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A little co-production goes a very long way

This opinion piece is about 2 years old

For Co-production Week 2020, David Kidd, Change Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, explains how a team of people with first-hand experience of homelessness have been directly involved in shaping homelessness policy and practice in Glasgow

Co-production is said to have originated in the USA during the mid 1970s as a term used by academics to describe a co-operative, respectful relationship between communities and local public services.

Against the backdrop of that country’s recent elections, Scotland’s Co-production week 2020, which runs until 20 November, will have many thinking a little more co-production between the outgoing and incoming administrations would go a long way to ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition of power.

Organisations and people across Scotland are using this week to highlight work taking place to ensure that communities are truly playing a part in how decisions are made and in ways that have a long-term positive impact.
Co-production describes a relationship that draws on the knowledge, ability and resources of all parties to understand problems and develop solutions, resetting the balance of power between professionals, people using services and the communities we all live in.

Homeless Network Scotland created a platform for Glasgow Homelessness Involvement and Feedback Team (GHIFT), which has co-production at its heart. On the basis that no one understands the need to end homelessness better than people who have been through it, GHIFT is a passionate, diverse team of people with lived experience who are at the centre of resolving homelessness in Glasgow. Over the past two years members of GHIFT have spent many months working with GCHSCP, embedded in their procurement team to help decide which partnership would lead the new Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness.

This rewarding and challenging work followed on from a role helping to bring about the Alliance initially. From taking part in a co-produced, city-wide review of homelessness services, where the need for a more collaborative way of working was established, to co-designing outcomes that the Alliance will work towards – lived experience had a seat at the top table through GHIFT and members will continue to be involved.
David Pentland, a GHIFT associate, has personal experience of co-production and advocacy stretching back three decades in his long experience of homelessness from both sides.

David Pentland

“Back in the 90’s one of my friends had done a bit of travelling to London to homeless conferences hosted by Groundswell,” said David. “Hearing about this grass roots movement who were advocating that change was possible but that people experiencing homelessness had to be the vehicle of that change caught my imagination so I began to organise a speak out event in Edinburgh and set up the homeless users group Edinburgh (HUGE).
“This early involvement and co-production activity gave me a sense of purpose and this led to an end to the chaos, violence and drugs in my life and eventually to a job. I lived happily until becoming homeless again in 2017 which led to me connecting with Homeless Network Scotland’s GHIFT group about a year later.

“Through a lengthy process lasting nearly six months, I, along with other members of GHIFT, went on to decide, as equal members of the commissioning team, who would become the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness. Now that the Alliance is in place, I work alongside the winning group as an equal member of the Alliance Leadership Team making decisions that will help us work towards ending homelessness in the city.”

Duncan joined GHIFT in 2016 when the fledgling group started planning an event in the style of a conversation cafe to understand the experiences of people using homelessness services. He said: “Most of the work I have been involved in has focussed on visiting homeless services in and around Glasgow, talking to people using these services about what works and what doesn’t so we can use the information to improve on the positive elements as well as trying to eradicate the negatives.


“Working with GHIFT has helped improve and build on my skills for work as well as the opportunity to prevent other people having to go through the difficulties I had to experience when I was homeless myself. Making a positive impact on eradicating homelessness was my main objective for getting involved and being part of the GHIFT group has given me the perfect platform to achieve this.

“Being part of the team that helped to select the services who would become the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness was a particularly positive experience for me. Learning about how tender processes work with GANTT charts and spreadsheets and being part of the actual interview process was not only informative but just being involved in making such a valuable contribution to ending homelessness in Glasgow has given a huge boost to my self-worth and self-esteem.”

At its best, people and organisations work together sharing influence, skills and experience to design, deliver and monitor services and projects. The approach acknowledges that people going through tough times have personal experience with the potential to improve what is being offered to them, and to others in the future.

Jeremy started working with GHIFT in 2018. He said: “Through GHIFT there are lots of options for ways to get involved but I personally like the hands-on work: going out there into hotels, hostels and refuges gathering info, talking to those who perhaps haven’t had a normal conversation with someone during a time when people are already socially isolated.


“At the moment it’s hard to look a month ahead but I’m sure the future post COVID will be bright for GHIFT and the ball will be rolling even faster than it was. I’m looking forward to being back in the office sharing a table with the rest of the team, brainstorming ideas and making sure that the voices of people with lived experiences of homelessness are included in all of the work to end homelessness in Glasgow.”

Genuine co-production is a journey rather than a destination, it means that people are involved in planning and designing services and interventions from the start and then remain involved. It emphasises that people are not passive recipients of services and bring diverse assets and expertise that should not be overlooked.

GHIFT will continue to work with the Glasgow Alliance as it ramps up activity in 2021. Across Scotland, as evidence of success becomes available, a coproduced approach is increasingly popular with organisations, individuals and groups. Identifying a model of co-production that works for the outgoing US President is still a work in progress.



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