Effective co-production – three simple steps

Over the last few years, we’ve shared colleague’s frustrating experiences of witnessing stalling initiatives, and professionals’ desires to maintain their role in “fixing” people. 

We’ve identified a common, set of practices that can be replicated to deliver community support at no or low cost.  They can be applied within any kind of wider structure to achieve action, build capacity and create small social movements.

How it works
Hidden Insights is about developing a shared understanding of the true nature of an issue that is creating wider social problems, and see if anyone is already bucking the trend.  You find out how, and copy it.

It uses a facilitated group problem-solving method that is based on an empowering mind-set. Our approach is based on teaching three simple steps:

  • Engage people round a burning issue; define it and measure it
  • Discover positive exceptions who seem to avoid the issue
  • Share how they did it

There is a powerful a set of working principles. These are:

  • Act your way into a new way of thinking
  • Don’t decide about me, without me
  • Big changes come from small differences
  • Ownership not buy in
  • Evidence for everything
  • How? as well as what and why
  • ​These principles are memorable and have resulted in significant shifts in professional, community and peer attitudes to each other, and created independent community support groups in a short space of time.  For more information see: https://www.hiddeninsights.co.uk/applications/hidden-insights-for-community-adaptability/

    Low cost, evidence- and principles-based, easily spread
    We think that this way of facilitating, and its supporting principles, are a simple way of contributing to a versatile skill base for building both organisational and community capacity.

    It creates a shift in mind-set for co-production to be truly effective. This way of working is more practical than appreciative enquiry and is free of blame.  It solves problems in the here and now.

    It gets people involved and engaged in measuring progress, understanding other points of view, and is more empowering than therapy-based approaches. 

    Adding elements of design thinking gives you a powerful set of tools for co-production. 

    There are many free, open source facilitation resources available, but it’s important that you have the basic tools and techniques – a bit like cooking and recipes.  Good work can be done in a morning or over months, depending on the issues and the people.  The facilitation process and skills are easily learned by community members and are valuable to managers.

    How it started
    Hidden Insights is based on a way of working that delivered great results in changing behaviour around nutrition and public health in the developing world (see The Power of Positive Deviance, by Richard Pascale, Jerry and Monique Sternin).

    A good example of this kind of co-production is the Huntingdon Grub Hub. 

    Conversations with active parents in the community identified a specific, measurable problem of family break-up.  This problem created wider issues with community safety and education.

    Importantly, the group also found positive exceptions – families who stayed together. They discovered that a common feature of the families that stayed together was eating together and talking.

    The parents’ group designed a community evening activity, with food and hands-on play.  They also created the name, designed their own publicity, and set the terms on which professionals would be invited (no brochures, no roadshows, only offer advice when asked). They used networks and social media to publicise it. 

    From the start 50 people came each month, rising to the maximum of 85.  Over 127 people had been helped by it in its first 18 months.

    People with mental health and money issues have been supported and the need for services avoided.  It is now self-sustaining, and Kerrie Tonks, the professional who was “midwife” to this, has stepped back.

    For more examples see https://www.hiddeninsights.co.uk/resources/case-studies-personal-empowerment/



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