12 October 2021
By John Evans, Independent Living and Disability Rights activist, and former SCIE Co-production Steering Group Chair
When SCIE started its first Co-Production Festival in 2016, it was a revolutionary moment in its history. The success of the festival was outstanding. As part of the Steering Group which was behind the planning of this event it was very satisfying and illuminating to witness its outcome for all of us involved. It remains my standout moment since I became involved with SCIE.
I think its success was due to being a combination of both entertainment which included comedy, poetry and music performed by disabled artists, and serious reflection through interactive workshops and lectures. Another important aspect was the combination of attendees which was a mixture of health and social care professionals, and people with lived experience. This was a dynamic which was central in getting the important message of co-production across to its participants – especially the professionals.
The important point about the festival was to discuss how co-production can transform and inspire positive change.
When I started my own independent living scheme over three decades ago, the reason why I did this was because I felt very strongly that social care and health professionals should not be making decisions about my life, but I should. I was the expert about my life and not them! I think social care would be much weaker without the diverse voices and actions of many people who have expertise, and the experience of using the services. When people with lived experience are involved directly, you can guarantee that the social care services will be far better off than without them.
Over the last 20 years, SCIE has been at the forefront of developing co-production by seriously engaging people with lived experience, which is what attracted me to the organisation. In that time, SCIE has achieved some very important pieces of research and contributed to significant social change, so it has a worthy place in the improvement of society for people with diverse needs. It is vital that people like me are intrinsically engaged in all of its work to implement positive changes for the better.
The 20th year of SCIE’s existence also marks the sixth year of our Co-production Festival, and it is as popular as ever. We had to move the Festival online for the last couple of years, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this did not diminish the interest in it or its success. It was a different kind of dynamic, but showed the continued importance of co-production which grows more and more each year. It is as inspiring as ever to see health and social care professionals, and people with lived experience come together to celebrate the benefits of co-production in developing better public services.