Co-production in a changing world
I sat down to write something for #coproweek and realised I wasn’t totally sure where my head was at on this essential approach. Not that this piece is a work in progress or anything! Here at Community Catalysts we have been huge advocates of co-production for many years – learning from allies like Clenton Farquarson and the National Coproduction Advisory Group (NCAG), supporting small care enterprises with coproduction at the heart of their design and delivery and running many projects with the slogan ‘nothing about us, without us’ front and centre.
Then came Covid and that tremendous community response followed by discussions about how to keep the momentum, #buildbackbetter and ensure that people at the heart stayed that way. This resonates with us of course – as committed community catalysts how could we not believe that people and communities have so many answers to the challenging questions we currently face. But it was also part of my head scratching as I began to write. What could co-production look like in this rapidly changing world as we all move forward together?
I started thinking about the recent work we have been involved in. Local Area Coordination and the kind of work undertaken by model leaders like Swansea but also the Great Communities Project in partnership with the charity MacIntyre , our People Can work with the council and community in Kingston and our work with Camphill Village Trust in rural North Yorkshire . What they all have in common is an investment in people who might otherwise be seen only in terms of their ‘needs’ – a focus on the things that makes people valuable and valued rather than vulnerable. What they also have in common, I realised as I mulled, is they don’t co-produce in a traditional way.
Co-production is not just a word, it is a meeting of minds to find a shared solution. In practice, it involves people who use services being consulted, included and working together.
What they do is something really interesting – they ‘lead from behind’
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.
They all consult, include and work together but they also invest in, build up and push to the front the people who might naturally step back. As I tweeted at the height of the recent crisis
Just thinking that if every one of the @GoodSamApp volunteers asked every one of the 1.5million shielded people ‘what can you give’ as well as ‘what do you need’ – the impact could be momentous!
In these post Covid times as people who quickly stepped forward to help their community almost silently drift back – I wonder whether co-production with this kind of ‘lead from behind’ focus is something that public sector bodies and large local organisations could and should quickly engage with. I also wonder just how powerful and transformative that could be.