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Coproduction: the buzzword that really works

This opinion piece is about 8 years old

Ellie Hutchison explains how Shelter Scotland is supporting users to get involved in creating services across the organisation

Co-production what does it really mean? Is it another buzzword or a way to save money or can it make a difference?

Coproduction is about participation, engagement and service user involvement. In my experience, it is about talking to people, finding out what works for them, and then delivering and designing services that meet their needs. From sitting on the management board to planning conferences or designing office spaces, coproduction make services, activity and engagement better for the people we work for.

When people are supported to take ownership of the services they receive, when they are listened to, heard and valued, they have more control over their own lives and are more likely to help themselves make positive changes.

Ellie Hutchison

Co-production means recognising we’re not experts, but, instead, facilitators of change

Ellie Hutchison

Co-production means recognising we’re not experts, but, instead, facilitators of change. It also means recognising that people have a right to participate in decisions that impact on them, including policy, communications and operations. This can be challenging and difficult, but it is vital if we really want to make positive changes for the people we’re working for.

As a member of Shelter Scotland’s policy team, one of the projects I lead on aims to build a national private tenant’s forum. By the end of the project, I want to see real and meaningful ways for members to help shape policy. To do this, I’m exploring what co-production means in a policy setting.

We’ve tried a number of different ways to encourage forum members to take part in our consultation responses, from meetings in the office at lunch time to events in cafes or restaurants, with community groups, and online. We also look into who is not getting involved and why that may be. What barriers are we putting in place? How does our organisations appear to them and what do they feel like? Are they welcoming to people unfamiliar with office environments? Are they accessible to people for whom English is not their first language?

To encourage diversity and inclusion we’re launching a photo-voice project with young people who have moved from care or supported accommodation into private accommodation. They will be given a camera to capture what renting means to them and will work with Open Aye to explore what changes they’d like to see to make renting right for them. We’re also recruiting for a community intern to work with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in Glasgow. We want both of these projects to end with policy ideas and we can’t wait to see what the participants come up with.

Finally, co-production is about experimentation, but in this austere funding environment, trying something new and failing before getting it right is increasingly risky. My opinion is that experimentation is absolutely essential for innovation and change. Co-production requires openness, commitment and a dedication to getting it right – characteristics that everyone working in this sector need in abundance. By working together and being bold and passionate, we can produce better services, better policy and a better chance of lasting change for the people we work for.

Ellie Hutchison is Private Renting Project Manager at Shelter Scotland, which is co-hosting a co-production event, Housing and Homelessness: Where Now for Service User Involvement?, at St Paul’s and St George’s Church, Edinburgh, on 20 April, along with the Scottish Co-production Network and the Scottish Homelessness Involvement and Empowerment Network (SHIEN).



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Mary O' the Colonies
about 8 years ago
The trouble with professional co-production enthusiasts is that they fail to realise that if you seriously want to get people who use services involved in planning stuff then you have to speak their language. Co-producer to homeless person - "we'd like you to help facilitate the process of change from homelessness in a meaningful co-productive manner." Homeless person - "I'd prefer to have a home."Did any homeless people go to our co-production event?
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