Principles of co-production for the voluntary sector – beyond lived experience
Isobel Roberts, Policy and Briefings Officer at The National Lottery Community Fund, reflects on learning from our recent discussion event on co-production.
At The National Lottery Community Fund, we believe that putting people in the lead enables communities to thrive. Part of this is our commitment to supporting our grant holders to engage in effective co-production with the communities they work with.
A couple of weeks ago, we held an event to explore principles of co-production with a range of speakers from the sector. This was a great discussion with some fantastic speakers – some key points of interest are below.
Winston Allamby from Fulfilling Lives Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham reflected on embedding lived experience in co-production. Winston identified authenticity as a key principle for co-production involving lived experience – as service users may be used to the cycle of change and disappointment, they are sensitive to when people aren’t being genuine. True commitment is also important – organisations need to make sure the people in the room are there for the right reasons, because they are passionate about lived experience, rather than because of their seniority. Winston’s third principle was the importance of a pioneering spirit in co-production work. Projects should have the freedom to be creative and inspire hope.
Winston talked about the importance of diverse skillsets in lived experience teams, and the way lived experience should come through in delivery teams as well – reflecting that he wanted to move beyond lived experience and instead become a living inspiration.
Winston also wrote a blog for us about his thoughts on loved experience, which is here.
Helen Phoenix, from South Yorkshire Housing Association, described the importance of putting people at the heart at all stages of running services, including co-design, co-delivery, co-evaluation and co-governance. Helen emphasised that people are hungry to make a difference and organisations need to go beyond ‘professionalised’ lived experience and reach unheard voices even though this may be difficult. We should be involving people in more than just talking, and should engage in genuine sharing of power. Helen talked about the importance of resourcing co-production properly, finding allies either within the organisation or the wider community, and getting commitment at a strategic level. Helen discussed going beyond traditional case studies to demonstrate impact and using co-evaluation to introduce new narratives. For example, Ageing Better Sheffield have used podcasts and community journalism to capture stories.
Research into learning and impact
Beth Collinson, learning and impact associate for Fulfilling Lives Sheffield, described co-production in research as a test and learn approach. Beth reflected on the importance of language in building a shared understanding between researchers and those with lived experience. Researchers can inadvertently make others feel inferior if they use terminology that means nothing to others – even the word ‘research’ itself may not mean something to everyone. Co-produced research should recognise the value of all knowledge, for example using lived experience to sense check data findings and add narrative to these findings. Beth reiterated the importance of joint ownership and shared recognition of the value of co-produced work, and of keeping people with lived experience involved in research informed about the progress of research, including its outputs.
Laura Furness, one of our Funding Managers who chaired the event, wrapped up the event with a challenge – how do we ensure we develop histories around co-production and don’t spend time relearning lessons?
Last year we published a knowledge and learning report on co-production, which can be read here.
For information about our upcoming events, please see our events page.