Co-production: reflections from a co-produced MEAM learning hub

February 18, 2019

The MEAM coalition recently held a learning hub for MEAM Approach and Fulfilling Lives areas on co-production.  In this blog, Anne (an expert by experience from Cambridgeshire) and Helen (MEAM’s Involvement Coordinator) discuss how the event itself was co-produced and give their “top tips” for local areas that want to do something similar.  Anne and Helen wrote the blog together – discovering along the way that this process in itself led to useful lessons for co-production.

Helen: The MEAM Learning hubs are one-day events where people from different MEAM and Fulfilling Lives projects come together to focus on a topic and share learning.  MEAM strive to co-produce these events as far as possible.  Of course, we felt it was particularly important to do this well for the hubs where co-production was actually the topic of learning as it was a chance to model how valuable, and doable co-production can be.

Anne: The MEAM co-production learning hubs were inspiring days with fun team-building exercises that educated everyone on co-production as they tried things out. The hubs were co-produced from the very beginning, starting with conversations involving both the MEAM team and experts by experience as well as frontline staff and volunteers.  We started by sharing ideas on what we thought it was important for people to learn from the events and then thought about how we could help make that happen.

Helen: We knew early on that we wanted the day itself to model the values that we were promoting.  We wanted it to inspire people about co-production and make them feel that every area should be doing it.

Anne: From our initial small group of experts who know a lot about MEAM and co-production we opened-up the co-creation of the event by having a planning day where we invited a larger group of experts by experience to develop ideas for what would help people learn.

Helen: We brought this larger group together for one full day to brainstorm ideas, talk things through and make some major decisions about the content.  It was a challenging process as MEAM staff, MEAM Approach areas and experts by experience are spread all around the country. The day generated lots of great ideas and some crucial decisions were made. We then followed up with particular individuals over the phone or in person to further develop the ideas and ensure that everyone who was helping to facilitate knew what they were doing and how it fitted into the whole day.

Anne: It was an inspiring experience to be part of the development.  The co-creation day was challenging at times because there were so many voices in the room, but it was facilitated in a way that everyone had room to speak so I felt everyone was listened to and the mix of people meant that great ideas came out of it that formed the basis of the event. Everyone involved was happy with what was ultimately produced which is arguably an achievement on everyone’s part.

Helen: For the event itself, everyone was given the opportunity to help facilitate or to be involved in whichever way they felt most comfortable with or interested in. Some were happy just to attend, others facilitated particular workshop exercises or presented sections of the slide presentation that they had written.  Some talked about the benefits they had experienced from co-production to demonstrate its value, or gave less beneficial examples to point out common blind spots.

Anne: The co-production group also choose a guest speaker, Matt Kidd.  He talked about the common barriers to working together in co-production settings or what may be called the ‘elephants in the room’.  He related these findings to his experiences with the Lankelly Chase funded project he had been a part of whose purpose it was to explore these barriers.

Helen: As everyone had hoped, the day was tied together by the concept that ‘your table is your team’ and so the tables co-produced all the decisions around team name, team values and even the designing of the team t-shirt.  Such activities were spaced throughout the day so that the groups could apply the learning from the speakers and workshops as they went along.

Anne: The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive and some people wanted a chance to come together again as a large group to share how they were getting along.  Some said it felt like the start of a movement and wanted there to be some kind of follow up from it.

Helen: This was an unpredictable yet very positive outcome, and we are yet to figure out how we can continue the momentum in a satisfactory way. I guess in the spirit of co-production we will figure it out together, involving everyone who cares about it.