Co-production Week 2017

Co-production Week 2017

Monday, 5 June 2017

Beyond the usual suspects. Co-production and Casablanca

By Pete Fleischmann, SCIE head of co-production 

"Round up the usual suspects". So said Captain Renault, the policeman, played by Claude Rains in the closing moments of Casablanca.

Often professionals I meet through SCIE’s co-production training and consultancy work seem to disagree with Captain Renault.  They want to move beyond the usual suspects.  On the surface this sounds very sensible. They want to involve a broad range of people who use services and carers who are representative of the community. And they want to avoid the small group of people who seem to turn up to everything.

You are too articulate and you know too much

But maybe something else is going on. People who use services and carers are often held to a higher standard of representativeness than professionals. If a GP joins a working group, they are not asked how representative they are of all local GPs. Usually people are pleased that a GP has taken the time to contribute their perspective and expertise.  
Pete Fleischmann

But people who use services and carers may face questions about their representativeness. And in some cases this could be seen as a way of undermining their contributions. They might be questioned about how typical they are of local people and about their ability to consult widely. The sub text to these challenges are might be, ‘You’re not like the people who use my service, you’re too articulate and you know how the system works. The implication being that user groups should not be represented by good speakers or by people who understand the system.

Instead of being acknowledged as a spokesperson for local users and carers they become one of the usual suspects. Is this constant need to move beyond the usual suspects a genuine wish to include a diverse range of people or is it so that the clearly articulated but uncomfortable views of local citizen leaders can then be undermined and dismissed as un-representative?  

Round up the usual suspects

In my view the ideal mix of people to involve in co-production work is a balance between local user and carer leaders plus a wider group of people who are not ‘usual suspects’.  One of SCIE’s co-production principles is Diversity. This means that it is vital not to exclude anyone on the basis of race, gender or sexuality. 

And it’s vital to be proactive about reaching out to seldom heard or marginalised groups and invite them to get involved. Often the usual suspects are very knowledgeable about their community and they may have a good track record of involving seldom heard groups.  So planning some co-production? Then take Captain Renault’s advice and get started by rounding up the usual suspects and start building a beautiful friendship. 

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