Meet Neil, our Co-Production Partner for families

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field, I will meet you there”  ~ Rumi

I met Neil last year, as part of our Future Leaders course. I immediately sensed that here was someone who I could learn from and with, and who would challenge my thinking around co-production. A few months ago I asked Neil to be one of my Co-Production Partners around families and young people, and was delighted that he agreed. Here is his first blog with us, and you can see why I am excited to learn together.

Since being involved in Co-production, I have come across two types of ‘elephants’ that occupy meeting rooms. The small ones that run around causing havoc-  these ‘elephants’ are easy to identify and each participant in the meeting,  if they had a mind, could call them out. The larger ‘elephants’ on the other hand, require the vantage point of everyone in the room to describe them. 

The little ‘elephants’, figuratively speaking, are the tokenistic acts of people that use Co-production meetings for their own agenda, or to tick a box on their job description. In both cases, such people seem to operate without really understanding, or perhaps deeply caring about the purpose of Co-production. Sometimes, people in Co-production meetings have competing priorities that simply outweigh the virtues of collaboration. 

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Due to the stature of the bigger ‘elephants’, it requires everyone in the room to give their unique perspective, and for the sake of accuracy, these descriptions need to be from an equitable position. It is critical that common ground is established in Co-production meetings, wherein Health and Social Care ‘Professionals’ are able to meet and talk to those with ‘Lived Experience’ on an equal footing. Only then are we able to see what good Co-production looks like.

However, there is an inherent division of power that means that whilst people with Lived Experience are treated equally, there are not treated with equity. People with Lived Experience, by necessity, have to continuously reveal aspects  of their private lives in order to make Co-production happen. Parent carers have to talk about the indignity of changing their disabled child on the floor of public toilets- wheelchair users have to share with the room what sitting in a wheelchair over several hours does to their body.  When do the ‘professionals’ in the room display this kind of vulnerability?

If we were to sincerely answer this question, we would have to say rarely, and yet  you cannot Co-produce when there is inequity in the room. This means that if genuine Co-production is to happen, then Health and Social Care professionals are going to have to figure out how to be vulnerable and to stop, albeit unconsciously, using their ‘professional boundaries’ as a shield. 

It feels as if the Self Management approach developed by the Wellbeing Teams addresses this issue and is the key reason I accepted Helen’s offer to be Coproduction Partner for families.  Wellbeing Team members are empowered to bring their whole selves to work and to share aspects of their personal lives with those they have the privilege to support. 

As Helen remarked at a recent presentation on Wellbeing Teams “…we also talk a lot about love”. If I had one aspiration for this partnership, it would be to join that conversation, because I feel that it is only through love can we are genuinely vulnerable and only then can we authentically Co-produce.

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