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Co-production – an essential strand of Local Area Coordination by Nick Sinclair

In this blog for co-production week, I wanted to explore how Local Area Coordination is a great way to drive forward the principles of co-production. I want to focus on community involvement in the recruitment of Local Area Coordinators across our Network.

Before I do this, I just wanted to outline my understanding of co-production as it is a term that often means a variety of different things. Referring to the SCIE website, which I have always found to be a very helpful resource for understanding co-production, I found an article that cited some work by Löffler (2009), who identified four areas that make up co-production, namely:

• Co-design, including planning of services
• Co-decision making in the allocation of resources
• Co-delivery of services, including the role community members play in providing services
• Co-evaluation of services.

I think breaking it down into these four areas is a helpful way to understand the concept.

We have very clear evidence of Local Area Coordination playing a really helpful role in all four areas. For example, the recent York University evaluation of City of York’s Local Area Coordination programme was co-evaluated with people who had a Local Area Coordinator walking alongside them. This proved to be of great personal value to those involved and added to the rich narrative of the research.

In terms of co-design, the Local Area Coordination model calls for community involvement here from the outset. One of the main ways this is enacted is through community members recruiting their own Local Area Coordinators. A couple of contextual thoughts to frame the logic to this. Firstly, the quality of Local Area Coordination is largely down to the skills, knowledge and value alignment of Coordinators and secondly a lack of involvement from communities significantly reduces the likelihood of Local Area Coordination being a success.  Essentially it doesn’t make sense to not have community involvement in Coordinator recruitment as the coordinators are supposed to be a resource for those communities. This common sense approach is backed up by academic evidence from independent evaluations that have suggested this generates a sense of ownership from the outset which in turn drives greater community awareness and involvement.  It also suggests that communities are best placed to identify the people capable of representing their overall ambitions and who will support them to build on their individual and community strengths.

All Local Area Coordinators and are local authority employees. Taking the leap to give up the full control and power around local authority employee recruitment can seem a daunting prospect. There are often systems and structures that need to be flexed and changed in order to accommodate this and that can be challenging, however our Network have found that it is worth the effort. This is reinforced by evidence of other departments adopting a similar approach based on the precedent set by the Local Area Coordinator recruitment.

Essentially whilst this presents challenges that require thought, time and careful consideration it is absolutely essential as Local Area Coordination cannot really get off the ground and sustain without embracing co-production from the start.