Big cheeses, bigger cheeses and saving the planet

More co-pro delights this week: last night saw the packed re-launch of Cardiff University’s Policy Cafe, organised by Sophie Hallett and Sara Knight, with Mark Drakeford helping the discussion along. I shared the joys of co-pro (and perhaps rather too much information about my honeymoon) with the converted and unconverted, practitioners and researchers, the interested and the sceptical. Becky Booth of Spice added lived experience to my theoretical effusions with a presentation on Time Credits and their co-productive impact. The discussion ranged widely from concerns that co-pro was just a reinvention of the wheel, or neo-liberal dogma, to anxieties about how citizens can wrest power from governments, worries about risk-averse cultures, and info about the need to reassert the value of the core economy over the money economy. Would be great to find a way to extend these discussions – maybe via this blog if people would like to contribute? And  Chris Glynn from Cardiff School of Art & Design drew his responses…

"Ok so what's your policy?"

“Ok so what’s your policy?”


“I didn’t think I could do this… but I did!”

And before, during and after, we were encouraged to help ourselves from tables stacked with impressively big cheeses (including a disturbingly pungent one that wafted uncontrollably over the assembled throng), crusty bread and wine. Mind and belly satisfied. Reminiscent of the erudite sophistication of the Left Bank combined with the trend-setting zeitgeist of Queen Street’s Kardomah Cafe circa 1965. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

This morning I spent an inspirational morning with the team at Cynnal Cymru / Sustain Wales who are keen to transform the way they work and to take a lead in the co-pro revolution in Wales. A seriously open, honest and committed group of people aiming to help ensure we all have a future. Watch this space…!

Next week I’m invited to a WG round-table discussions on ‘service-user empowerment’ in relation to the Social Services and Well-being Bill. I’ve had lots of useful conversations with those of you on the front-line about your priorities and will pass those on. Most frequently raised issue is the need to ensure that the National Outcomes Framework enables a move from a top-down, performance-based RBA approach to a bottom-up, relationship-centred approach. The Scottish Government’s Talking Points Personal Outcomes Approach provides a well-evidenced model which our Scottish colleagues are happy to share with us. Let’s hope we can learn from others’ success…and from the challenges they have faced to put the relationship-centred approach in to practice.


About Ruth

UK National Teaching Fellow and Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University. Founder of Co-production Wales (All in this Together), co-pro trainer and consultant, working to make co-production 'the way we do things' in Wales. And having a ball!

7 thoughts on “Big cheeses, bigger cheeses and saving the planet

  1. I went to this, and to be honest it was a let down.

    There was no meaningful opportunity for audience engagement – beyond about 10 minutes for comments – which was hilariously ironic for a cafe style event, particularly one about co-production.

    And the talks were just a bit too effusive and lacking in any critical reflection. I get that it was a “policy” event, but I still expected more rigor and insight. It was bordering on cultish at times.

    I don’t mean to sound overly negative, but I do feel that you need to think a bit more about the content and style of your events.


  2. Hi Random audience member, some of your comments are not to do with Ruth but to do with the policy cafe teams’ organisation of the event. You’re absolutely right, we didn’t leave time for the main purpose of the event – audience engagement. We had the room set up for it – we wanted it, but our timing was out. Big time. This was the first event: we’ll rectify this. I’d love it if you would come back and see if we manage it. Some of the talks won’t always be critical as such – it depends on the purpose/topic. However insight, discussion and engagement are promised. Come along and provide some of the critical part.


  3. Interesting stuff Ruth – there is a need too, to adopt a uniform template for reporting by all of their annual performance regarding social impact, the local economy and the environment ie. triple bottom line accounting. This is essential to ensure we measure and display individual and aggregated performance toward the grail that is sustainability and to be able to identify that which yet remains to be actioned and delivered to achieve 1 planet living by 2050. In short, a template for all to use to acount for social, economic and environmental impacts – to produce such a report annually which sits equitably alongside the financial accounts, the business plan/budget and the annual report. Currently this is just not happening at all consistently or proportionately across Wales.


  4. Hi Phil
    Sounds like an excellent idea – and would really help to assert the vital importance of social value. Wonder if the WG Environment and Sustainability would be interested in kick-starting this (they are up to all sorts of innovative thinking at the moment, and this fits well into their sustainability agenda). I believe David Robinson of the Early Action Task Force in England is pushing for something similar – great minds…! Ruth


  5. Hi Ruth – good to hear of your supportive comments. My comments are indeed linked to a call for action; predominantly on the ground by all sectors to start producing such reports and accounts. For this to gather momentum quickly however, this needs serious and significant ‘kicking off’ from central government to galvanise response upon the ground. For me, and especially in Wales, I cannot see at all how we can review our progress toward sustainability or determine that we have ever reached the end of our journey (if ever), if we do not develop some appropriate template for aggregating contributions to this passage made by all 3 sectors. After all, how else will we determine we are succeeding with sustainable development and how far we have and are progressing? ………………….


  6. Hi Sophie,

    Overall, I enjoyed the event – the atmosphere was friendly, the cheese was plentiful and if only I hadn’t planned on swimming afterwards I would have made more of the wine 😉

    Good to hear that you have received lots of constructive feedback and that you’ll be making some tweaks for the next one. Like I mentioned on the night, it’d be good to have some more mingling time to make the most of the format!

    See you at the next one,



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