4. Go!

4.1  Early days

Co-production starts from the very beginning of the development process.

a) Practicalities

Before you can start working together there's some practical stuff to sort out:

  • Access requirements: it's really important that you make clear what your access requirements are at the start. You may also need to support your partners to understand them and meet them. For example, you should tell them if you need information in a particular format or if you need lots of breaks, a hearing loop or somewhere to walk an assistance dog. Or, you might need a wheelchair-accessible venue or particular lighting or a BSL interpreter.
  • Where are you going to meet? a 'neutral' venue can be a good idea. This means you meet somewhere other than the partners' places of work. This isn't always possible, though, and it might cost money that could be better spent on other practicalities, like meeting access requirements.
  • Communication methods: Agree how and when you're going to communicate. Your partners should make sure that you're not overwhelmed with masses of information. Contact between meetings can be important to keep everyone engaged.
  • Background information: This can be important if everyone is to participate fully.

b) Agreeing where you want to go and how to get there

Co-production: Make sure everyone has a shared understanding of what co-production is and that they are committed to working in this way.

Setting ground rules: How are you going to work together? If you are to build and maintain good relationships it can be very helpful to coproduce some ground rules.

Example of some ground rules:

  • Take responsibility for promoting equal participation.
  • Say if you don't understand something.
  • Always be respectful, even if you don't agree.
  • Keep everyone informed if something relevant happens.
  • If you miss a meeting, respect decisions that were made.
  • Everyone will keep to agreed deadlines or let partners know if they can't.

Information will always be sent out well before a meeting, allowing enough time for everyone to prepare.

  • Outcomes: The partners need to agree what outcome they want to see. For example, an outcome might be 'more disabled people in employment' or 'disabled people can travel independently'.
  • The task: Then the partners need to work out what task to carry out to achieve the outcome. For example, to achieve the outcome of 'more disabled people in employment' the task might be to design some training in interview skills. The training would be an 'output'. If it is a big, complicated task you could break a task down into priorities or themes. You can then decide on what order to tackle them in.
  • The process: It's most likely that co-production will happen through regular meetings. However, partners might also run events or workshops to get wider input. Focus groups might discuss particular themes. Steering groups of service users might oversee the work. The partners might decide they want an independent person who knows about co-production to work with them and help them make the process successful.
  • Work-plan: Agree how often you're going to meet and when any other activities will happen. Allow for everything taking longer than expected. Remember to include enough time to involve your networks.
  • Measuring success: Agree how to measure the success of the process as you go along. You could quickly check how things went after each meeting, and have a more thorough discussion every few meetings. When it's all over you can look at how successful the whole process was and what you learnt from it.

Examples of things to check to measure the success of the process

  • Are we really co-producing this?
  • Is anyone worried about anything?
  • Are we respecting the ground rules we set?
  • Are we following the work-plan and its timetable?
  • What do we think is going well?
  • Is anything not working well?
  • What have we learnt
  • Is there anything else we can do to make the process successful?

During the process you can think about how you will know if the outcome you want to see has been achieved. For example, if you are co-producing a new service to promote independent living for all disabled people living in your local area, you will want to know whether the new service has done this. To measure success you need to be specific about what effect you want the new service to have.

Examples of ways to measure the success of an outcome

Depending on what is being co-produced, you could:

  • Set targets about numbers of people - like the number of disabled people who use a new service, attend an event or use a web-site.
  • Set targets about when - for example, by the end of the first year we want 3000 disabled people to be using the new service.
  • You could use feedback forms, surveys or collect views on Facebook. You could interview people who have used the new service, or read the leaflet, and so on. You could bring together a group of them to discuss it. You could ask them questions like 'what did the new service mean you could do that you couldn't do before?' or 'did you find the leaflet easy to understand?' or 'were there any problems?' or 'what would make it better?'.
  • You could look at statistics, like employment rates, numbers of people getting qualifications, hospital discharge rates, or the numbers of people getting a benefit.

Partner organisations like health boards and councils should have experience of measuring success. They also may have access to statistics. You could use these to compare the situation before and after the new service (or whatever you have co-produced) is introduced, and see what difference it has made.

c) Agreeing roles

All co-production partners have a responsibility to keep things on track and to support other people to play their part. There can also be lots of opportunities for people to take on responsibility for activities and actions as you go along. But ongoing roles include:

             Chairing meetings or events: It can be a good idea to find someone who isn't directly involved but who is well-respected by all the partners. Another possibility is to have co-chairs, one from each of the co-production partners' groups. They need to work closely together. It's likely to work best if they share responsibility for every meeting rather than take it in turns. The Chair/s have particular responsibility to lead the process. They make sure decisions are taken and meetings finish on time. But everyone has a role to play.

  • Taking minutes, recording decisions and action points: it is important views and ideas are not lost through poor minute-taking and paraphrasing.
  • Co-ordination and administration: Somebody needs to be responsible for arranging meetings or events. They need to make sure everyone knows what they're doing and when. Again, everyone has some responsibility for this.

d) Agreeing if anyone else should be a partner

Once you all get together, you need to think about whether anyone else should be at the table.

  • Stakeholders: are there any other key players who have a direct interest or different perspective? Who else could add value? Who else should be a co-production partner?
  • Skills and knowledge audit: The partners could do an audit of themselves, like the one it was suggested you did of yourself/ your organisation. This means they decide what skills and knowledge they need, then work out what skills and knowledge the group has, and whether there are any gaps that others could fill.

It might be useful for your partners to develop their understanding of a particular issue. You might be able to make suggestions about where they could find out more, perhaps be visiting local disabled people or shadowing someone.

  • Visiting experts: The group might want to get some expert advice about one of the subjects that is going to be discussed at a meeting. There's nothing to stop you inviting someone with expertise about that subject to that meeting. They may not need to come to all the meetings.

In general, though, it's really helpful if the same people can be involved from start to finish. This isn't always possible, of course. But, if the same people are involved it saves time, as you don't have to keep explaining things and going over old ground. It also helps to build good relationships.

It's best if the group of partners doesn't get too big. Around 10-15 people is about right. Of course, more people could be involved through your networks, or Facebook, for example.