360° Approach to better coproduction

Co-production is often talked about, but actually how to coproduce is often left to most people to sort out for themselves in this paper, I hope to produce a step by step guide to assist others in producing plans that fully integrate the ideas of coproduction.
The basis of planning anything, is not new, however good plans and thought through plans involving all relevant matters and personal is essential for public authorities, particularly in this financial climate.
One of the benefits of co-producing work, apart from involving other people is the opportunity to work with others who have similar interests and share a passion. The person involved should see their role as more of a facilitator rather than a creator of the policy. 
A draft charter has been attached to this document showing the authorities commitments to coproduction (not agreed and only principles stage)
Though everyone may be aware of the Socratic method of thinking, very few people use it as a step by step process in thinking and approaching any development. As Socrates is quoted in saying, “An unexamined life is a life unlived”. To translate this and use it as a tool for development then should not become such a reach.
The hope is to develop a plan that is thoroughly examined and which becomes a living breathing working plan that uses all relevant information, is clear and acceptable to all.

The Socratic Method


It is essential that these questions are asked and answered at every stage of the plan. 

Management Briefing Stage (Development) 
Before a plan is produced it is essential to ask why you are producing a new plan, or making changes to existing plans. There may be a number of different reasons, legal, review or change due to new technology, improvements in process driven by reporting or customer need, all are relevant. Honesty and openness is essential to coproduction, even where the plan is to save money for the authority, tell people that and explain why if the changes aren’t made what effects could potentially happen. Be clear in all the options and explain how the process will improve matters.

Many people who try to coproduce see themselves often as taking charge, when it should be seen more as bringing ideas and resources together to get the best available outcomes. Why just use your own resources when a shared approach can get everyone to work together and create a policy or paper that meets the needs of all parties.
This will give you a clear guide and give you a forward to your plan as to why you are doing or making the changes?

Action plan
A draft action plan is attached, it doesn’t have to be complicated, just ensure the plan uses SMART principles, making it specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound. This will help you keep on track and help to ensure you are using the Socratic Method. Check and update it regularly. Do not use “on going” set definite actions that have a start and end date. After a period of time each person should develop a list of these for all the different projects they are on. At monthly or quarterly review stages these can be shared with the managers showing exactly where a person is in developing a number of different projects. Managers can then review these and set dates accordingly. When review dates are set, and the person has moved on the Manager can send the plan to the next person and they can clearly see what’s been done and take over.

Research and Development
It is essential that you check the reasoning with a number of different sources. An initial idea that is thought to be good could potentially make little or no difference, it may even not be needed, so it is imperative that the reasoning in your forward is put to test. 

When thinking about coproducing remember it is the “co” part that is most important, it is no different to a business checking and doing market research before fully developing a product. If it’s not liked or doesn’t do what you need it too efficiently it may not be worth investing time and effort (which all so have a cost element) on the plan. 

When researching just the depth of information now available on the web can be daunting, where do you start? When do you think you’ve got sufficient information? It is therefore essential to get a sense of proportionality to it, using reasonableness as a guide. Depending on how important the subject is, how many people it will effect, the savings or usage should help you define and keep it in perspective? Obviously the larger and more important the project the more time must be given.

In my experience most plans can do with at least one or two days research, for bigger ones I would suggest maybe a week, anymore then it is perhaps too much. Develop this in to your action plan 

There are a number of different approaches to the research and development part of producing the plan. The first principle to keep in mind is assume you know nothing. No matter how many years you’ve worked in your area of work, things change, it is impossible to know everything. Start with a blank piece of paper.  This is the core of coproduction, if you already have ideas in mind which haven’t been evaluated or tested and checked with partners internally or externally, you have already started wrong. You will be going forward with a predetermined plan which can be inflexible and not the best use of your and other people’s time. Once you have your forward developed with your manager. this is where the co-producing starts, use this for your reasoning and as a template to gather information with a blank mind, think of it from the user perspectives I.e. I want to find out what?

The first is to always check what is already out there, save yourself time and effort, there are a large number of authorities, business and university studies out there who may have already done your ground work. If someone has already produce it don’t reinvent the wheel try and talk to them, and ask if it’s ok if you use it as it is or as a basis for your plan. Most will be happy with an acknowledgment, it also shows that local government can work together rather than churning out the same reproduced ideas.

