Despite using the word in the title of my provocation piece, ‘The challenge of co-production when we can’t be trusted to vote for anything’, the first challenge is the word ‘co-production’!
When I talk about co-production many people do not know what it is. Creating any change starts with a conversation, so it is decidedly unhelpful when someone needs to disclose their lack of understanding at the onset of that conversation. The person in the know is immediately in a slightly elevated position. Elevated positions are an unhelpful conversation starter when talking about something which is about equal standings!
True co-production is a way of thinking and working, it is not a standalone technique. For it to work you have to have an organisation that lives and breathes its key values. It will often need transformational leadership. The CEO and leadership team must believe in the moral and operational value of working with customers as equal partners, and must ensure that the values, systems and processes that define the organisation drive the appropriate behaviour.
I share in my piece five key steps to working in this way based on my experience of working as a co-production consultant on these issues in the social sector.
- Awareness: Share with all concerned the thinking behind the decision to take a co-production approach to illustrate transparency.
- Buy-in: For co-production to work, you need buy-in from all parties.
- Expectations: All parties need an understanding of expectations, and knowledge about what they mean in reality - what’s required of them, decision making and so on.
- Performance: Everybody needs to have the required skills to deliver. This is where training and guidance might be required.
- Feedback: Giving regular feedback is important - all parties must remain informed about the current situation, the objectives, the barriers and the likely outcome.
One of the key values in co-production is mutual respect and equal access to information. The theory is that when customers see the whole picture they will be able to help make better decisions and also understand why their ideas cannot be done (if that is a valid outcome). I argue in my piece that a tickbox exercise to consultation, which has been business as usual, is partly behind some of the votes we saw last year (Brexit, Trump etc).
You can’t expect the public to make reasoned judgements without mutual trust, open information and a genuine sense of equality.
If there is a lesson to be learned from 2016 it is that if you want users or the public to follow, you need to understand where they are at and allow them access to your world. You need to do more than listen and do it from a place of equality. By working collaboratively we will produce something better and something that it is much harder to argue against. Only then can we have confidence in our direction of travel.
You can download Steph’s full provocation piece here.
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