River of Coproduction

July 10, 2023

MEAM has published a new resource to help local areas to think about coproduction with people with lived experience of multiple disadvantage. Titled the “River of Coproduction,” it reflects on key elements of good coproduction practice and how they relate to each other.

Anthony Pickup, MEAM’s Involvement and Inclusion Manager, has reflected on how he developed the model and how the analogy of a river’s path, from its headwaters to the sea, is a useful way to think about coproduction.

“Traditionally, when we’ve been talking to areas about involvement activities and coproduction, we have often used the New Economic Foundation’s ‘Six Aspirations’ model and Arnstein’s ‘Ladder of participation’ model. The first gives a great outline of the ethos of coproduction and the importance of power dynamics and the second highlights different types of involvement and ranks them according to their proximity to the ultimate goal of coproduction. In conversations with areas, colleagues and experts by experience it became clear that we were lacking a practical model of the processes and stages of developing coproduction in a local area partnership. Hence, we hit on the idea of the river.

“I actually live on a creek. I was sitting outside the boat one evening, thinking about the issue and saw the river current and the ocean current interacting beneath me, stirring up silt and creating eddies. This seemed a perfect analogy for the stage of continuous attempt, review and improvement, which I see as the central stage to the process. Once this came to mind, the other stages just dropped into place. I refined this with colleagues and MEAM’s Expert group. With the help of my colleague, Filipa, to do the graphics, we had a model to interact with to complement the other models of coproduction.

“I see the areas using this model in the planning and evaluation of their coproduction work. It spells out the processes, which do not always unfold in a linear fashion. It also encourages forward motion, such as the leap between sections 1,2 and 3, to 4. This describes the gathering of like-minded people, groups and planning (at which stage things often get stuck) to pushing forward into action as the river starts to flow. The importance of continuous review and improvement is also explained by the model as is the recognition and clear communication of small wins along the way.

“Although this is a fairly robust model, it is meant to be used in conjunction with other tools, as and when they may be useful. The River Model concentrates on process and is therefore most useful in thinking about that aspect of coproduction.”

Download the River of Coproduction resource.

Graphic depiction of MEAM's River of Coproduction model. The stages of the model are described in text over an image that represents the build-up of headwaters, the river starting to flow, the ebb and flow of tidal waters, carving the estuary and entering the sea.
Image: MEAM’s River of Coproduction