What’s fixed and what’s flexible? An honest approach to co-production

Jennie Shrewsbury headshot
Jennie Shrewsbury
Good Practice Mentors Programme and Co-production Lead, South Yorkshire Housing Association

Co-production has become one of those terms that is used by organisations big and small to describe their approach and relationship with people - tenants, service users, patients - there is seemingly no end to the number of labels used to describe the people we involve in co-production work.

At South Yorkshire Housing Association though, we see just that – people. We view co-production as something that requires total honesty, not least in whether we are actually doing it or not. If we continue to label things as co-production and instead deliver consultation, we damage trust with those people and communities. Co-production requires us to be open and honest, not just with our communities, but with ourselves.

In a busy organisation with competing priorities, we try and focus on the things we can do rather than those we can’t, especially when it comes to involving the people who receive support from our services. Co-production - proper, top tier co-production does take time and it needs planning, capacity, and budget for it to be effective, and let’s be honest (because that’s the best way to be!), these are all things in short supply for many organisations. So our approach is, what’s fixed and what’s flexible? What’s up for discussion and what isn’t? This might not be the co-production gold star that sits on top of the tree, but it’s a step in the right direction. How can we bring people’s voice into the work we do in small ways? For us this might mean asking people to help us design the way we communicate information about their boiler safety checks, or evaluating our family support services with us to help shape future delivery where the targets might have to stay the same, but the journey to achieving them can be adapted.

The bit of working with people that we think is most important are the core principles that underpin co-production: Equality, Diversity, Reciprocity and Accessibility. There are others of course but these are the ones that define our approach and ensure that wherever we are on that scale of involvement, we’re doing it with the right mindset and belief that the people in the community are the ones who hold the power and know the answers. We try and do this through the environment we create and the way we interact with people, spending time building people’s confidence and creating opportunities for everyone to be involved, and we hope that by doing this, we’re laying the foundations for future involvement.

If you’re not sure where to start with co-production, reach out to the Good Practice Mentors for an informal chat with no obligation for further support. We can deliver free, bespoke support to your organisation to help you explore what’s fixed and what’s flexible for you.

This blog has been published to coincide with Co-production Week 2024.

For further details about Good Practice Mentors (GPM), visit: https://www.syha.co.uk/wellbeing/improve-your-wellbeing/good-practice-mentors/ (opens new window)

And if you found this of interest, check out GPM Jo Stapleton’s guest blog for the Housing LIN at https://www.housinglin.org.uk/blogs/Resetting-communal-spaces/

Understanding service users' views and experiences is critical to effective service, design and delivery. With an increased emphasis on personalisation and co-production to provide choice, it should also help guide commissioning, identify service improvements and meet outcomes that older people want, or what the Housing LIN has coined, ‘CollaborAGE’.

To access resources covering different aspects of involvement and user experience, visit: /Topics/browse/HousingOlderPeople/UserInvolvement/


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