Is working co-productively the key to improving local wellbeing outcomes for all?

July 1, 2019

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by Dr Louise O’Kane, Community Places

We are delighted to be commencing work with Carnegie UK Trust (CUKT) and the three Community Planning Partnerships from the council areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon; Derry City and Strabane; and Lisburn City and Castlereagh who are participating in the Embedding Wellbeing in Northern Ireland project.  Over the next two years we will be working together to improve local wellbeing outcomes for all through the co-production of projects and services in the Partnerships’ respective Community Plans.

Community Planning in Northern Ireland has reached a defining stage. Strategic plans and outcomes are in place and agreed.  Action plans now need to be implemented and progress in doing so will be the real measure of success for Community Planning.  We look forward to working with the Community Planning Partnerships to focus on improving wellbeing outcomes for all. The provision of this support is very timely and will be of great interest to each of the 11 Community Planning Partnerships across the region as they reflect on the progress of Community Planning since its introduction in 2014.

Co-production is defined and understood in a range of ways in different policy contexts.  At its core is the involvement of people and communities in the shaping, planning and delivery of effective public services.  It adopts an assets-based approach which focuses on shifting power from ‘doing to or for’ to ‘doing with’ people and communities to improve wellbeing.

CUKT’s publication The Many Shades of Co-Produced Evidence recognises there are variations in how co-production is described but identifies a number of common features:

  • Recognising people as assets
  • Including all perspectives and skills
  • Supporting people to meaningfully share and participate
  • Public services becoming change agents that facilitate people’s inclusion
  • Everyone benefiting from working together
  • Developing networks of mutual support.

 It is clear that while there may be variations in how the concept is described and presented across different administrations and policy arenas it is best delivered using models of engagement which bring service users and service planners together and which purposefully involve and value the lived experience of people and communities.

In delivering this support service we will offer opportunities for the three CUKT Partnerships to come together to share learning, enhance skills and identify what is needed to improve local wellbeing outcomes through implementing co-production in their own settings.

Our team draws together both local and national expertise and knowledge to inform and shape bespoke support:

  • Colm Bradley and Dr Louise O’Kane, Community Places
  • Prof Brendan Murtagh, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Fiona Garven, Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC)
  • Dr Claire Bynner, University of Glasgow.

We look forward to initial discussions with each Community Planning Partnership to begin charting support and learning requirements. Our support service will be flexible and tailored to the specific needs of each of the three CUKT participants. We will create an environment of mutual support and learning co-designing innovative solutions to common challenges and strengthening established relationships across the Community Planning Partnerships and with other key agents of change.

We will place an emphasis on practical skills for working co-productively, develop resource materials and capture learning which will enable all 11 of the Community Planning Partnerships to explore ideas and opportunities for genuine co-production of public services which can deliver local wellbeing outcomes through Community Planning.

In the initial months we will be hosting a learning symposium to set out the key elements and core principles of co-production. We will present good practice ‘stories’ and learning from Scotland, Wales and from across the region which features processes for planning, evaluating and improvement for co-production including the importance of strong civic networks which support opportunities for co-production and placing people at the heart of Community Planning.

We look forward to co-ordinating our work with the Centre for Effective Services to ensure that support for both co-production and shared leadership is delivered in a complementary manner. This will provide clarity and certainty for improving local wellbeing outcomes for all.