Start with a search on the web, asking the right question will get you some good initial background. Even learning to search is a skill, it may be worth investing some time in learning this skill if you aren’t fully aware of it. In essence ask it as if you are asking another person i.e. I want to know, or tell me about (subject). Now remember that it will give you the answer you’re looking for. So at this stage it will probably throw a lot of information at you, so you need to be specific, i.e. if there has been a recent law change, ask it just that i.e. tell me (about) (since). You can also ask it to omit or add things to your query by adding not and include. So instead of asking tell me about co production.
To specify what other authorities may have done about it I would ask for “local authority policy’s in coproduction since 2016”.
More info on using search parameters can be found by, well go on research it!

Developing your own research department

Your personal newspaper

A good way to gather resources easily and keep on top of the most recent information is to develop your own personal news channels. Using your web browser go to news, here you can develop your own paper.  By Adding search words and saving them to develop your own newspaper.  Any words such as; disability, age, frailty, ADASS, SCIE, personalisation, community care, social care etc. Will ensure that the next time you go to news it will already have searched the internet and found you all the relevant most up to date articles in one place, these can be quickly scanned using speed reading (see below) to look at salient points. Doing this daily through the project or even as a morning routine with your coffee, will ensure that you have the most up to date information. You don’t have to read it all, you just need to be aware that it’s current and thus can go back to it if necessary.
Once you’ve found the research documents save them as links in your browser or   Pull out the necessary data you require and save it in one place as a folder on your pc.  You will find over time that you develop links to certain sites these will eventually become your go to sites and will be used regularly.
One of the most important skills in coproduction is the ability to shift through large amounts of data, make relevance out of it. Use what is necessary and discard the rest. The skill sets developed in searching by asking the right questions 
(Socratic Method) will be essential to getting the right data. Once found, often these documents or web pages can be seen to be large and wieldy. However it’s not necessary to wade through every document word by word.

Speed Reading
Another skill which can be developed and should be considered is speed reading, this skill doesn’t just help you just train your brain to search through large amounts of data quickly but also teaches you to systematically evaluate the information. 
Most reports will (as should yours) have a forward which will tell you the why the report was written. Does this match and correlate with your forward? Checking the index will next help you see if its relevant the most relevant parts will be somewhere in the middle. The important data sets. Finally look at the conclusion. Does this match with the outcomes you want? This technique can be honed and over a period of time you can learn to shift through data very quickly, even at the level of paragraphs you will find this same system in use. This way you can train your brain to take in the important factors and leave out the excessive methodology.

Make sure you make use of charts and diagrams wherever possible rather than writing or explaining. Let the data speak for itself. It can save a huge amount of time for all parties and can often help communicate large amounts of data very quickly.

Control + F
One of the most important tools is the control + F button. You can use this on most documents or web pages, it allows you to search through large amounts of data in a single document in seconds. The example below is from a real incident.
Eg. A service user asked what the rules with regard to the Care Act and prepayment cards? In my browser one of my set up regular sites is the gov.uk site. On this site I searched for the Care Act statutory guidance. It brings up a 600 page document. Initially it’s like do I have to go through that! But by using control + F brings up a search box for the document. I put in “prepayment cards” and it highlights the amount of times it’s in the document. By pressing down or up it takes me to the relevant sections. One of them has the answer, which I then pass on.

Check the cupboards
One of the most frustrating I find when I see plans put forward is the lack of use information that the services may already have to back up their assumptions. The authority already commissions, contracts and receives information from members of the public and employees. It has the majority of information at its fingertips, yet I rarely see these used in reports.

Ensure you know who and what services are commissioned and contracted in the area your working on, approach them for data or information to back your plan up. They have already been paid by the authority, to work for the authority and this has to be an important step in developing your process. Thus If I was going to write a coproduction policy for Adults Social care, I have a plethora of organisations available with data and potential coproduction partners. This includes staff themselves, they are local service users, so why not see and talk to your internal disability staff group or even Fred in the corner who is a carer or has a disability. If you have someone specifically dealing with Adults Social Care at the front end, why not email the reception or telephone staff, they are perhaps one of the most underutilised resource you have. They are dealing with the sort of matters you’re trying to resolve every day. Another area is the customer complaints section, Check, has there been issues in that area? Are they specific? Just finding out what the most complained about area in your work specific area, will tell you what is and isn’t working.
Too often when people talk about co-producing, they always think of going outside, though this may be necessary, talking and looking at what people are already telling you will support or may negate the need for moving forward. If moving forward you can use this as data to sell your product and shore up the why you are doing what you do. It will also ensure that you have backup with some evidence. 

At this point you may find that already you may have contraindications to what you’re looking for and as developed in your forward. It will be thus beneficial at this time to have a review with the person who asked you to develop this piece of work in the first place.it is often difficult having to go to a superior and say I’m sorry but our assumptions where incorrect, however a good manager or leader will appreciate this as it can save substantial time and grief much later. It is not a failure. All you have done to quote Benjamin Franklin when asked about having 999 goes that failed in developing the light bulb. He said “I didn’t fail I just found 999 “ways that don’t work”, it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. You will need to make your case and this where the evidence you’ve gathered may help changing and re steering or making the project better.

