Seven years ago, we decided to take our first steps into developing a co-production culture within Camphill Village Trust. We wanted to improve every single interaction whether it be between a person and their support worker, a group working together on a project that benefits the whole community or even by creating opportunities for people to have real influence over the governance and direction of the charity.
The first challenge we faced was knowing how we could be creative to enable each person to take responsibility and ownership. We also needed to know how to agree and plan what a successful outcome would be co-productively.
What was clear, was the need for a methodology, toolkit and not least the courage of everyone being prepared to take a leap of faith together.
We’d heard about the work of an organisation called ‘Learn to Lead’. They’d developed a co-productive approach that was changing the way some schools engaged with their students. These schools were challenging the traditional education hierarchy. They created environments in which students worked together to take responsibility to bring about the positive changes they wished for. In addition, we recognised many similarities, not least that many schools and social care provisions had developed a ‘doing to’ rather than a ‘doing with’ culture.
We realised that one size does not fit all. Tools, methods and facilitation styles would need to be adapted and developed to ensure adults with learning disabilities could participate in a way that makes sense to them. Our aim is to enable people to see the benefit of taking responsibility for achieving the outcomes they want.
The process is simple in that it starts with a blank agenda and two questions. ‘Why are you here’? And ‘what do you want to do’?
By encouraging everyone to share in this way leads to an agreement about what it is we’re working towards. It’s important to recognise the contribution each person can make. Furthermore, we plan what each person will do and also identify where any support needs to be focused.
We share responsibilities, celebrate achievements and equally, embrace failure as part of the process. Similarly, this means that results may not always be achieved quickly or in the way expected. However, nobody said co-production was easy or for the faint hearted but the results are worth it.
Challenging and inspirational
Co-production is transforming the way we work with people with learning disabilities and autism. The result across Camphill Village Trust is challenging and inspirational to all. The people we support are growing in confidence. They’re taking more responsibility in their own lives all whilst taking active and varied roles within the communities they live in.