A twinkling light in the endless gloom…

Those of you who know me are probably aware that my levels of cheery optimism are generally sufficiently off the scale to irritate all comers and lead otherwise sociable folk to cross roads, hide behind pillar-boxes or find a pressing need to walk backwards very quickly as I approach.

Avoidance tactics have not been necessary of late, however. My cheery optimism has been replaced by deep gloom, existential angst and a tendency to hunch over the computer muttering expletives at social media updates. That includes kittens, a baby who chortles at ripping paper, and a weasel in a hand-knitted jumper.

BUT!!! Last week there was a little flicker in the dark, a momentary sparkle of hope that just might ignite. So I thought I’d share it with you lovely people in case you too are beyond the reach of kittens, babies and weasels.

On Friday a collaborative of very nice folk* (and me) sent a paper to our splendid Director of Social Services Albert Heaney, at his invitation. The paper is called ‘Measuring the Mountain‘ and it proposes a truly co-productive approach to evaluating Wales’ Social Services and Well-being Act.

The Act is a corker. It makes co-production mandatory, valuing citizens as equal partners in the design and delivery of services. So we thought it would be appropriate to move beyond the heady delights of KPIs, targets and outputs, and evaluate the impact of the Act through a Citizen Jury, informed by hundreds of ‘what matters’ stories collected by citizen-researchers across Wales. The icing on this particular very delicious cake is that the meaning of the stories will be determined by their authors through a brilliant bit of kit called SenseMaker. So no organisational bias, no pre-determined agenda, and no gaming. Just the real experience of real people.

And, as a way of leveling the playing field, we’ve proposed using time credits to formally acknowledge the work of the citizen-researchers and Jury members. Time credits work on a simple hour for hour basis: participants receive one time credit for every hour of volunteering, to be spent on an activity of their choice, gifted to others, or used informally for exchanges with friends and neighbours. Their use leads to more equal partnerships and a greater sense of reciprocity and community. Plus time credits are recommended by the Act. Perfect!

We reckon this could be a game-changer. A gazelle-like leap beyond transactions and outputs to focus on the spirit and soul of the Act. How deeply lovely would that be!

* The very nice folk are: All in this Together (the co-production network for Wales); All-Wales Forum of Parents & Carers of People with Learning Disabilities; All-Wales People First; Cartrefi Cymru; Co-production Wales; Cynefin Centre (Bangor University); Disability Wales; the Office for National Statistics; RCTInterlink; Social Co-operation Forum; Spice Timebanks; Swansea University School for Social Care Research; WCVA & Participation Cymru; Wales Public Services 2025; Welsh Institute for Health & Social Care.
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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!