Co-production in social care is gaining momentum, to some it may be the latest ‘buzzword’ or strategy to put a positive spin on the challenges of funding, eligibility and diminishing support. For Camphill Village Trust (CVT) it is a fundamental culture shift to the way we work with people.
It was seven years ago that CVT decided to take its first steps into this co-production culture, improving every interaction whether it be between a person and their support worker, a group working together on a project that benefits the whole community or creating opportunities for people to have real influence over the governance and direction of the charity. What co-production is not for us is a quick win solution or a tokenistic level of engagement used to endorse predetermined outcomes.
The first challenge we faced was knowing how we could be creative in enabling every person to take responsibility and ownership. We also needed to know how to agree and plan what a successful outcome would be co-productively. What was clear, was the need for a methodology, toolkit and not least the courage of everyone being prepared to take a leap of faith together.
We had heard about the work of an organisation called ‘Learn to lead’. They had developed a co-productive methodology that was fundamentally changing the way some schools engaged with the students. These schools were challenging the traditional education hierarchy, creating environments in which students worked together to take responsibility to bring about the positive changes they wished for. We recognised many similarities not least that most schools and social care provisions had developed a ‘doing to’ rather than a ‘doing with’ culture.
We also realised that one size does not fit all. Tools, methods and facilitation styles would need to be adapted and developed to ensure adults with learning disabilities could engage in a way that made sense to them. Enabling people to see the benefit of taking responsibility for achieving the outcomes they wanted.
The process is simple in that it starts with a blank agenda and two questions ‘Why are you here’? and ‘What do you want to do’? Encouraging everyone to share in this way leads to agreement about what it is we are working towards, recognise the valuable contribution each person can make, plan what each person will do but also where any support needs to be focussed. The next stage is to allow individual skills to develop. This will only happen when responsibility is shared, achievements celebrated but equally failures embraced as part of the process. This means that outcomes may not always be achieved quickly or in the way expected but nobody said co-production was easy or for the faint hearted but the results are worth it.
One example of co-production in action is ‘CVT Connect’ a digital platform co-designed from the initial concept by people with disabilities. This platform is enabling people to work together whilst developing skills and confidence when using social media.
The result across CVT is challenging and inspirational to all. People we support are growing in confidence, taking more responsibility in their own lives whilst taking active and varied roles in the communities they live. We are also starting to see the transformation of the organisational culture. Regional forums are held regularly, the agendas are set by people supported, invites are then sent to trustees and senior management who attend as participants there to listen and respond rather than consult or inform.
Co-production is transforming the way we work with people with learning disabilities and autism. If you would like to find out more visit www.cvt.org.uk