Co-production Week 2019

Co-production Week 2019

Friday, 29 March 2019

Get active with co-production

By Leanne Wightman, coordinator of Get Yourself Active

How do you solve the problem of getting people to lead healthier lifestyles? Whilst the policy wonks scratch their heads, many of us continue to indulge in frowned-upon eating habits and stay resolutely on our sofas, instead of heading out for a brisk walk or a cycle ride after eating our five a day portions of fruit and veg.

Experts can help – from dieticians to fitness coaches, there are people who will assist us, when we are ready.

For some of us, of course, getting physically active may be more problematic and that’s certainly true for disabled people. A combination of inaccessible facilities, poor transport links and financial difficulties throw up what can seem like insurmountable barriers.


Can the principles of co-production help with these sorts of problems? Of course they can, because disabled people know what the problems are and can help identify how to sort them out.

That’s what we found when we started working with disabled people’s user led organisations to help broker access to physical activities and sport for local disabled people, which included funding posts for local coordinators.
Having lived experience of disability meant they were able to bring new knowledge and resources to local sports providers, helping guide them on the best way to provide services to disabled customers.

They also helped providers build relationships with disabled people’s organisations, deepening understanding of the needs of local disabled people and encouraging providers to think about a long term approach.

Less need for support

We know co-production is not a quick fix, in the leisure sector or anywhere else. But we also know that disabled people are much less likely to get involved in physical activity than non-disabled people, and miss out on the benefits that brings. There’s improved fitness of course, and improved wellbeing and less social isolation. Our research also suggests there may be a positive impact in terms of people needing less support in the shape of social care or GP services.

Whilst the policy wonks continue to scratch their heads, maybe they should be looking at co-production as a tool to make things happen?

Get Yourself Active is a project run by Disability Rights UK with support from the National Lottery and Sport England. An evaluation of the project has been launched. Copies are available here.

Friday, 22 March 2019

The advantages of sharing power - from a football referee

By James Anthony, Communications Coordinator, Social Care Institute for Excellence 

At age 16, I had my first taste of having ‘power’. I had qualified to be a football referee, putting myself at the centre of the game I loved. 

When I first stepped onto the pitch, I assumed that being strict on the rules and never letting my authority be questioned was the right approach. Put simply, I didn’t want to share any of my power.

When games got tough, and the players turned against me, I guessed the poor attitudes were because they didn’t like what I was telling them.

Over time, I learned instead that paying attention to how the players wanted to play the game made them much happier. Rather than dictating to them, I began to ask players if they were happy with the pitch conditions and check with goalkeepers that they were ready before kick-off. I started asking whether a fouled team wanted to have a quick free kick or wanted to stop for longer, and restart again later with the whistle. 

There’s also a fantastic rule in football known as the ‘advantage’ rule, which allows a team to keep playing if they’ve been fouled but feel it hasn’t affected them. I’d often shout “play on – advantage!” following a foul and let the players continue going forward, or call it back for the free kick if they weren’t happy. These ‘advantages’ are a great way of giving some decision-making power to the players, working together, and keeping them content.

When you experience sharing some of your power, and realise it makes the experience better for all involved, you begin to wonder ‘why can’t we deal with other situations like this?’

As I moved to working in the social care sector – I realised this approach could be applied there, too. Co-production, working in equal partnership with people who use services and carers in the development of their services, is based on that idea of sharing decision-making power. 

There ought to be more opportunities of empowerment in social care just as the ‘advantage’ rule in football helps keep things fair. Perhaps the sector could learn something from the footballing world and realise – like I had to – that sharing a little power can go a long way to improving things for everyone.

SCIE's Co-production Week 2019