External coproduction
If all the indications to your research positive or the issues are minor then you may wish to go and co-produce with external groups, again use the resources you have through commissioned contracted services to develop a list of people to speak to don’t forget again internal personnel or groups who will know of others externally who you can talk to.  When taking it externally state that its draft plan and show them your forward and research. Ask them to help you develop it, bring their ideas forward and involve. At this stage showing them the Action plan laying it out clearly with the hoped for outcomes, time frames, (check with them it’s enough according to their needs). Give them enough time to review and respond before publishing. Tell them when it will be published and when the annual review of it will be and ask if they want to know about the outcomes. All this should be built in to the Action plan.  
The Cabinet Office Principles state “timeframes should be proportionate and realistic to allow stakeholders sufficient time to provide a considered response … and might typically vary between two and 12 weeks”.
In my experience two weeks is to short and 12 weeks would and should be more appropriate. However again it has to be propionate.

Tracking the plan
The plan should be tracked and each production of change clearly marked and documented as such. Often service users will see a point 1.00 then the next thing will be the final plan with 6.2 on it, yet it has gone thorough many different changes, if these aren’t tracked and recorded on a master, how you can show it’s been truly coproduced. 

Once all the information is gathered again the plan should be reviewed, and input sought again from management. At this stage consider a you said we did, or offer one, that clearly shows what the consultation information that came out, who said it when and whether it was implemented in to the final report. If it wasn’t then explain why, again even if it’s a matter of cost that’s fine if you explain it clearly and show how you came to that conclusion. Over and over again having been through many consultations and spending your (customers) time in to something and to not get feedback is sole destroying, this will lead to a lack of future participation or/and mistrust in the authority.

Local authorities and  connected organisations have a legal duty under the Equality act to consider if a process policy or procedure is changed adapted or created, which has the potential of effecting any of the protect characteristics (  (Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation). Then they must consider the impact and mitigate those. This is usually done through consultation and the EIA process. If your plan or process is going to potentially have an effect and most do, then following this process will help show that you have considered and involved people and will help populate the EIA

Sign off and review
Finally produce the final plan. It’s important to let people know that it’s been coproduced and that an acknowledgement is made of those who were involved, there should be a sign off document with a review date marked on the document. Ownership is also important it shows responsibility and adds trust for users.  Both management and the person who developed the plan should at this point put a reminder in the diary for an annual review. On or around this date revisit the plan, does it need updating or changing, can you show its benefits or learn something from it? Tell those who you coproduced this what the outcome is one year on. It’s important to celebrate successes and learn from mistakes.

We Value and Support the principles of Coproduction. 
In order to reaffirm the authority’s commitments to coproducing we are producing this charter of what all our business, community partners whether part of an organisation or an individual can expect from the authority. 

It accepts that a coproduced approach to working with business and services users is the best use of resources. 

It acknowledges that partnership working saves time, money and offers better outcomes for all.

It also acknowledges that the end user is an important participant in developing plans, polices and process that are through and user friendly.

We will value and respect participation and participants at all times.

We will listen and implement coproduced ideas. If it is not possible to implement any idea a clear indication will be given within a specified timeframe explaining the recon for not doing or including the idea.

Commitment one
At all times all those that are involved will within legal parameters openly share, work and ideas at the earliest stage and work together to produce the necessary policy, process or procedures. Transparency and honesty will be the core principles to our coproduction strategy.

Commitment two
At all times internal and external partners will be kept informed with clear start and finish dates for the individual parts of the project.

Commitment three.
Clear ownership and responsibility will be shown as to who the facilitator and manager is of the plan, process or policy.   

Commitment four
All changes to the plan process or policy will be tracked and clear action plans put into place with start dates and finish dates at the beginning of the piece of work.

Commitment five
All reasonable ideas will be considered and included and tracked by date and name in to the master copy of the policy, process or plan.

Commitment six
A response will be given by the facilitator or manager, which again will be clearly dated and tracked showing whether the principles an ideas suggested by partners are to be included. If they can’t be included a clear indication why be given as to why it may not be feasible, even if this includes producing cost data. 

Commitment seven
Al pieces of work will show clearly via a “you said, we did” document celebrating the coproduced work and acknowledging the partners in coproduction whether as an organisation or individuals.

Commitment eight
All process polices or plans will carry a review date and will be reviewed annually. Partners (who wish to) will be given further opportunities to participate in changing, amending and updating the document.


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