Monday, 19 June 2017
The passion of the ‘usual suspects’ paves the way in co-production
A response to Pete Fleischmann's blog about Co-production and Casablanca.
By Lianne Davies @wheeliepuss
All too often, those of us with lived experience who give our time to help shape the services we use are somewhat dismissed as being unrepresentative and ‘the usual suspects’. Most of us would be glad to see more people become involved; we are conscious that we need to represent not only ourselves but also fellow users (and non-users) of services. But please don’t underestimate the value of our passion – it is what makes us turn up again and again and to keep talking, even if we don’t always feel we’re being heard.
The basis of co-production is democracy, empowerment and change.
Is any of that possible without passion?
Consider the social movements which have created revolutions in just the last 50 years: black civil rights, LGBTQI, feminism, disability, the working class… The list goes on. Could any of their successes have been achieved without the passion of their members? The movements were instigated by a few ‘usual suspects’ who spoke up and took action. As their voices were heard, more joined in and the revolutions began. That is how change happens.
Relatively speaking, co-production is still in its infancy (particularly in the statutory sector). We need the ‘usual suspects’ to stand up for those who are not yet ready to lend their voices. If we respect and act on the contributions of those with lived experience, we can not only effect change in the services themselves but also create ambassadors for the principle of co-production and involvement.
Most people who participate in involvement projects do so because they are passionate about improving the services they use, for the benefit of all. There is evidence that the act of becoming involved can be a useful therapeutic tool for the individual themselves (increasing confidence and gaining valuable social and work experience) but this should not be the goal of involvement, more a beneficial side effect. Empowering service users to direct their passion towards improving our services should be the goal.
If we can show that co-production is an effective approach which provides benefits to all (those who use services, the colleagues who work alongside and the provider organisations themselves) then we can encourage more people to get involved. The passion of the ‘usual suspects’ paves the way and allows others to follow.