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UCL Public Engagement Blog



Ageing Better’s approach to co-production: A meeting of hearts and minds

By Rory, on 13 August 2020

People taking part in the Ageing Better programme and The National Lottery Community Fund logo

Image description: People taking part in the Ageing Better programme and The National Lottery Community Fund logo

Working with the community, for the community is the ethos of the whole programme, this ensures that all decision-making and service delivery involves the very people that it is intending to serve.

Loneliness and isolation can affect anyone but some groups are especially vulnerable. Vicky tells us about involving older people in the shaping of services using co-production as part of Age Better in Sheffield supported by The National Lottery Community Fund.

A bit of background

As a recent participant in the UCL Centre for Co-production Network sessions, I’ve been inspired by the length and breadth of co-production activity that is being undertaken by the Centre and how the network brings together people from a diverse range of backgrounds into the world of co-production. It’s such a fantastic way of sharing ideas, skills, knowledge & information and a great opportunity to share in each other’s work. As such, I’m excited to be able to share the work of Ageing Better; a national programme that focuses on reducing loneliness and isolation amongst older people. I hope that some of our learning can be useful to others.

Our work

I am privileged to work for SYHA (South Yorkshire Housing Association), an organisation that’s passionate about incorporating the voice of it’s service users, and also the lead organisation for Age Better in Sheffield, one of 14 Ageing Better programmes across England. The National Lottery Community Fund, awarded £78m to improve the lives of people aged 50 and over through a test and learn approach, and asked that co-production methods play a central role. Working with the community, for the community is the ethos of the whole programme, this ensures that all decision-making and service delivery involves the very people that it is intending to serve.

The National Lottery Community Fund’s “A Meeting of Minds” report is an inspiring read showcasing the benefits of co-production, illustrated through five strategic programmes which includes Ageing Better. The report provides examples of where co-produced services have been developed to support people facing challenges and transitions from birth through to later life.

Ageing Better’s co-production legacy

As part of the legacy for the Ageing Better Programme, which is now in it’s 6th year, we are combining the in depth learning from all national partners to incorporate all of the different elements of co-production, including co-governance, co-design, co-delivery and co-evaluation. Our aim is to map out what has worked well and what didn’t, pinpointing the challenges we faced and how we overcame them. Together we are developing an online toolkit featuring a unique suite of co-production related resources that anyone can tap in to. This may be an individual, a non-constituted group starting out for the first time, or an organisation that may want to develop co-production good practice. A co-created learning report will also serve as a story for influential change, providing evidence for the need to modify the way that services are commissioned in the future. Our hope is that Ageing Better’s successes can pave the way to support how strategic and community stakeholders can deliver the right types of services through the most needed and accessible means.

Bringing our national learning together

Partners are currently working as three strategic steering groups representing programme teams, older people participants, volunteers and delivery partners across the network. The key focus of the 65 plus participants within the group is to develop the toolkit and deliver a series of webinars and learning events that will feature a range of co-production themes.

Taking a deeper dive

We will feature several of these themes in more detail where we know there is specific expertise to share. The themes will include:

  • A grassroots approach to micro-funding
  • Embedding asset-based community development networks
  • The test and learn environment – creating a culture where co-production can thrive
  • Growing sustainable peer-led groups
  • Tackling stigma through creative co-production methods

Please have a read of Ageing Better’s learning, you can also access a video on our citizen led approach to micro-funding.

Micro-funding will be one of the key themes and steering sub-group members from Bristol and Birmingham Ageing Better recently met to scope out some of their joint learning, exploring ways of sharing information from the people on the ground. Here’s a snapshot of the type of content we will be developing for the toolkit:

Aspects if Learning - Sharing our Micro-funding Story

Image description: Table showing four items of the Aspects of Learning: 1. The creation of a bank of co-produced resources/templates, 2. Recommendations for funders, 3. Recommendations for how to ensure diversity 4. How to create a successful co-produced funding panel

The beauty of collaborating in this way means that we can identify where particular areas have been strong and use that learning to transfer our knowledge to others.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion are central to the Ageing Better programme and Ageing Better in Birmingham have been particularly successful in ensuring that all older people groups are represented.

They have achieved this through their Age of Experience Group (a group of 25 individuals that meet every other month to help shape the programme), and the Network Enablers (who assist locally trusted grassroots organisations as ‘mini hubs’ for Ageing Better activity). Together they have created a citizen led approach that truly represents Birmingham’s rich cultural ethnic mix, as well as older people from the LGBTQ plus community and those with a range of health conditions and disabilities.

Christine, Sam, and Nina at the Spring Forward event in 2019

Image description: a photo of Christine, Sam, and Nina at the Spring Forward event in 2019

Their Community Hub approach provides a gateway into the local community and a bridge between the programme team and the programme participants themselves.

Ageing Better in Birmingham have put together a learning brief on their approach which emphasises the importance of involving older people in the shaping of activities and services.

Connect with us

We are keen to share our experiences to support others. The Ageing Better programme has achieved so much more by adopting this approach. Although it takes time, patience and energy to involve everyone on an equal footing, the rewards far outweigh the challenges, and we believe our learning proves that.

Please do keep updated on our work through the Age Better in Sheffield website or email me directly. If you would like to attend a webinar or learning event, we’d love to invite you.

Thank you!

Vicky O’Donoghue

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