Co-production: sniffing out the fakes

Co-production means many things to many people.

For me, REAL100% co-production means developing ideas and putting them into action collaboratively – experts by profession (eg drs, psychiatrists, researchers etc) and experts by experience (eg people who use services, carers) working together from start to finish.

Whether it’s a training programme, a publication, an infographic (a graphic that has key messages embedded), campaigns, whatever . . . What it ain’t is a tick-box exercise where you get a few lay folk (bless them – I’ve been there) who give their feedback (because they’ve been touched/impacted by said issue) on a project that has already been shaped; and fits into a strategic plan that isn’t shared amongst the good folk who want to be “involved”.

6 years engaged in all kinds of (supposed) co-projects – with a mental and physical health emphasis – with a wide range of organisations from the national, regional and local – from the NHS, charities,  research organisations and local authorities – has made me a pro at smelling a co-production fake.

Surely a real 100% co-production project shows two clear signs:

  • Investment and commitment: proper money has been put into it and clearly detailed in objectives and strategies at the organisational/collaborative level.
  • Equality: Everyone is equal. The voice of the expert by experience (say the carer) is as important as the expert by profession (say the dr or psychiatrist or researcher) as to what projects are going to be developed, how they’re developed and how their impact is assessed.