top of page

Co-Production - Philosophy or Sophistry?

"NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US" has long been the battle cry of people living with dementia. And rightly so.

Everyone understands the value of including "experts by experience" in their organisation don't they? Well, you'd like to think so, but I'm not so sure that every organisation is fully signed up to the philosophy of co-production. Indeed, for some, I suspect that the sophistry of tokenism replaces the actual meat and potatoes implementation of a REAL integrated co-production-friendly corporate structure.

"The term Co-production refers to a way of working where service providers and users work together to reach a collective outcome. The approach is value-driven and built on the principle that those who are affected by a service are best placed to help design it."

Yes it does, but it's more than that. It should be embedded in the service provider's organisation from the Boardroom down. Any organisation that doesn't keep their finger constantly on the pulse of the end users is doomed to provide a second rate service that doesn't target resource effectively.

So how is co-production defined nowadays? Well, it's often described in terms of the SIX PRINCIPLES OF CO-PRODUCTION:

These principles are mostly obvious even to the casual observer, but are defined as:

  • Recognising people as assets: people are seen as equal partners in designing and delivering services, rather than as passive beneficiaries or burdens on services or the system.

  • Building on people’s capabilities: that each person has abilities and assets and people are supported to develop these. People are supported to use what they are able to do to benefit themselves, other people and their community.

  • Developing two-way reciprocal relationships: all co-production processes involve some form of mutuality, a two way relationship between individuals, carers and public service professionals and between the individuals who are involved.

  • Encouraging peer support networks: peer and personal networks are important to all of us; however these are often not valued or overlooked by professionals. Co-production means building these networks alongside support from professionals.

  • Blurring boundaries between delivering and receiving services: the usual line or barrier between those people who design and deliver services and those who use them is blurred with more people involved in getting things done together.

  • Facilitating not delivering to: public sector organisations (like local government, NHS bodies) enable things to happen, rather than always provide services themselves.

For your interest, and although I hesitate to dwell too mush on the healthcare implementation of co-production as I believe it has value in any organisation that is a service provider, I think it's worth mentioning the LADDER OF CO-PRODUCTION:

Each rung on the ladder represents a shift in the relationship between an organisation and its stakeholders. If you're reading this and you don't aspire to standing on the top rung of the ladder... You need to take a reality check.

Of course, many people in the world of health and social care have been living the philosophy of co-production for decades, long before the word became the "in-thing" in their profession. The exciting difference over the last decade is that co-production is now being recognised as something that should be integrated through the entire business structure rather than sitting on the periphery.

How much more sensible to have the unique perspective of lived experience embedded at every level of your business than to reach out at intervals to consumers that you keep at arms length?

I have sometimes observed that those people in a business who lack day-to-day exposure to service users sometimes make decisions based on well meaning assumptions that are wrong and can be costly to the business, instead of consulting people with lived experience. Perhaps if we were closer to hand, we would be more frequently used and better able to assist in the crafting of better, more targeted strategies. Most of the short-sighted and uninformed decisions I have encountered could have been easily foreseen if run past a service user, but I'm afraid that there are those who do not trust us to make valid value judgements because they themselves have a jaundiced view of our abilities based on incorrect knowledge of how dementia affects the cognitive functions in the area of the ability to reason. But in the end, it is THEY who end up with red faces and awkward explanations to give to their managers. It is our task as people living with dementia to remind those more fortunate that we still remain insightful and decisive in matters that affect us, and that we retain the ability to hold our own when presenting arguments. Our job is to show businesses the concrete benefits of REAL team working. To expose those organisations that pay only lip service to philosophy of co-production, and to applaud and trumpet the enlightened approach of those who embrace co-production wholeheartedly. So let's all work together. teamwork is the BEST and most productive work Be inclusive, not suspicious or dismissive.

People with lived experience don't threaten you. We add value to what you do and will help you to do it better.

For goodness sakes,


83 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page