Living our values in the real world: Is genuine co-production in research possible?

12 October 2020

Living our values in the real world: Is genuine co-production in research possible?

Come and join us to debate the question: Living our values in the real world, is genuine co-production in research possible?

Date: November 19th

Time: 10am – 12pm

Platform: Zoom

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMscO6hrTsoH9FSH1YB617TcfU1HteI9Ftv

Like many others, we at Traverse are faced with the challenge of how to meaningfully coproduce the aims, methods, delivery and outputs of research, engagement and evaluation projects when they are commissioned and funded with pre-determined expectations   that don’t necessarily allow for the flexibility required for true co-production. It is, however, a challenge we are determined to overcome and would really like you to join us in working out how to do it.

We will be joined at the session by the UCL Centre for Co-production to tell us about their journey so far and their plans for the future.

We will also hear from other guests to share their experiences of living their values in the real world.

 

The proposition…

At Traverse, we believe that to be rigorous, evidence on social issues must reflect the range of experiences of the people affected.

We also believe that there is power in decision makers hearing the voices of those affected by policy and services directly, and for real people to be able to hold the power of their own voice and experiences. This year around 65% of our work involved people with lived experience of the issues we were exploring.

We think lived experience is most powerful when people are working in a reciprocal and on-going partnership with those delivering the service or making the decision: co-production.

We distinguish between work that involves people with relevant lived experience as sources of information (e.g. a traditional research study), as participants in a conversation directly with decision makers (e.g. a workshop with policy makers and participants), and projects that genuinely involve a shift in power from decision makers.

However even the best-intentioned traditional research approaches stop short of actively redressing the power differentials between those providing or designing services, and those using them.

A useful way to think about social impact is to consider it as the change that happens for or to people as a result of an action or activity[1]. Helping people have a say on things that affect them. In the context of our work in health and social care, social impact at Traverse is about how we make a positive contribution to a system of health and care by engaging people in research and enquiry about health and wellness in the context of wider social values such as human rights, justice, equality and respect for diversity.

Health and care in the UK operates through a complex system of policy, education and research, funding, provision and regulation with each part providing an essential component of the whole. At Traverse we believe that successful health and social care infrastructure is built around the person and co-produced  in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours[2].

 

Facing the challenge of the real world

In a paper for BMJ Opinion in 2019, Trish Greenhalgh talks about the productive role of conflict. 

‘In the best research programmes, the (productive) conflicts generated when patients’ experiential knowledge meets conventional research paradigms not only informs the wider research agenda, but transforms conventional researchers into more creative scientists who prioritise different questions and study them in imaginative and flexible ways.’

In a Mutual Learning Exchange with Jane McGrath, CEO of WeCoproduce earlier this year, we discussed powerlessness, the value of lived experience and how we could model the economic transference of power. Jane challenged us to think about what can we do through our work, to challenge the sharing of power, not opinion?

 

Who holds the privilege?

The conflict inherent in a true shift of power really comes to light in the context of who holds the purse strings.  

As an employee owned consultancy, Traverse generates its income through the delivery of a range of social research services including; evaluation of change programmes, qualitative research, public and stakeholder engagement and consultation. Like many similar organisations we predominantly deliver this work following competitive tendering processes. In this context it is important for us to think about how we carry out our work with truth and meaning, avoiding the pitfalls of platitudes and rhetoric associated with aspirational concepts such as social impact, lived experience and co-production. It is of great importance to us that we don’t use these concepts as sales strategies, including the words in proposals and bids to make ourselves sound good. We feel strongly that those who become involved in sharing their lived experience and co-producing service change and transformation are fully valued and respected for their generosity of spirit and willingness to share their lives and experiences.

So, we have set out our goal to help our clients work with people with lived experience as paid project partners in at least 5% of our projects. A modest goal in the scheme of things but one for which we are already beginning to see the challenges.

We have been working closely with Phillipa Bragman to develop a proposal to work with people with learning disabilities and to bring people with lived experience into our organisation as researchers and she rightly challenges us every step of the way. She reminds us regularly to really think about the link between power, privilege and responsibility and to question our own position in this.

We are collectively mulling a number of questions to explore, such as; How do you get funders to invest in what can feel like a risk if they haven’t worked this way before? What will give commissioners the confidence to pay for project partners with lived experience? How can we work with commissioners to see the benefit of co-producing specifications, methods and approaches?

We would very much like to design the workshop agenda with the people coming along so it really hits the spot! Please let us know what questions you want to debate and explore by emailing jessie.cunnett@traverse.ltd with your thoughts and ideas!


 

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