An up close look at the magnifying glasses and embossing materials from a session with Sofie Layton ran with the Ci2i project. The group explored what the word 'research' means, by 'researching' a new material and trying out metal embossing.

Co-production in everyday life: Cat & Jacq Tell All

This blog was written by Jacq Miller and Catriona Duncan-Rees about what they’ve learned through co-production.

At the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research, we’ve found practicing co-production teaches us so much about it. So we’re wondering – what has co-production taught you? What projects have you tried? What’s gone wrong? We’ve invited Jacq Miller and Catriona Duncan-Rees to share what they’ve learned by co-producing. Let us know if you’d like to contribute your reflections here in future!

Catriona Duncan-Rees – Co-production as a way of life

Is co-production different to what we might do on a typical day in our busy lives? Cat – Co-production Advisor for Think Local Act Personal – tells us about one of hers and how co-production is not a ‘pilot’ or a ‘project’!

Here’s Monday:
1- Get up.
2- Make coffee.
3- Anticipate imminent morning chaos…
4- ‘Co-produce’ breakfast with four and six year old (or face a barrage of frustration because they can’t choose what they want)
5- Inform teenager he can make his own breakfast because he ‘doesn’t need me to do it for him’ (Working hard on breaking the dependency culture!)
6- Consult four and six year old about why it is in their best interests to get dressed. Ask if they want to take the risk of being late, or taken to pre-school/school in their PJs.
7- Facilitate creative conversation to help three and five year old understand the need to get dressed!
8- Inform children it’s time to get in the car.
9- Attempt to coerce children into the car. Further outburst of frustration.
10- Remember they are four and six and their perspective on life is somewhat different to mine. Opt for ‘inject some more fun, creativity, and time’ and risk being late (again!)
11- Arrive at school late (again!).
12- Visualise coffee. In mug. Now cold.
13- Return home. Microwave coffee. Turn on laptop…

Co-production for me is a way of living life. It’s not an add-on. It’s the way we do things. Interactions with family and friends are reciprocal. We care about what matters to each other. Interactions happen on a number of levels: 1:1, as a family unit, often they include friends, family and other people outside of the immediate family.

I want my children to be free to express themselves, to make best use of their skills and talents. But, I also have a responsibility to make sure they are safe, learn about independence and interdependence, and are able to respect the needs of others.

This level of relationship takes trust, time, patience and commitment. Not just ‘rules and regulations’, or ‘policy and procedure’. As for risk assessments – let’s just say spontaneity rules! I do what I can to ensure their environment is as safe as possible – but children learn by exploring and taking risks. And the bigger they get the bigger the risks.

We sometimes ‘break the rules’ because that is what is right for us in that moment. Being late. Again. For Example.

Yes it’s frustrating when things don’t happen, or take longer, or don’t happen at all. I try to coerce, educate and inform, often consult with them – but ‘co-production’ works every time because it is fundamentally about how we relate to one another, what matters to us, and how we make decisions.

It’s about balancing my ‘needs’ as the ‘service provider’ (at least that is how it often feels) with those of the people in my life who access the services and support I ‘commission’ and ‘provide’. And of course, it is appropriate to educate, inform and consult on some things! My family are all climbing the ladder of co-production.

There is no management system to ‘help’ me make decisions about how I care for my children. There are, however, plenty of people and places where I can get information and advice, including friends, family, neighbours, community groups, the internet and statutory agencies.

For me co-production is about appreciating our humanity, and living out the values and principles that are important to us as a family. Not always having answers and making mistakes is part of the process (and I make lots!), but each mistake presents an opportunity to learn, say sorry and decide how we do things differently.

My family isn’t a ‘pilot’ or a ‘project’ – my family is a bunch of amazing human beings and a huge part of my life. There is no scrapping it because it doesn’t work and starting again!

Watch the Ladder of Co-production (short film)
Find out about the National Co-production Advisory Group.

Jacq Miller on the Ci2i project

Co-production in action! People are busy crafting at a co-production session Sofie Layton ran with the Ci2i project.

Co-production in action! People are busy crafting at a co-production session Sofie Layton ran with the Ci2i project.

Ci2i: Co-designing interventions 2 improve is the PhD Project of Jacq Miller, which has two stages:

  1. Discovery: where we will explore the experiences of children and young people, parents and researchers taking part in eye and vision research.
  2. Co-design: where we will work together, to co-design innovative ways to make improvements to the eye and vision research experience.

The pilot project called ‘We Ci2i’ partnered with the UCL Centre for Co-Production and was funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). The aim was to bring together a group of children, young people, parents and researchers, to feed in perspectives as a ‘design team’ for the Ci2i Project. Jacq (children’s research nurse at Moorfields Eye Hospital and PhD student at City, University of London) co-led this pilot with Sarah Matthews (a parent of a child who is a patient at Moorfields Eye Hospital).

Examples of challenges experienced:

Time to build relationships: We had originally aspired to bring together the group, agree on a set of ground rules and start work on ‘designing’ the Ci2i Project. However, it was quickly obvious the group would need time to build relationships and trust in one another. Forming an identity and developing group ground rules (which we had scheduled for the first meeting!) would in reality, probably take the first year of meetings to develop.

Co-leadership: Although we had aimed to co-lead on the pilot, in reality it was difficult to keep Sarah included in all negotiations and discussions (which often happened at work). Sarah had also felt it was difficult, with her own demands on time. In hindsight we agreed we should have prioritised bringing Sarah in for meetings and formally introducing her to all those involved, particularly as the planning team grew.

This was a first attempt of trying to co-produce a project for both of us. Overall we had success; we had an exciting launch meeting for the group where we achieved a safe conversation space, to explore ‘co-production in eye and vision research’, in a creative format enabling everybody to engage. Co-producing the event definitely enhanced the planning of our event and raised ideas and considerations Jacq would not have thought of alone. The experience however, also raised our awareness of challenges involved in co-production, in particular, communication and decision-making.

Thank you, Cat and Jacq, for sharing what you’ve learned through co-production!

If you’d like to collaborate with us to blog about your experiences with co-production, please email me – Susan – at coproduction@ucl.ac.uk or tweet @UCL_CoPro. We’d love to hear what challenges you’ve faced, what’s gone wrong, and what you’ve learned! You can also sign up for our newsletter to continue receiving stories like this.

If you would prefer to look at this offline, here is a downloadable version of the blogs in our September 2019 update.