Making co-production the primary approach to public service commissioning, design, delivery and evaluation in Wales is the polar opposite of an easy option.
It requires a permanent change in the way we do things, at government level, within organisations, and as citizens, service-recipients and carers. A change to both behaviour and systems.
We’ll need to convince politicians that they should share power and collaborate with others rather than dictate. We will need to convince those at the top of organisations that hierarchical leadership is not the best way of doing things. We have to encourage front line staff to see co-production as a return to the values that brought them in to the service in the first place, rather than viewing it as a way of cutting staff and budgets, and as a risky dismantling of professional boundaries. And we have to build new relationships with citizens so that they feel valued and respected, confident enough to become active participants and willing to work alongside professionals as experts through experience.
It’s all so exceedingly unlikely that one is inclined to stop trying and take up tax-disc collecting instead.
Except… many of you are actually doing it – often at the leading edge of co-production practice – and many more of you are taking your first co-productive steps, and a whole host of you are wanting to know more. Which means that there is a way, and a will.
However, there are a host of barriers en route.
We are not good at sharing what we have learned, and have yet to establish a compelling body of evidence for the efficacy of co-production in the Welsh context. We have few resources, no central source of information or experience, few opportunities to learn from each other or to break down the barriers between silos and sectors. And we are not yet sufficiently able to influence government policy and the funding decisions that follow.
We think, and we know that many of you think, that if we are to become an effective and influential community of practice we need to develop and sustain an active, mutually supportive co-production community in Wales. We believe that this could be achieved through the establishment of an independent, member-led Wales Co-production Network.
We intend to apply for Big Lottery funding to make this happen. If we get support from Welsh Government, WCVA, Participation Cymru and the CVCs, the Lottery will consider funding us (Co-production Wales) on the basis of a sole solicited tender. If we get letters of support from others in the co-production community, that will strengthen our case considerably.
We produced our first draft proposal last February. Since then we’ve been getting feedback from the co-production community in Wales and beyond. And here’s a link to the result: Network Proposal Overview2 Oct14.
Please read it and share it and respond to it. Let us know what you think and how it could be improved.
And then, if you agree that a Co-production Network for Wales could benefit all of us, please write us a letter explaining why you are supporting the funding bid, and what difference the Network could make to you and your organisation.
Letters should be addressed to our chair Rick Wilson, but can be sent directly to me by October 31st 2014: Ruth@coproductiontraining.com