This is why you should co-produce with people

This is why you should co-produce with people

Co-production - what’s in it for councils?  TLAP’s Martin Walker and Sam Willacy, an active member of the National Co-production Advisory Group (NCAG) share their views on making the case for co-production 

Whether you are a commissioner designing a new service, a social worker support planning with a person, or a programme manager changing processes, working co-productively helps to ensures success.

Sam Willacy and I have worked very closely together over the past year in supporting some councils to think about and make improvements to the way personalisation works for people who live in their area. I’m pleased that Sam, a member of NCAG, has agreed to help me write this blog.Our starting point for that advice and support was to say ‘you should do it co-productively with people’.

We’ve both found it very rewarding as the results have gone way past our expectations. But we’ve also noticed just how early in the journey of learning to co-produce well with people some places are. Talking about this with colleagues in the TLAP team made me reflect ‘what’s in it for councils?’. Sam’s suggestion was to turn this around – to lay out a case for co-production.

Getting it right first time

At TLAP we’ve seen this happen. No more so than in reworking Making It Real with people and organisations across care and health, but also for example with the Local Government Association in designing and refreshing the High Impact Change Model (opens new window) for managing transfers of care between hospital and home.

Sam and I have been surprised recently at just how difficult workers in local systems still find co-production. It seems very easy to get the finance team’s perspective, the IT systems workers preferences, the communications team's view about how a leaflet or web page will ‘land’ with people. But it seems very difficult to talk to people.

Maybe that’s a key ingredient – finding it difficult to talk WITH people rather than talking TO people. And that’s a second reason to co-produce with people – levelling up.

Levelling up the power dynamics

TLAP’s ladder of co-production describes the different degrees of conversation that go on when talking TO people. Only at the co-production level are workers talking WITH people. It’s rare in our recent experience.

Yet there has been a strong policy directive across successive governments to rebalance decision making back towards people, not only within care and health but across other agendas with legislation like the Localism Act and the Equality Act. Together with the Care Act, this legal underpinning has been in place for some years. Getting a chance to see at first-hand how local places are following this government’s steer is sobering in terms of a lack of maturity, and a feeling that this is not typically ‘how we do things around here’.

A focus on quality and improvement

We are working with key bodies in the sector to try to establish a shared view of ‘what good looks like.’ To our delight many agree that Making It Real does that job well.

It does this because it was co-produced WITH people who have made sure the things most important to them are the focus and described in a way that they can relate to.

The I statements in Making it Real describe what it means to get good care and support, and moreover, a good life.

Quality assurance and continuous improvement can become very technical and bureaucratic processes. At their heart, however should be a focus on what other sectors might describe as ‘customer satisfaction’. Within these other sectors lots of effort goes into seeking customer insight to understand what needs to happen or change to improve levels of satisfaction.

What better way to get those insights other than to co-produce improvements and changes with people to raise the level of quality standards? To listen to their experiences and to hear about what is getting in the way of having good experiences of services, systems, processes, care and support.

What better way to get those insights other than to co-produce improvements and changes with people to raise the level of quality standards?

Getting better at co-production

Sam and I have recently witnessed people getting better at co-production first hand. We’ve seen how brave those workers have needed to be to start talking to people then move through to talking with them.

We have been delighted to offer our experience, expertise and resources to guide and inform their work, sometimes acting as coaches to help them work through to their own conclusions about how they need to change their practice to make co-production work for them. Watching challenging conversations with people turn into productive working relationships that deliver tangible improvements feels very rewarding.

It gives us hope that this practice can spread much more in care and health, improving the lives and the experiences of many more people, and making workers feel like it’s been rewarding to be a public servant doing exactly what the job says on the tin – serving the public.

Find out more about the National Co-production Advisory Group


Posted on by Sally Percival

Excellent blog Sam. Why wouldn’t you want to coproduce? You would have to be rather silly not to!!

Posted on by Liz George

CO-PRODUCTION: "It’s a long-term relationship" we need to slow down, make time to establish relationships and truly value those relationships.

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