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Being creative with the co-production process

Reading Level: Beginner
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Something that can help to make co-production work is creativity. Firstly, you should be creative in finding people to engage with. Don’t forget those you might not have worked with before. They could provide a different and interesting insight that can help you develop your activities and involve many people.

Engaging with local Disabled People’s User Led Organisations is a good way to build partnerships with Disabled people in your area. You can learn more about what a DPULO is in our guide about DPULOs.

You could also think about engaging with local groups, faith groups, people who have strong links to their communities, day centres, local charities and Disabled people’s organisations, schools, colleges, hospitals; advertising in libraries, community centres. And, of course, speaking to other colleagues who may have done similar work.

Also, be creative in how you involve people. Focusing on people attending formal meetings can be intimidating, boring, or off-putting. So be creative.

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.

Think: Doing with, not doing to, every step of the way. Co-production is about being a team.

Getting everyone involved

Co-production is a way of thinking, being and relating; it requires a shift in mindset to include and consider people as equals in a process. Learn to share power. Doing things differently means we can work across various issues that confront us.

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

Start the conversation without a plan and build an agenda with the people who use your service, their carers and families.

People who use services and their carers know what works, so you can’t get it right without them. Don’t take responsibility for solving every problem. You should allow the group to find collective solutions. They should also be involved in all aspects of the development of services. This includes the planning, development and delivery of the service.

Make sure to keep people informed every step of the way. Update people 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. No communication is bad communication. Not communicating can offend people and leave them feeling disrespected.

How to share power and accept the risks

In co-production, things can go wrong. It is just like any other way of working.

We all know things can happen, even with the best of intentions and careful planning. Making mistakes is a normal part of any new process, including co-production. 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.

Be prepared to assess how well things are going and make changes if needed. 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.

What really counts in co-production is learning how to disagree well and constructively.

There is no roadmap for co-production; the process will look different in each project or piece of work. But navigating these tricky relationships is the stuff of genuine co-production. The initial difficulties are part of what happens when you walk the co-production walk – rather than talk the talk. It’s how we work through it and stay within this liminal space that plants the seeds of real change.

Next Steps

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