We are Scotland’s national collective advocacy organisation for mental health.

Michelle McBride, VOX Scotland’s Volunteer Engagement Officer, reflects on Co-Production Week Scotland 2021 and the ways in which VOX embeds co-production in its work.

Last week (22nd – 26th November) was Co-Production Week Scotland 2021 – a week where individuals, organisations, and communities across the country came together to explore the ‘art’ of co-production, share good practice, and learn from each other.

Throughout the week, I attended a range of thought-provoking events which considered the application of co-production in practice, how to break down barriers in tackling inequalities, and different ways to positively engage and create a movement for change.

The learning from this week has further cemented my belief that co-production must be at the heart of all the work we do at VOX Scotland, and that we must continue to find new and innovative ways to ensure our members have their voices heard in shaping the services they access.

What is co-production?
For mental health organisations and service providers, ‘co-production’ is now a staple word in our vocabulary – along with terms such as ‘collaboration’, and ‘participation’. Put simply, co-production is a way of ensuring an equal partnership, and thus equal say, between those who use services and those who provide them. When co-production is carried out well, it has a dynamic approach which genuinely and authentically focuses on people and their human rights.

What is the purpose of co-production?
By empowering those that access services to have a meaningful say in how their care is designed and delivered, co-production can ensure resources are used to develop the services that people really want and need. Co-production also helps build stronger communities, develops citizenship, and is linked with better outcomes both for people who access services and their carers.

What do VOX Scotland members think?
Over the course of Co-Production Week Scotland 2021, our members shared their perspectives on co-production – how it can work for them, and how it can best ensure their voices are heard. They emphasised the importance of avoiding tokenism, of properly analysing power dynamics, and of ‘taking it back to basics’.

From this week, three words in particular really resonated with me:

  • Power: As one VOX member astutely stated, “How Power is held matters, without this co-production doesn’t work.” Power dynamics can make or break relationships and, as such, empowerment is essential to the health and social development of people and communities.
  • Values: The principles of equality, diversity, accessibility, and reciprocity are key values for putting co-production into action. Each of these are vitally important in every individual’s life.
  • Synergy: People coming together in a positive way to produce something great is a key feature of co-production, and it is the interaction involved in this which ultimately produces the combined effect of contribution and action.

Following on from Co-Production Week Scotland, we want to continue the conversation and ensure that co-production is playing a central role in all of the work we do at VOX Scotland. On Monday 13th December, from 1pm – 3pm, we’ll be hosting an online discussion on ‘Making Co-Production Work’ online, via Zoom.

This event will be open to all people with lived experience of mental ill health, to help us understand what is needed to make co-production work. We will discuss:

  • What would make you feel equal to policy makers and service providers when you are working together to create change?
  • How do we make genuine connections and shift to a more relational approach in co-production?

We hope to create a Lived Experience Charter over the coming months to help influence and shape how co-production is understood in a mental health context – join us on December 13th to get involved in its development.

Let’s thrive together, and let’s make co-production work for all!

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