Co-production in social care: What it is and how to do it

How to do co-production - Culture

The culture of an organisation is key to determining whether co-production can take root. It needs to be a culture that is open to change and comfortable with well-managed risk.

The culture in existing staff teams has been found to be a key determinant of the effectiveness of introducing peer support workers. [17*]

A change in culture may be necessary if there is to be progress with co-production. There needs to be a move from delivering services to facilitating services [15] and from facilitating and enabling rather than a one-way process of providing care. [41]

A range of cultural issues need to be thought about so that professionals can successfully co-produce with people who use services and carers. These range from ownership of the project throughout the whole organisation to valuing the skills and assets of everyone involved. The culture of the organisation also needs to embrace the key principles of co-production.

Embedding co-production throughout the organisation

Most of the practice examples included in this guide were projects that were part of larger organisations. A commitment to co-production throughout these organisations was critical to success. The support of senior management was especially important.

So co-production needs to be supported through the leadership and management of organisations. [24, 42] For example, strong leadership helps to overcome barriers in a project. [56*]

A culture of risk awareness

Issues around risk were not identified in the literature on co-production but they were an important issue in the practice examples. These showed that a culture of co-production means:

The Project Advisory Group noted that while there are risks associated with co-production, they can be managed. At the same time, there are risks around not co-producing as it can be a key part of maintaining services at a time of limited resources. The group discussed safeguarding as a good example of co-productive risk management. Good practice in safeguarding is that everyone should have a role in the protection of people from harm, rather than it being only a professional responsibility. Where this happens, it reflects co-production in action.

The literature has identified the need for organisations to be more open to risk in other areas too. For example, strategic commissioners need to redefine what risk is so that small- and medium-sized enterprises are not automatically defined as high risk due to their size even when they are profitable and successful. [57]


  • Ensure that co-production runs through the culture of an organisation.
  • Ensure that this culture is built on a shared understanding of what co-production is, a set of principles for putting the approach into action and the benefits and outcomes that will be achieved with the approach.
  • Ensure that organisations develop a culture of being risk aware rather than risk averse.


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