How can co-production transform services?

May 8, 2018  

NLGN is today launching our latest Innovation Briefing, exclusively for our members. This focusses on how local authorities are using co-production to transform their services and make sure they meet the needs of the people who use them. For more information about NLGN membership and the range of benefits involved, please contact Richard Nelmes, Head of Network on rnelmes@newlocal.org.uk.

How can co-production transform services?

Martin Farrow, Chief Executive, Optalis

Co-production is classically defined as the practice of delivering services in which citizens are involved in their creation. For us, that extends to not only the people we support – our customers, but also the people who provide that support – our colleagues.

Optalis has been a champion of this approach for a number of years. When the organisation started back in 2011, our core values were co-produced with our customers and our colleagues. Our latest strategy is the result of engagement and involvement with these two groups (and also family members and carers). Based on four key objectives, groups of customers and staff across our Berkshire and Oxfordshire services took part in tea and talk sessions, surveys and meetings to contribute their thoughts and views. This vital input was then used to build our strategy which is now a living document based on what our key stakeholders have said.

For co-production to be effective, the journey needs to be ongoing and responsive. It is the golden thread that flows through Optalis from informing our vision and values to being at the centre of our service provision – setting the stage and tone for the organisation. For us, it’s about our customers, our colleagues and the community, giving those we support a sense of ownership and control over their lives. This includes a number of initiatives ranging from our customers’ involvement in our annual staff awards programme both as judges and presenters, our customer forum meetings, and our customers sitting on our recruitment panels for senior manager appointments. All these ideas came from a co-production approach.

By involving and empowering our customers, great things can and do happen. Our Focused Friends group perfectly aligns our vision with a co-production approach. Our customers have created an initiative, supported by our colleagues, with the aim of making an impact on the community. The “hug in a mug” project reaches out to those who may be experiencing loneliness in the local community. Mugs filled with various treats and a note of best wishes are put together by our customers, who then take them into the community in the hope that those receiving them will be reminded that they are not alone along with good wishes and a stepping stone to link with the wider community. If ever there was an example of impactful co-production, this is it.

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