Co-production Week 2017

Co-production Week 2017

Monday, 10 July 2017

None of us is smarter than all of us! The hidden meaning of co-production

Clenton Farquharson and Nic Crosby. Clenton Farquharson MBE is chair of the Think Personal Act Local Board. Nic Crosby is Director at GatherBuildWork.net. Both are happy to continue this discussion should you be interested.


We are all people, people with lived experience, experts by experience; we may need support all our life or we’ve all looked after a family member who does, we’ve worried about how they are getting on in hospital, whether people are looking after them properly, many of us have experienced mental health challenges and most if not all know someone close who has…the list goes on.

Real co-production is about building mutually trusting and respectful relationships, where we each listen and value each other contributions, discuss, often disagree, and may be even argue.  We are all people with lived experience and we are, when it comes to taking forward the improvement of support for people, actually working to make the world a better place for ourselves and our own families, relations, friends and local communities.

Yet, there is this great divide between those of us being supported and those of us doing the supporting, where those of us being supported report that although there is a much headlined approach of ‘nothing about us without us’ our experiences are nothing like this.  We, who are doing the supporting seem to forget that we are just the same as those we are supporting, we forget that it might be us or a close family member needing support; we, who are doing the support start to believe that we know best, we start not to listen to what those of us who need support are saying and we start to use complicated and exclusive language which means others can’t understand, can’t take part.

And so, we have this thing called ‘co-production’, a bit of jargon yes but vitally important and essential.  We have to have ‘co-production’, guides to co-production, commitments to co-production and blogs like this one because the relationships between those of us being supported and those of us doing the supporting have to change and have to set ‘nothing about us without us’ not as an aspiration but as the foundation for everyday work and support.

For us both one of the clearest markers about a commitment to real co-production is the language being used. Not just when horse riding becomes ‘equine therapy’ or bouncing on a trampoline ‘rebound therapy’, but in publications, at conferences and in all our work to improve services.  All the energy being put into ‘coproduction’ as part of the work to improve services and support means nothing if the language used is difficult to understand and excludes the very people whose expertise and views should be at the centre.

The more complicated and exclusive the language we use the clearer it is that our commitment to co-production is paper thin and very much tokenistic.  So we, like others are keen to champion a ‘speakeasy[1]’ approach to all that we do, using language that is as inclusive as possible, as easy to understand for the whole community and to challenge language that works against inclusion and taking part.

Using straight-forward language, avoiding jargon and thinking about the words we use is only part of co-production, yet it says so much about how genuinely committed we are. Co-production comes from building trust, trust is a bit like love, both parties have to feel it.  Despite investment, energy and much activity it feels like this two-way trust is not reality for most of us and is a long way off.

So, that favourite ‘3 top tips’ bit:

1.     Make ‘nothing about us without us’ a reality; in your own work and the work of your organisation, involve people who will know best and remember that you are also improving support and care for members of your family and maybe yourself.
2.     Make a personal commitment to ‘speakeasy’.  And, like the both of us, know that in making that you should expect to be challenged about the words and language you use, this is the only way we are going to get better.
3.     If you can make a commitment for your organisation to always ‘speakeasy’.  Discussions, workshops, and meetings should be inclusive and welcoming for anyone and everyone who needs to be there.


[1] Speakeasy is not trademarked or copyrighted.  You are welcome to make a similar commitment and to publicise it, however like us it means you are going to have to get used to being challenged until you get it right!

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