Creating a culture of courage and co-production

Head of Programme, Diane Smith, advocates a bold approach to co-production

In my last blog I talked about the power of systems thinking and how the upheaval of the pandemic offered a window of opportunity to think and do something different. In this piece I have focused on how we apply that thinking to give equal value to the voices of both the decision makers and the people we support/work alongside, so that all opinions are heard and respected equally.

We acknowledge that the system doesn’t work for everyone – particularly people who experience greater levels of disadvantage – and we are committed to creating a level playing field where all opinions and experiences are respected to shape, design, evaluate and govern services.

If we want to make changes that are valued by, and effective for, people that will be impacted, their contribution at all layers in the system is crucial.  Co-production is a way of working that is collaborative, recognises everyone’s strengths and breaks down barriers between services/systems, professionals and the people who use services.  It values the knowledge, skills and contributions of all participants and creates a learning culture that has the courage to take risks, involving everyone. 

If we are serious about delivering person-led services, we have to put true co-production at the heart of designing and shaping these services. Collaboration which leads to genuine co-design and co-production requires a bold approach, courageous people and an investment to build trust and skills; skills both for people with lived and learned experience. Professionals like myself and my team, as well as commissioners and policy-makers, need to truly listen to what is being said, be reflective, open, share the influence and power we hold, and importantly be responsive to change.

Co-production is a journey which can’t be squeezed in at the last minute when a tender is due out or when there is a crisis. It is unlikely to stick to a timetable or follow agreed routes and it doesn’t tick off measurable outcomes and outputs. Co-production requires a different style of leadership; one which is open and compassionate, not driven by power and control which is why it’s so exciting!

In my experience, co-production is messy and brilliant all at the same time. It’s not easy but if you are prepared to invest the time to ensure learned and lived experience are treated equally, the rewards and ‘sparkly moments’ are amazing.

Read more about coproduction here: