By Lisa Richardson, Research Associate, Co-production Theme, Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Rarely does anyone start out upon a journey without a destination in mind. Doing so might seem like a luxury or an incredibly daunting task (depending on how comfortable you are heading into the great unknown). My approach to a journey is to plan, plan, plan. I think about the destination and work back from there. How can I get from A to B to C? What do I need? What could go wrong?! This approach puts me in control (or at least provides the illusion). Sometimes things can go wrong that were not predicted and require fast thinking, or just acceptance (this one isn’t going to go your way and that’s ok). Our expectations play into this, we might be used to an efficient service, access to the right information at the right time. Journeying with others brings new variables in the mix; who will undertake this planning? Who will step up when there are decisions to be made?

What does this have to do with co-production?

How often do we set out on a project or piece of work without a clear destination in mind, without planning its delivery, to ensure we are in control, predicting the curveballs, knowing the steps to ensure the project is successful. For many, not pre-determining the destination and relinquishing control are hallmarks of co-production, along with the recognition that the hard work and a bumpy road is going to make it more worthwhile.

How do we navigate when co-production is the vehicle?

In this case the destination may be unknown, the route uncertain. We must shift from our usual ways of doing things and take on a different way of being and doing, one that requires curiosity and a ‘not knowing stance’. 

Starting from where you mean to go on-

Starting with agreed values can help co-producers to move forward. In our work with the Kent Surrey and Sussex Learning Disability Community of Practice we have done just that.  We have started from a point of building relationships, understanding what is important to each of us in our lives and when working with others. We have slowed down and shared something of ourselves, making some of the invisible visible. To do this we have used one-page profiles to provide some structure (an example is provided below).

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Using a compass to move forward

Through reviewing one another’s personal profiles, we learnt that we have more in common than we might have imagined. From this, our shared values have emerged, enabling us to be explicit about these and creating an agreement for how we will work together. We call this our co-production profile (see below). This provides us with a north star or compass to help us move forward in our work together. Of course, there are different ways to co-produce a set of shared values, the tools described here have so far served us well. We share them in this blog in the hope they may be a compass for others starting out on their own co-production journey.

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Recite Me Accessibility Tools