Co-production practitioners network

A network for co-production practitioners

Co-production: towards a critical mass?

Although we’re now marching steadily forward into 2012, my mind has been reflecting recently on the successes of 2011. In particular, the huge growth in how the concept of co-production is being researched and developed. Across practice and policy, local authorities, providers and user led organisations, co-production has become increasingly well known and favoured as a model of public sector reform. It’s not yet close to becoming the ‘norm’, but there is definitely a critical mass of people and organisations building the movement for co-production across the UK. I wanted to use this blog post to reflect on how far we came last year, and what the priorities facing us in 2012 are.

Two years ago, the co-production practitioners’ network had 30 members. As of today, it has over 535 members, and local groups have been set up in Scotland, London, Manchester and the North West, the West Midlands, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales. They comprise of a huge variety of members, from front line workers to commissioners, researchers, user led organisations and the third sector. Many of these groups are raising local awareness of co-production, developing new research agendas and pushing forward co-production at a local level. The network has a huge range of members, with a slight weight towards health and social care, and an increasing number of medium to large providers, and local authority members.

Nationally, many Whitehall departments have picked up on the idea. The DCLG has formed a group looking at co-production, and an interesting viewpoint was recently published by Housing LIN which explored how to develop mutual support and social capital among groups of older people. Think Local Act Personal’s National Co-production Advisory Group has been central in co-producing guidance and recommendations for the sector partnership, TLAP.

There are also national programmes, such as Nesta’s People Powered Health programme which is looking at how to scale up co-production in long term health conditions, and time banks are being given a great push forwards by a number of innovative funders and local authorities.

At nef HQ we have been busy presenting to the VODG group on co-production, and hosting seminars on co-production and housing, and co-production and health, with local practitioners keen to develop the thinking in these sectors.

More and more local authorities are coming to us requesting presentations and guidance on developing co-production locally as an alternative to salami slicing. The Lambeth Living Well Collaborative is a great example of how a group of local agencies are developing a shared vision of co-production across the borough, and taking active steps to change how services work so that they are more co-produced.

Key individuals have also helped push the agenda forward. Catriona Ness and Fiona Garven have been instrumental in developing the Scottish co-production network; Ruth Dineen has launched the co-production resource, and James Duggan and Governance International have been key in developing the local Manchester and West Midlands networks respectively. Organisations such as Look Ahead have begun to develop new and innovative approaches to co-production, while academics such as Catherine Needham continue to write brilliant analyses on what co-production means for the state.

The sense of momentum around co-production has grown enormously, and there are many continuing to develop the practice of co-production on the ground.

So, to round off, here are the questions and key activities I would like to see developed in 2012:

  • What’s the evidence base, and what evaluation approaches would help us understand the value of co-production?
  • Can we begin to define and articulate the skills needed for professionals to facilitate and enable, rather than do, and deliver.
  • Cracking the policy nut: how do you formulate a policy that enables co-production to thrive?
  • What do the structures look like that support co-production? Do we need to be looking at formal models of mutual, or co-ops, and what role do User Led Organisations (ULOs) play?

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Comment by Olivia Hanley on April 16, 2013 at 16:48

Thanks Julia,

It was great to come down to meet some of those who are taking forward co-production in the policy arena at our meeting in London last week. In Scotland, co-production has really gained momentum in the past year, tying in with some key policy developments around community empowerment, health and social care and regeneration in particular. Our Scottish network now has 350 members!

Thanks to support from the Joint Improvement Team, we were supported to establish our own website and forum and we continue to hold regular practice and learning exchange events for members. This year, we hope to look at some of the questions you raised too, and in fact will focus on evaluation approaches at one of our next events hopefully.

I hope to continue to support practitioners in Scotland to learn from examples from across the UK and look forward to hearing more about developments from the other networks.

If any members are in Scotland and want to join in Scottish Coproduction Network activities, don't hesitate to get in touch!

Olivia Hanley, Coordinator, Scottish Co-production Network

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