Part of graphic illustration of the work and discussions to date about the visualising the Centre (Photo and design credit: Debbie Roberts, Engage Visually)

CO-llaboration is key! The journey continues for UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research

This blog is written by a few of the Centre collaborators to date – Elaine, Sarifa, Dave & Niccola – we’ve each written part of this update. Find out more about each of us at the end of this blog.

The key elements important for collaboration (Photo credit: LindaShell.com)

Whether it is co-production, co-creation, or co-design, what is important to the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research is the CO-llaboration! No faux-production here!

I don’t know about you (it’s Niccola speaking by the way) but I’d never heard that term before someone mentioned it to me (thank you Beth!) but then when you look into it, it rings oh so many bells! It’s that pretend co-production where what happens is at its best glorified consultation. This fake collaboration is something that the Centre wants to battle against. We want to champion genuine co-production of health research, services and policy development and build a case to support this way of working where there is genuine sharing of power and decision-making. The Centre is very much open to all who want to be involved!

For those of you that haven’t come across us before please feel free to have a read of our last blog about setting up the Co-pro Pilots. The idea is that these pilots will help us, an ever-evolving group of collaborators, work out how we go about bringing this Centre to life.

So what’s the latest?? Well, we’ve had a crazy busy summer. Great news though, things are progressing well with developing the plans that we co-created.

In fact… we have a whole load of announcements to share…

1. The Co-pro Pilots are live!

Well, they are just about live… just a few more logistical things to be sorted out in order to get them live by the end of Sept.

This is Sarifa speaking now… I was part of the Pilots Review Team (a mixed group of Centre collaborators including patients, carers, local residents, researchers, and healthcare professionals). I was looking out for several important things, that l personally campaign for and represent. The biggest priority being diversity and ideas for reaching out to more people whose voices are seldom heard. As a Review Team, we all worked so hard to ensure that we were choosing projects to fund who had found creative ways of reaching these groups.

We (the Centre) are committed to addressing all barriers our community face. People are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers people more independence, choice and control. We are aiming to be very inclusive in all areas of our work. Nothing about us without us!

The Review Team members read and scored the applications (we had 10 in total) and then met up as a group at the St Pancras & Somers Town Living Centre to discuss each application in depth. Ultimately, we came to a collective decision as to which ones scored most highly against the criteria outlined as important in the application form and supporting documentation. There was A LOT of lively discussion!

The Pilots funded range from qualitative research into the experience of being diagnosed with an uncommon cancer, to co-production of the next steps for a Somers Town schools-based programme that uses boxing as a medium to help students that are experiencing challenges in engagement with learning, behaviour, and emotional issues. The Pilots all have one thing in common though – their UNRELENTING ambition to embrace authentic co-creation in the work that the collaborators are planning to conduct.

You can read more about the Pilots in this summary document – as a PDF.

In addition, we have been hard at work to secure providers to help us deliver the aims and objectives of the Centre.

2. Development of an evaluation strategy is underway!

We plan to co-create an evaluation strategy and framework for the Centre during the Pilots. We operated an open application process, and similar to the Co-pro Pilots, reviewed all applications as a group of collaborators against a set of criteria. We came to a collective decision as to who we felt would be the most suitable candidate. The review team are pleased to announce that we chose…

Just Ideas logo

Just Ideas Sustainable Solutions Ltd is a company set up to support organisations working towards positive social, organisational and systems change and environmental justice. They are dedicated to co-creation of development and action and passionate about ensuring that people are at the heart of what they do and how they work.

This is Dave, I was part of the Evaluation Tender Review Team. My previous experience has been as a member of evaluation teams – working on bids for evaluation work and actually conducting evaluations. It was a novel experience to be on the other side of the table when it came to reviewing providers. I came to the review meeting with some trepidation about what I could really contribute to the review process and a collection of scribbled down thoughts. There was a clear commitment to the principle of co-production present from the very beginning of the meeting. LOTS of discussion in a structured way, but without any restrictive hierarchy allowed equal consideration of all thoughts and opinions making for a surprisingly enjoyable meeting. I left with an understanding of how people can work together rather than just be consulted by an evaluation team giving their needs lip service while the evaluation proceeds with a pre-fabricated evaluation strategy. But… most of all, I left with a clear understanding of the benefits of co-creation and the confidence that it would be a real part of these evaluations!

As a Centre we won’t get everything right first time but we are trying to be open, transparent and to learn as we go – this evaluation work is a key part of this learning and development. All feedback is good feedback (no need to “be nice”) so please get in touch if there is anything you’d like to share. In addition, it will be vital that the Pilots and providers learn from each other as they go along, they each have unique strengths that they can share with each other.

3. Training & resource development is in progress

Search for a training provider is following a similar process – we will share an update soon. As with the evaluation development, the plan is that training and resources to support the Centre are co-created during the Pilots.

This is Elaine speaking now, I was involved in a Centre co-creation session in March, the importance of training and how we might develop something useful and relevant for the Centre was a key part of this discussion. It was indeed lively and sparked debate. It was a collection of thoughts and ideas which I felt got results. A real move towards fresh thinking and not being bogged down with the outdated tick boxing. It generates more ideas. Generic tick boxing in my view produces a second hand movement with no personal notes. It is tokenistic and impersonal. I felt that a BSL signer and pictorial opportunities to enable those who may find it hard to express themselves would have added to the session, this is learning that was put into action in the next co-creation session where Debbie’s artwork was created. Definitely have an in-depth look if you haven’t already!

Part of graphic illustration of the work and discussions to date about the visualising the Centre (Photo and design credit: Debbie Roberts, Engage Visually)

I felt an air of expectancy and vibrancy in the session I was part of which was so very positive in the room. Grassroots thinking is vital to encourage innovation. There was a strong ethos of inclusivity…. not us and them. No line was drawn between researches and everyone else. This really matters. The integrated groups were diverse which encompassed differing viewpoints. We are all in it as equals. Now we need to take action! That’s what it’s all about… trail blazing and seeing positive outcomes. Sharing is a brilliant word!

4. A key date for the diary

Please let Niccola know if you are keen to join the Team for the following session. Everyone is welcome!

  • The first evaluation co-creation session – Wednesday 17 October 2018, 13.00 – 16.30, near Kings Cross

So… where to next?

Well, there is masses to do! Lots of learning to be absorbed from the Pilots and the challenges they face, what works well and what doesn’t in fostering great, authentic co-production. Then, the other key thing is to explore is whether we feel we require a ‘brand’ name, a logo and website for the Centre.

Exciting times! We’d better stop rattling on and get cracking! If you would like to join the team and get involved in any of the development work please do get in touch with Niccola! Bye for now!

Niccola, Sarifa, Dave, & Elaine


Meet the bloggers!

Sarifa Patel – I’m disabled Asian women, an activist promoting and campaigning for equality for all at local and national level.

Dave Harrison – I’m new to co-creation, despite being a philosopher I am interested in finding ways to make evaluation practical and useful.

Niccola H-Pascal – I’m coffee obsessed and a lover of all things co-production/co-creation determined to take action and make things happen! I want to help enable more and more co-production to take place around the country.

Elaine Manna – I’m a massive supporter of collaborative research. The importance of valuing and saving people’s lives and improving health, overrides everything else. I’ll fight like a warrior together with all the other warriors for this. Grass roots…. to survive!