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Liddie’s story

Get Yourself Active’s Programme Manager, Liddie Bone, answers the question “What is co-production?”

At Get Yourself Active we want to help you as an individual or organisation to empower Disabled People like us to take part in sport and physical activity. For this new blog series, we’re taking a deep dive into co-production in sport.

This month one of Get Yourself Active’s Programme Manager, Liddie Bone, by answers the question “What is co-production?”

Co-production. It’s a word we’ve heard a lot about. It pops up frequently, especially when you work in a sector such as social care.

I think it’s great that so many people are talking about it and using co-production approaches in their work. Involving the community in your work can only be positive!

At Get Yourself Active we’re working towards embedding co-production within the sport sector, because we believe this approach will result in more opportunities and reduced barriers for Disabled people when it comes to accessing physical activity

Redefining Co-production in 2021

One downside of the word ‘co-production’ gaining popularity is that it has begun to lose its meaning. It happens – if a word is thrown about frequently, everyone can have a different understanding of what it is and what it means in practice. This results in a term called ‘faux co-production’ – where what is taking place isn’t ‘real’ co-production.

Co-production is more than just simply engaging with the community. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a one-off consultation or workshop to find out people’s ideas, however, it’s important to remember that this is not co-production and should not be labelled as such.

Co-production is a specific model of working, where everybody works together on an equal basis to create a service or come to a decision 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. The co-production ladder below demonstrates this.

The co-production ladder diagram is shown. First it shows co-production and co-design as the first two rungs and defines these as "doing with in an equal and reciprocal partnership. Then it shows engagement, consultation and informing as the next three rungs. Defining these as Doing for engaging and involving people. Lastly it shows Educating and Coercion as Doing to trying to fix people who are passive recipients of service.

How does this work in practice? Well, let’s imagine something simple such as setting up a new physical activity in your service. Instead of professionals getting together and deciding what this activity would be, you’d sit round a table with the people who use the service with a blank sheet of paper and find out what they really want and need.

Then, instead of going off and designing it yourself, you would all work together as a team to design and deliver this service. Co-production isn’t a ‘one-off’ approach, it is something that happens throughout the entire length of a project. In this example, as well as people who use services being involved in designing the physical activity, they will also have a role to play in running this activity and evaluating it too.

A people-first approach

Co-production supports people to use their own experiences and capacity to influence, blurring the boundaries between ‘professionals’ and ‘people who use services’ so that power is shared more equally. It really makes sense –when services are genuinely co-produced they generally work better, because they make the most of the shared expertise of the professionals who work there and the people who have experience of using them. Working in partnership can only be positive!

Of course, this way of working is not easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. The traditional way services are run generally involve professionals as the sole ‘decision makers’. It will need a big culture shift to change these dynamics so that co-production can be supported and its benefits felt. It can be messy when we’re starting out, and we can get things wrong. However, it’s all about working together and learning as a team. It can have so many benefits, not only for the people who use your services to feel empowered and increase their skills, but also for your organisation to run services that really work for people and result in better outcomes.

It can feel like there is a lot to get your head around if you’re starting out on your co-production journey. Our co-production webinars could help – each one is only 15-20 minutes long and they cover a range of topics led by different presenters.

If you have any questions about co-production, email