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

What is co-production - Defining co-production

There is no single formula for co-production but there are some key features that are present in co-production initiatives. They:

Some definitions of co-production include:

Co-production is not just a word, it’s not just a concept, it is a meeting of minds coming together to find a shared solution. In practice, it involves people who use services being consulted, included and working together from the start to the end of any project that affects them. [4]

A way of working whereby citizens and decision makers, or people who use services, family carers and service providers work together to create a decision or service which works for them all. The approach is value driven and built on the principle that those who use a service are best placed to help design it. [5]

A relationship where professionals and citizens share power to plan and deliver support together, recognising that both have vital contributions to make in order to improve quality of life for people and communities. [6]

Definitions and language are important. But the move toward co-production needs to be more than just a change in words because there is a danger of assuming that the right words will be followed by the right actions. Real change is accompanied by a movement of resources to people who use services and to frontline staff. [7]

There is a difference between co-production and participation: participation means being consulted while co-production means being equal partners and co-creators. [8]

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A distinction has also been made between co-production and co-creation. In co-production, people who use services take over some of the work done by practitioners. In co-creation, on the other hand, people who use services work with professionals to design, create and deliver services. [9]

Co-production has been broken down into the following:

Some people argue that co-designing services (managers and citizens working together in the planning stages of projects), while important, must be accompanied by co-delivery (involving people in actual service provision).

It can also be useful to think about there being different levels of co-production. For example:

The range of definitions and the proliferation of terms such as ‘co-creation’ and ‘co-design’ can be bewildering. However, there are a few things we can say with some certainty that transformative co-production is about:


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