Key learnings designing a co-production framework

For National Co-production week, Senior Co-production Officer Abby Meadows reflects on key learnings from creating it with those with lived expertise of financial hardship.

This article is 29 months old


Earlier this year, we launched our first co-production framework. For this year’s National Co-production week, Senior Co-production Officer Abby Meadows reflects on key learnings from creating it with those with lived expertise of financial hardship.

Any framework about co-production itself must be co-produced. For the team at Turn2us, that demanded a new way of working. Last July, six of us (three staff and three co-production partners) formed a working group whose task was to create a framework for co-production and involvement at Turn2us. 

Guided by NSUN’s National Standards on Involvement, we designed and delivered four workshops to staff and co-production partners. Our workshop findings became the foundation of our new framework for co-production and involvement at Turn2us. 

Key learning 1: Trust and authenticity are crucial for a safe space

Creating a safe space is a popular phase in our line of work, and it’s one of the four key principles listed in the framework. But often it’s unclear what a safe space looks and feels like. When reflecting on the seven months of working together, the co-production working group felt that we did create a safe space. So what were the indicators of this?

There was positive confrontation. Staff and co-production partners alike trusted one another enough to have respectful disagreements. 
There was accountability. We were rightfully challenged when decisions had been made by individuals rather than as a group. 
There was creativity. people could bring their authentic selves to the sessions. 
There was sharing of responsibilities. Co-production partners took ownership of tasks, such as leading on many aspects of the workshops, facilitating breakout rooms and creating video content. We had to trust each other for this to work well and not feel tokenistic.


Hand drawn football illustration

"Loved this! As did the whole it was about a team ...and how NOT to behave or treat one another. It was made into a short video with us all being up and coming actors! Yet again got the message across about how bad things CAN be if they are not sorted quickly and you do not listen to each other and take it all on board."


"This was SO fun! Brian had the idea of a cake shop, to liven up the discussion and take peoples thoughts away from Co Production for a minute and yet cleverly ask questions within his ‘Cake Shop’ to get answers and results about how to work together and yet get what you want...amongst other things! Everyone enjoyed this. It made something very abstract into something doable."

Key learning 2: Don’t obsess over ‘perfect’ decision sharing 

During the seven-month process of building the framework, there were many times when we shared the decision-making responsibilities for even the finest details. For example, the ‘co-production purpose’ was drafted and finalised between myself and one co-production partner, with inputs from our CEO plus the Head of Insight and Impact. 

Sharing decisions to this level matters and feels powerful in the moment. However, it shouldn’t be seen as the best and only measure of quality co-production and involvement. Co-Production should also be about how valued and heard people genuinely are and how much weight someone’s input really has on the work. The test of this are the times when co-production partners are not in the room. Similarly, not all co-production partners want to be involved in the final decisions – for instance, spending time drafting and redrafting a purpose doesn’t suit everyone’s interests or skill sets. 

Key learning 3: It can always become tokenistic 

That said, there will always be a risk of what I call ‘performative co-production’. I would define this as bringing someone into a space, without adequate information and usually for short amounts of time, just to tick the box and say ‘We listened to someone with lived expertise, we don’t need to talk to them again’. 

This risk never goes away and Turn2us must always be honest about and mindful of it. Our job is to faithfully draw from the lived expertise and harness the passion of people in such a way that our work together, whatever the level of involvement, feels valuable for everyone.


If you are an individual, or a group of people who know what it’s like to not have enough money to live on and would like to get involved with our work here at Turn2us, we would love to hear from you

If you’re from an organisation co-producing your work, we’re interested in sharing insight and learning with you

Get in contact with Abby, Co-production and Participation Officer, at:

Illustrations and captions by Karen Isaac, Co-production Partner at Turn2us.