Key learning: co-production
The idea of ‘Co-production’ can feel like an unattainable gold standard of involvement. Although there is no formally adopted definition, our local evaluators have used:
“Co-production is not just a word, it’s not just a concept, it is a meeting of minds coming together to find a shared solution. In practice, it involves people who use services being consulted, included and working together from the start to the end of any project that affects them.”
(Making it real: Marking progress towards personalised, community based support - Think Local Act Personal, 2011.)
We have tried to adopt this approach in every aspect of the Time to Shine programme, seeing involving older people as one of the main principles of our work.
We have found that authentic and genuine co-production results in effective and successful projects and activities. Through co-production older people have felt a true sense of ownership of the project, and then gone on to promote the project and advocate on their behalf. In many cases this has led to a ripple effect of people reaching out to others to connect them with their community.
We have sought to involve older people since the beginning of Time to Shine, within the programme team and throughout our funded projects. Examples include:
- Contributing to and writing the funding bid
- Overall governance of the programme through the Core Partnership
- Commissioning new projects
- Recruiting staff
- Ensuring that all projects have involved older people in the development of the funding application
- Evaluating the project through peer researchers and volunteer listeners.
By using a test and learn approach we have been clear that genuine co-production can be challenging for staff and older people alike. It also requires skill and resources. We have worked with the University of Sheffield to explore this further and have supported a student, Louise Whitehead, to complete a PhD exploring Co-production, using Time To Shine as a case study.