Co-production in the time of Corona: co-creating a new normal with the new normal being co-creation

June 04, 2020

In her latest blog our involvement coordinator, Helen Gavaghan, explores co-production during this crisis period and how it can help shape the ‘new normal.’

Multiplying disadvantage

Many of those already experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage in its various forms have been hit hard by Covid 19 and the lockdown.  The nature of disadvantage is that it can become compounded very quickly, with disadvantage often inevitably leading to greater disadvantage.  Part of that relates to the value that society places on people in certain circumstances.  Many rough sleepers, women experiencing domestic violence and those in prison for example have had their lives significantly affected and made much harder in recent weeks.

While the “everybody in” approach has supported many people facing multiple disadvantage, the complexity of peoples’ lives and their rights and needs have also been lost in certain places.

The response to Coronavirus has seen many of the preconceptions and institutionalised behaviours the health and social care sector has become accustomed to accepting, and even perpetuating, overturned.  Policies and solutions have been on the table recently that have never been considered legitimate, practical or affordable before.

At the same time, some of the most severely top down, ‘command and control’ decision making has been taking place and perhaps unexpectedly, many breathed a sigh of relief when it happened.

New sections of society are finding themselves dependent on the state. Some people have become homeless and thinking hard for the first time about what people experiencing hard times should be entitled to.

The glaring inequalities that harm so many, have always been accepted by enough of the population to continue to exist.  These inequalities have finally had an impact on the entire population in a way that was not predicted.  Homelessness, poverty and health inequalities that some people experience directly, now have the potential to impact everyone due to Covid because of their impact on the spread of the virus.

Our interdependence as people can no longer be doubted, and hopefully will not be ignored going forward.

The people lead the way

Interestingly perhaps in terms of co-production, it could be said that the public have lead the government on some of the key policies in this period such as instigating the lockdown as well as more recently, wearing masks.  Many have taken information that was widely available, as well as ‘common sense’ perhaps, and made their own minds up.

When it comes to our lives and our loved ones it turns out that many of us are indeed willing to second guess those in power.

Communities, professionals and people with lived experience have also taken it upon themselves to form Covid related ‘mutual aid’ groups to influence issues like prison release and offer practical help such as delivering food and medicine.

In terms of people experiencing multiple disadvantage there has been a sense of urgency from the sectors supporting this group in responding to the unique challenges presented by the virus to try to keep people safe.  Everyone has been in crisis mode to make things happen in a time frame that would have seemed impossible a few weeks ago, and there is no doubt that some incredible things have been achieved.

Benefits and Drawbacks

There are accounts of support workers finally being given the autonomy to do what those they work with believe is needed without many of the constraints of the system that have prevented such progress before.

Early indicators are that such approaches are having a very positive impact on some people’s lives and that individuals are finally ‘accepting help’.  Or perhaps they are finally having their needs and desires responded to appropriately.

There are less positive reports also, with individuals being spoken of as cohort categories and problems that need solving very quickly.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in concepts that were always a little problematic, such as ‘engagement’, being used in a way that now clearly just means coercion.

Transition Planning

As thinking moves beyond crisis response to transitional planning, there is a strong argument for ensuring people facing multiple disadvantage are able to shape the decisions that impact them to make the most of some of the extraordinary progress that has been made, as well as guard against some of the less desirable impacts of this period.

So for those who are beginning to take a breath and consider what the next few months and beyond may hold, I tentatively offer the following contribution to help answer to some of the fears, challenges & common blind spots around co-production, in the hope that I can bring something helpful to the table, for some contexts at least.

I make the following eight points in the spirit of humility, openness and collaboration in an attempt to model attributes that I myself would like to see more of in the future and I would love to know your thoughts on it. The full detail of the eight points can be accessed here.