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National Co-Production Week: Christelle's Story

  • 06/07/2022
  • Author:rebecca.kells@turn2us.org.uk

Christelle, Turn2us Grants Search Officer, has written a blog about her experience of working in co-production on the Grants Search 2 project, and the impact it’s had on her and her work.

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Prior to joining Turn2us in 2020, I had never heard of the term ‘co-production’ before. During my induction with the CEO, he mentioned that co-production was a way of working which is central to all we do at Turn2us. I made a note of term and searched for it later. A source on Google described co-production as ‘when an individual influences the support and services received, or when groups of people get together to influence the way that services are designed, commissioned and delivered.’ 

I cannot say that I understood that definition, but I did have a vague idea of what it meant – an extended version of user testing. I began work on the Grants Search 2, a new project which we co-produced with service users to improve the functionality and user experience of the Grants Search Tool, which people can use to search for charitable grants they may be eligible for. 

That first session with the co-production partners was a revelation. The wealth of knowledge and experience in the room blew me away. It was eye-opening to be in a space with total strangers and for that space to feel safe. They were not just “end users” in the room, they were stakeholders in the service that was being created. The co-production partners were invested in giving the grants search service a more human feel, thinking about others outside of themselves, using both their experiences and that of others to feed into the service that we are trying to deliver. The project was a true reflection of where experience meets expertise (especially that of the UX/UI designers) and out of that workshop came the most beautiful ideas.  

It was eye-opening to be in a space with total strangers and for that space to feel safe. They were not just “end users” in the room, they were stakeholders in the service that was being created.

However, just like anything else in this world, co-production is not straightforward and linear. To most people, the sample size of co-production partners cannot be said to be representative of the entire UK population who may need to use the new Grants Search tool. As with any time you bring a large group of individuals together, people bring different opinions and experiences to the table. 

But I assure you that the benefits of co-production outweigh any challenges it can present. It enables users and professionals to work together as equals and learn from each other. How do we create a service for users without users? I sometimes stop to think about how services were delivered pre co-production because it seems like such a common-sense approach. What sense did it make in the past to only involve users at the end of the service?  

Just like users who will benefit from the service that is being created, the people in charge of creating that service need the relevant lived experience to make sure that the right design decisions are being made and the service provided is effective.  

The relationship between experts and co-production partners is not one of dependency but one of co-dependency and collaboration. Just like users who will benefit from the service that is being created, the people in charge of creating that service need the relevant lived experience to make sure that the right design decisions are being made and the service provided is effective.  

This is a call to any organisation still hesitant to adopt the co-production model to try it today. Co-production enriches the work we do, helps deepens our understanding of the issues, and creates an open conversation. 

Thank you – keep doing the good work – we are nothing without you.  

You can learn more about co-production at Turn2us by visiting our co-production page.  

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