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Co-production explained

We show you how to use co-production to make a difference in your organisation with no prior knowledge required.

Reading Level: Medium
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Co-production is where everybody works together on an equal basis to create a service or decide what works for everyone.

What is co-production?

Co-production. It’s a word we’ve all heard a lot. It often comes up when you work in a sector such as sport and physical activity.

It is a specific working model, where everybody works together on an equal basis to create a service or decide that works for them all.

At its centre is an organisational shift in power dynamics to create a more equal relationship between the people who use services and those who provide them. It involves people with different forms of lived or living and learnt (personal and professional) knowledge, understanding, and experience working together. It’s not just about frameworks or models! What is essential is genuinely embracing this way of working and the values that underpin it.

Why do Co-production?

Co-production supports people to use their own experiences and capacity to influence. It blurs the boundaries between ‘professionals’ and ‘service users’ so they share power more equally. This takes time, energy and practice but doing things differently means tackling a range of issues that confront us.

There is no roadmap for co-production; the process will look different every time. However, using the co-production model means that everyone is always involved. Just as they share in the challenges they will share in the final success.

How does it produce better solutions?

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.

People who use services and their carers know what works. You can’t create something properly without them. You shouldn’t take responsibility for solving every problem; co-producing means finding collective solutions.

When services are genuinely co-produced, they generally work better. This is because co-produced solutions make the most of the shared expertise of the professionals and the people who have direct experience of using them. Working in partnership can only be positive!

I got involved in co-production with my local leisure centre, and for the first time in 10 years I could go 5 minutes up the road to exercise. It’s made a huge difference to my life.

Sarah, 49, Birmingham

How do you co-produce in the sports sector?

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

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.

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

A practical example

Instead of writing:
“Choose a membership to make the most of a healthier lifestyle with inclusive access to our gym, swimming pool and fitness classes, plus discounts on a range of other activities.”

You could write the same thing in a simpler and easier to understand way:
“Choose a healthier lifestyle. With a membership, you get access to our gym, swimming and fitness classes. You’ll also get discounts on many other activities. ”

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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