Facing Forward – Co-producing 2023!

Co-production group members attending a zoom meeting

As the complexity of problems and crisis management in adult social care continues, so too do the efforts of those working across all sectors to do their bit to effect change. Change does not happen quickly or magically. There is no wand. The crisis in health pushes adult social care further down the agenda. A growing and resilient social movement for change such as #SocialCareFuture across the UK is helping to bring it back to the forefront. So too is IMPACT, an implementation centre enabling practical improvements on the ground and making a crucial contribution to longer-term cultural change. Karen, our Lived Experience Engagement Lead, shares how IMPACT’s co-production work was shaped in 2022 and the upcoming plans for co-producing in 2023.

Our co-production approach

IMPACT projects, or sites as they are known, take a co-production approach. They span many areas of adult social care, such as direct payments, decision aids in end-of-life dementia care, and technology-enabling care. Expressions of interest are now open for organisations wishing to work on change projects in partnership with IMPACT in 2023-2024.

IMPACT’s co-production advisory group ensures the voice of those with lived experience is equally represented across IMPACT’s work. As will be reflected in our first annual report when it is published.

Co-production group members attending a zoom meeting

Learning from 2022 and co-producing into 2023

Looking back, co-producing our own work plan in 2022 was challenging and sometimes frustrating, but hugely rewarding. Relationships, time, and space were key themes. Time was well spent laying the foundations of our working relationships. We also acknowledged that co-production requires more space than we often afford – or can afford it. That will be a key lesson facing our work for 2023 – more space. A safe space to keep building trust, airing opinions freely, and listening to the voices of experience. We want to improve how we communicate this experience across IMPACT teams and beyond, by engaging further with like-minded groups.

In 2023, we begin to learn about the evidence emerging from existing sites and how IMPACT is practically working. We will continue with our flexible and responsive approach to our work. Our approach will continue to adapt based on what we hear. We also aim for many of our contributions to continue being implemented across IMPACT. We will draw on the strengths of our group members to inform, guide, and ensure that those who have lived experience of drawing on social care support are central to our work.

As we scale our projects, we want to ensure that co-production remains a core approach throughout all of IMPACT’s work. We want to ensure that this is consistent and transparent. Thankfully, the IMPACT team is traveling in that same direction and is listening with open ears. And listening to hear – prepared to act upon the feedback, and committed to effecting change. Each positive change in social care, however small it may seem, can lead to another, and another. Perhaps not from a magic wand, but from these tiny ripples come great waves.

Relationships and meetings of the mind

IMPACT and The Health Foundation logos

Earlier this year, IMPACT’s Co-production Advisory Group had the pleasure of meeting and engaging with The Health Foundation Inclusion Panel. This created an opportunity for IMPACT to focus on building relationships between organisations. Early in the process we agreed this would be a two-way engagement and we would focus on the theme of co-production. The detail of what that would look like took a little longer to decide.

Co-producing an event

We agreed to co-produce the preparation and delivery of our co-production themed event, involving two members of each group plus the coordinator of each group. Narrowing down such a big topic is challenging – it can be time consuming and a little messy, but this is time well spent. As co-production means different things to different people, it involves accommodation and relationship building, seeing things from alternative perspectives and not being prescriptive. Not being prescriptive means that it can take time to tease out the theme and agree on questions to address and perhaps working in a way that’s different from what we are used to.

Happy to say I’m quite reassured it’s come a long way. I didn’t think you would get there, well done guys!  Testament to real coproduction in action.

Isaac Samuels, member of the Co-production Advisory Group

Building relationships for a successful approach

Cohesiveness, trust, and building relationships takes time for groups. This applies internally to groups and in external engagement. This is an ongoing challenge when time to co-produce, plan and deliver is limited or restricted by the reality of projects and work programmes.

A takeaway for me was the importance of building relationships to ensure effective co-production.

Ann Marie Penman, member of the Co-production Advisory Group

As a fledgling group meeting, engaging, sharing and learning with an established group was insightful. We are at different points in our journeys – we are starting out on our journey and the Health Foundation Inclusion Panel is working out its path for a sustainable and productive future. The experience of meeting a more established group reinforced the point that relationships, group trust and dynamic takes time to build. The sense of family and community from the well-established Health Foundation Inclusion Panel was palpable. This was inspiring and settled us as a group that we are right to spend time on building relationships and trust within our group.

In the practical sense, the process of co-producing the joint event has prompted us to try this approach in our preparation and meeting delivery. Until this point, we were somewhat self-critical of our own approach – a ‘knowing’ that we weren’t quite there but not quite sure how to get where we want to be.

Reflections

I am very proud of our work as the Co-production Advisory Group in 2022, particularly our ability and willingness as a group to be flexible, listen to each other, to feedback and most importantly to act upon it. Building relationships involves building trust and confidence. This takes time. A key takeaway from this meeting is co-producing the preparation, delivery and follow up. We are implementing this approach in our workplan for 2023.

Karen McCormick, Lived Experience Engagement Lead 

My own reflections were about how important it is to consider the whole process in effective co-production. That is, thinking about before, during and after i.e. how do we make sure we give the opportunity of involvement to everyone, how do we bring people together in a suitable space (physical and otherwise) and how are people kept involved and updated afterwards? A lot of our discussions focused on the being together part, but I think it’s important not to lose site of the ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Ann Marie Penman, member of the Co-production Advisory Group 

Relationship building extends beyond the relationship between two groups. Bringing in another group can somewhat shift the dynamic within our own groups. Sharing lived experiences and a passion for co-production with another group was empowering for members of IMPACT’s Co-production Advisory Group, a sense of shared purpose, a healthy respect and acknowledgement of the perspective of others.