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How we define co-production together

March 10 2023

Today’s blog takes a look at co-production, the theory behind our practice of working together with the people we support, to get their best outcomes. We hope you’re enjoying this series on how Livability empowers and enables the people we support to live their best life. What does co-production achieve at Livability? Head of Quality and Co-Production Liz Salmon talks us through it.

How does Livability define co-production?

Co-production is an equal relationship where people with lived experience and expertise – the people we support and those responsible for services – work alongside each other to plan and deliver support together.

It’s a value-driven approach and one which aptly reflects our Livability values of being open, enabling, inclusive and courageous. It is built on the principle that those who use our services are best placed to design and improve the support we provide.

Another key tenet of co-production starts with the idea that no group or person is more important than any other group or person. It’s typified by the phrase ‘nothing about me without me.’

What does this look like at Livability?

The Changes for the Future Forum is one of the main ways in which we hear the voices and views of the people we support about the things which matter most to them. We work together as equals, utilising everyone’s skills and strengths to improve quality and find ways of doing things that benefit everyone.

The Forum meets once a month on Zoom; we are currently planning our first face-to-face meeting. Anyone supported by Livability is welcome to join the Forum; they just put themselves forward to be a representative for the Livability residential home or supported living service where they live. Most services have one Forum member; some have two. Members genuinely care about each other and want to use their skills, expertise and knowledge to co-produce projects about decisions and areas that affect them.

How do you make sure the Forum isn’t tokenistic?

Co-production should never be a ‘tick-box’ exercise, therefore it is not the same as engagement, informing or consultation. It is about sharing power and expertise with people we support and ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to or for.’ It’s about seeing people round the table or in the Zoom room as equals and experts.

Liz Salmon, Head of Quality and Co-Production

Why is co-production important to Livability?

All the work we do is to enable people we support to have flourishing lives. Working together with people who have direct experience of the support we provide, and the issues affecting them, seems an obvious way for us to make sure we focus, learn and improve in areas which matter the most to the people we support. Our work and impact is much stronger when we work this way.

What does success in co-production look like and how do we measure it?

Success means continuing to work together with the people we support on a truly equal basis to design, deliver and make decisions about the work that we do. The main measurement is people we support being included from the start to the end of projects which affect them.

Success is also about people we support gaining confidence and skills to engage in external opportunities. Within the Forum, it’s great to see how people have grown in confidence and are eager to share their thoughts and ideas with others. One of our managers recently talked about the noticeable differences in someone they support who attends the Forum and how they ‘come to life’ when talking about their involvement.

We also measure success by increased co-production projects within and without Livability and this work’s impact on local communities. For example, two people we support from Livability John Grooms Court, our residential care home in Norwich, have recently taken part in the Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry. This is a national project which aims to help local and national government transport and planning teams make places and streets better for disabled people. As such, forum members from John Grooms Court are now working with Norfolk County Council to co-produce an ethical framework policy.

How would you like to see co-production develop at Livability?

My wish is that we continue to build on these strong foundations to create culture, structure and practices which enable co-production to flourish.

In the next three years, we want to develop a team of ‘in-house’ quality checkers to join us as equals during our quality audit visits. This is where people we support use their own lived experience to assess and report on the quality of our services and make recommendations about improvements.

We are also looking at ways we can support Forum members to use and build upon their existing skills and, if they wish, develop new skills linked to their roles in the Forum: for example, chairing meetings or delivering training to staff and others. We’d like to look at a skills portfolio which Forum members can use as a ‘cv’, should they wish to undertake similar roles elsewhere or seek paid or voluntary work.

Do you see a link between co-production and wellbeing, another cornerstone of our work?

The two are intertwined; when we know our opinion is valued and acted upon, we all thrive. If you’re someone who can be shunted aside by society or made to feel without worth, it’s harder to thrive. Co-production enables disabled people to remove some of the barriers that Livability is so passionate about dismantling.

As part of a recent Learning Disability Week, Forum members wanted to express their thoughts in a poem and we were fortunate to have Jess Hardie, a poet with a learning disability, join us. Jess skillfully incorporated everyone’s words into this thought-provoking poem.

Next time: find out more about co-production in action, including a high-profile report produced with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which Forum member Tom shares his insights on.

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