Space, conversations and co-production.

When you think about co-production, do you ever think about the space you do it in and how it affects what you are saying? Continuing the theme of constructive conversations which Adam Webb began with his blog last week, Catriona Duncan-Rees now considers space and the impact it has on co-productive conversations.    

I believe that co-production should be at the heart of the conversations we have to help bring about change. But this means we take a step back and think differently about how we organise ourselves to create ‘shared space’ that can influence those discussions. What is a shared space? Spaces that are inclusive, that are not dominated by ‘needs’ rather they are focussed on people and values that are openly expressed without a hierarchy of importance attached?

Our traditional structures do not lend themselves to this way of thinking there is an expectation that the ‘expert by experience’ will inhabit the professional space and fit in with the existing structures, learn their language and adopt their values, or that the professional will do the same within the ‘community’ space -neither space lends itself to that sense that it is being truly shared – or equal, where all ideas are valued and expressed openly on their merits. 

How do we begin this transition to put co-production at the heart of a shared space so that we speak the same language, reach mutual decisions, and make sure that everyone is supported to better look after themselves and one another, to create kinder, more compassionate communities?

There isn’t an easy answer to this but we know that when tragedy strikes, whether it’s a terrorist attack or natural disaster, people prove time and time again that shared values and principles matter and the homeless man’s contribution, is valued as much as the first responder’s, the taxi drivers who turn off their meters, the hotel owners who open their doors. This is coproduction in action! Everyone has something to give. These expressions of humanity are amazing and yet these simple expressions and their results are powerful, lasting and far reaching.

We are faced in our current health and social care systems with an opportunity to build new relationships between people, communities and organisations to make change happen.  Altering the way we have our conversations, not necessarily changing the content, but how, where and who we have those conversations with is a fundamental start. Let’s really make the time to take a step back and think differently about how we organise ourselves and make the best use of the spaces we inhabit so that we come together more as equals and less as people fitting in with each other. 


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