Article: A few things things I’ve learnt about Co-production

By Pam Luckock

I first heard Prof. Edgar Cahn speak about co-production in 2008 at summer school. The simplicity of his five principles of co-production immediately resonated with me:

  1. Asset based: each of us has something to give
  2. Honour real work:  community building, caring, it’s all valuable work
  3. Reciprocity:  I give you something and I need something in return. This acknowledges that the other person has something of value to give and thus changes the relationship.
  4. Community: we are stronger together than as individuals
  5. Respect: every person matters 

Inspired by his speech, I bought Edgar Cahns’ book: ‘No more throwaway people’. Its message of social justice sat very comfortably alongside the human rights FREDA principles of fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy. We’d used these successfully as a guide during my time with the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights, asking ourselves ‘What would FREDA say?’.  At first glance the stories of true co-production appeared to deliver the exact outcomes being described in the Equality Duty. However you interpret it, it’s a thought provoking read, and used as a ‘bible’ by many community organisations all over the world.

So, what is co-production and how do we do it?
Many excellent papers have been written about the ‘what’, and you’ll find plenty of references on the Co-production Wales website. I want to share a few things I’ve learnt about the ‘how’.  I believe that the journey that Fran and I have shared with our fabulous ‘Working With Not To’ community mirrors the possibilities and challenges faced by everyone trying to learn how to do co-production.
I hope the following hints and tips provide a useful starting point for you.

  • Start from a position of not knowing and be humble. There are no ready made answers and there will be a myriad of different answers for each situation.
  • Develop a spirit of curiosity. This will encourage questions, enjoy the discovery and learning.
  • Learn to be more comfortable with ambiguity. Get going anyway!
  • Change the language and you will change the conversation. For more information I encourage you to read ‘The World Cafe; Shaping our futures through conversations that matter’ by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, especially Ch1, p18-19, ‘Knowing together and bringing forth a world’.
  • Consider yourself a host and your client, patient or user of your service, as your guest.
  • Keep the Disability Equality principle ‘nothing about us without us’ at the front of your mind. Public bodies are legally bound to undertake EQIA, this requires people to be involved from the very start. In my experience this often remains an aspiration – let’s make it a reality.
  • Finally, you are not alone, find others seeking to learn and work with them.

We are aiming to start a regular WWNT blog in 2015 and look forward to sharing more insights with you.

‘Working With Not To’ Co-Production Project

Pam Luckock and Fran O’Hara set up the project in June 2013, working across Wales growing co-production from ‘grassroots’ up, to create self-empowered and resilient people, communities and organisations.

Since then we’ve hosted nine co-production ‘meet-ups’ in north and south Wales, including a BIG meet-up attended by 95 people. We’ve been supported by Local Authorities, WAO ‘Good Practice Wales’ and Public Health Wales 1000 Lives. We’ve also co-hosted two ABCD trainings in South Wales with 50 people. Our co-production definition, created with our community, guides our work: ‘A group of people working with each other, as equals, from the start to achieve a goal.’

With our learning community we’ve developed our ‘meet-up’ event format, where people from all sectors and a wide range of organisations come. Many different perspectives, bringing unique assets. Creating hospitable, inclusive spaces where people can connect, take part in conversations that matter’ that result in actions, plan and ‘think differently’.

Experience gained from these means we now offer a full event delivery service… from planning the event, sourcing speakers, offering workshops and materials design, to hosting the event programme online, tickets invites, production of a database, delivery of the event (including social media) and post-event feedback and reports. We also facilitate, train, make presentations and create co-production tools and resources.
Gathering a group, sharing stories and building a community makes change happen. For more information, contact us on .