Taking decision-making closer to communities

The social challenges facing communities are complex!  And now we’ve been given permission to connect with our local communities, and partner with them to help solve local problems. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Our sleeves are rolled up and we’re ready to start unpicking the complexities of our communities’ social challenges and to work with them to problem solve. Hallelujah! 

The government now has a plan, and we’re putting people and their experiences at the centre of addressing any challenges that are creating barriers to growth.  It sounds great and we’re all looking forward to being part of this change. But at the same time the one question on everyone’s lips is: 

What’s the best approach?

High-level collaborative practice such as true co-production is used to shape services and help with community decision making. We’ve been using this practice for years because it works. Making joint decisions is the path to long-term change but we understand that some of you are not always sure how to go about it. You may adopt semi-collaborative approaches but fall short of using effective tools and methods.   

Co-production can be hard to define and pin down. But the crux is that it is really about bringing a range of people together on an equal footing to share experiences and shape ideas to achieve shared goals, outputs and outcomes. This is imperative, as we know, for designing services based upon a diverse and inclusive range of viewpoints. This is the heart of the lived experience of people in communities. There is nothing quite like Co-production for capturing those shared voices and perspectives equally, leading to shared outcomes.

Where to start with co-production?

You know it works, you know you need to do it, but where do you start?  
It starts with a blank canvas!  People come together to consider a shared issue or topic, and the rest works itself out along the way.  This is the beauty of true co-production.  It’s agile.  There’s no specific fixed agenda to predetermine outcomes, and the activity kind of shapes itself.  It can be daunting but always produces shared outcomes which in turn leads to stakeholder buy-in and effective change.  This is because it starts with people’s experiences.   It’s also important to recognise that the co-production process is self-reflexive and will build on itself over time.  

In a way, it is the starting that counts, not where you start!

Getting truly co-productive approach right!

Bring together a range of people

All kinds of people! For co-production to be meaningful and sustainable, the voices of a range of people, from different perspectives are essential in shaping outputs and outcomes. It is the mixture of voices and experiences that is important, bringing about a whole-picture view of the question or issue at hand, making sure that people can bring differing viewpoints to make change happen. 

Capture their stories

Following on from people, it is the stories and experiences of people in the co-production sphere that gives rise to meaningful ideas and shapes meaningful activity.  

To make sure that the input to the co-production approach is as rich as possible, everyone involved must feel safe in sharing their perspectives, and must feel respected for their input. 

A true co-production approach is about real questions being considered by real people from the point of view of real experience, and this should be at the heart of the activity. 

Embrace the challenge

The co-production approach can (and maybe should!) challenge the status quo and can tip traditional power structures between public services and the community upside down.  

In this way, co-production means that public organisations need to be bold enough to ask the tough questions, and also be brave enough to truly act upon the outcomes of the co-production process.  

In the same way, people in the community need to be able to share their experiences freely, especially aspects of those experiences that can shake things up and make a difference to the way in which services and communities interact.


What next?

At Trueman Change, we recognise that organisations may be new to this approach and may feel unsure how to achieve their ambitions in this area. You may need guidance and support on where to start to begin changing the way you think about these complex issues.


How can you harness the power of people changing the way things are done?

We’re specialists in change management in public services, and we’d love to help you shake up the way your organisation does things.  

If your organisation would like some help to rethink the way you involve people in change, or for more information on developing a co-production approach with communities and partners, contact us.