Who do we co-produce with?
Co-production – it’s about professionals and people with lived experience making decisions together, right?
I have been thinking a lot about the term ‘lived experience’ recently, because I think it might not be all that helpful. I wonder if the language we are using to describe the people round the table actually makes it harder for good co-production to happen.
We know that co-production has to be based on equal, reciprocal relationships that take time to develop. But surely there is already a power imbalance if some people are expected to show vulnerability and share their very personal lived experience, while others can present their unemotional, expert professional knowledge.
What if we expected everyone round the table to show vulnerability? What if we recognise that we all have lived experience?
As a ‘professional’, I work at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership as a Co-production Project Manager. Like everyone around me, I sit in our nice offices, probably use too many acronyms and can do a passable imitation of ‘system-speak’ when I need to.
But going to work doesn’t stop me being a human. Whether or not we acknowledge it, every professional is a person with lived experience.
My lived experience includes becoming a carer at 14 when my single dad got cancer, mental health issues, family bereavements. These experiences have shaped me and how I relate to the world, but somehow my lanyard and job title become a shield which stop me having to talk about or be defined by them.
Co-production can change the world, but only if we really commit to it. And that means being vulnerable, being willing to fail and get things wrong, and acknowledging that all of us are ‘people with lived experience’. Maybe instead, we need to talk about co-producing with the people that no one is listening to?
As an advocate of co-production I wouldn’t dream of saying I have found the answer, but hopefully I have found a good question.
For more information on co-production resources