Join the co-production collaboration revolution
Co-Production is the idea of service users and the people working for those services being at an equal level in order to benefit from the situation. Anne Taylor, an expert by experience shares her thoughts on why co-production is so important.
Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) is a coalition of national charities – Clinks, Homeless Link, Mind and associate member Collective Voice. Together MEAM represents over 1,300 frontline organisations across England.
Together we support local areas across the country to develop effective, coordinated services that directly improve the lives of people facing multiple disadvantage by sharing knowledge and practical experience and influencing policy at the national and local level.
MEAM recently ran two successful learning hubs on co-production in London and Manchester. These events were co-produced by individuals with experience of multiple disadvantage and the MEAM staff team. They aimed to share learning and encourage partnerships across the network to co-produce the work that they do.
Co-production - or service professionals and service users working together as equals - isn’t new. The idea has been around for some years and in its purest form it is a Utopian ideal. So, why should it be taken seriously now?
Well, in this climate of austerity, spiralling homelessness, crises in the NHS, rioting in prisons and floundering police forces, co-production becomes attractive because it can improve services and long-term it saves money.
Co-production is more than a word or concept, it is a meeting of minds where different ends of the social strata come together to find shared solutions to multiple disadvantage. Those with experience of multiple disadvantage know where the flaws in systems lie and can help service providers to improve their services for the benefit of service users and staff alike.
Of course like so many things that are good for us, there are barriers to overcome. To start with, why should individuals facing multiple disadvantage trust people who have let them down repeatedly and caused them pain? Why should a commissioner take time out of a busy schedule to listen to a group of disaffected individuals on equal terms?
The truth is that real power comes from sharing. When a service user finds the courage to share their knowledge about systems failure with a provider who is genuinely listening, both of them increase in power. One by having their confidence rebuilt, the other by demonstrating they can act, however small, on the advice of another in humility. A meeting of minds that can benefit many people. When you look at it like that, who wouldn’t co-produce?
Starting small on co-production is nothing to be ashamed of, but not starting is. Start small and build on your achievements, overcome barriers of communication and prejudices, once co-production starts to work it can snowball and bring real revolution to working practices and changes to the system that we so desperately need.