative in how you involve people. If you’re asking people to attend formal meetings be aware that these can be intimidating, boring, or off-putting, so be you need to be imaginative.

Find a balance between what you must achieve and add an informal feel to the meeting. Getting people involved in fun activities that they enjoy can build trust and make them more comfortable to give their views.

Everyone in it together

The secret to good co-production is being a team. Think: Doing with, not doing to, every step of the way.

Co-production is a different way of thinking, being and relating; it requires a shift in mindset to include and consider people as equals in your process. Sharing power takes time, energy and practice but doing things differently like this means we can tackle a range of issues that confront us.

Building the right relationships with people is at the heart of good co-production. Co-production can only happen when there is trust, respect and understanding between people. You need to put as much time as possible into this process and get to know the people you are working with.

People who use services and their carers know what works, so you can’t get it right without them. You shouldn’t take responsibility for solving every problem—give your group space to find collective solutions. They also need to be involved in every aspect of the development – the planning, development, and delivery of the service.

A big part of this is keeping people informed every step of the way. Update them regularly, even if the update is that there is no update. A major complaint from people is that they get involved in a piece of work, then never hear anything again. Ultimately no communication is bad communication, which can offend people and leave them feeling disrespected.

Take a chance!

When you decide to co-produce you must accept that in sharing power you are taking risks. Things can and do go wrong so be prepared to reflect and make changes.

It can take time to understand the right format that works for everyone involved, and you’ll always find a way you’d do it differently next time.

Don’t be afraid to stop or change if things are no longer working. Processes need to evolve as the project evolves. Remember that things that look good on paper don’t always work out well in practice.

There is no roadmap for co-production; the process will look different in each project or piece of work. However, using the co-production model means that everyone is always involved. Just as they share in the mistakes they will share in the final success.

Next Steps

We want to work with you!

We want to make sure that you are working with Disabled people. You can find resources and guides to implement co-production techniques that build accessible activities and spaces on our guides hub.

How to coproduce research in the sport exercise and health sciences

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