Challenges and Best Practice in Co-Production Conference

On Wednesday 18th May, The Trust Map researcher Catherine Wilkinson attended the Challenges and Best Practice in Co-Production conference at the Showroom Cinema and Workstation, run by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield, and funded by the ESRC. This was the third major conference to be hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The aim of the conference was to explore the many different methods and practices of co-production that can be adopted, and to understand how research can be relevant to a variety of non-academic partners. The event aimed to offer a space to learn how research can be developed and utilised in a wider context, to share ideas and explore and reflect on how to design and deliver effective co-produced research projects successfully. This conference brought together academics, policy makers, practitioners, and other experts to explore the following themes:

  • Why is co-production important and what does it involve?
  • What does ‘good practice’ in co-production look like?
  • What does co-production in relationship building look like?
  • Valuing knowledge across disciplines and across domains of practice: who uses co-production?
  • Why do people not use co-production? What barriers prevent people from using co-production?

The day began with a welcome from Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Social Sciences, at University of Sheffield. This was followed by an informative and entertaining Keynote by James Wilson, Professor of Research Policy, and Director of Impact and Engagement at the University of Sheffield.

Following this, the day was structured into three parallel sessions. Of the first three sessions: Models; Community; and Creative Mediums, I attended the Community session. Scott Eldridge and John Steel from the University of Sheffield presented on Co-production as a mode of assessing journalism’s normative claims. This presentation sought to challenge normative biases as understood by advocates and critics, and lay the foundations for re-evaluating journalism’s normative criteria. The main research question was: are the criteria we evaluate journalism by broadly recognised by its consumer? The researchers’ focus was on the actual uses of journalism, rather than abstract or idealised uses. The researchers spoke of how, in a final workshop, they offered participants the opportunity to design new ways of journalism/news consumption, and participants opted for a traditional model. One community group kept their model to create a monthly newsletter to serve their community.

Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield, and Zanib Rasool (Rotherham United Sports Trust) presented on Collaborative Working Practice: Repositioning Knowledge in Communities. This project, named the Imagine Project, recognised that communities are funds of knowledge, and strove to unlock individual’s potential to make their community a better place to live. Lee Crookes, Dave Vanderhosen, Marion Oveson (University of Sheffield), and Steph Grant (South Yorkshire Acquired Brain Injury Forum) presented on Fragments of Co-production: Three Case Studies. Particularly interesting was Marion’s discussion of boundary-spanning in community led projects – that is projects for the community, by the community. Marion discussed WARP (Westfield Action Research Project), a research project which ran a variety of workshops in order to co-produce a community project, supporting the formulation and production of the Big Local interim plan. This supported residents with projects such as developing a community garden, starting a food bank, looking at how to develop open spaces, including how to get the community in the park. In such projects, Marion spoke of the importance of boundary-spanners to aid co-production, pointing out that boundaries are both real and perceived: they are physical, emotional and intellectual. Boundary spanners, in this sense, can be translators, facilitators relationship-builders, peace makers.

After lunch, the day broke into a further three parallel sessions: Theory; Urban and New Knowledge. I attended the Urban session, where Corelia Baibarac and Doia Petrescu, University of Sheffield, presented on Investigating Possibilities for Co-producing Urban Resilience through Co-design Platforms. The speakers discussed the creation of a digital platform for local resilience. Potential users of this end product were involved in all stages, including the designing of the original brief. This project attempted to bridge the gap between resilience in theory and in practice, and position the production and use of the platform as a form of ‘commoning’.

Also presenting were Rebecca Ince and Sadnbh Ni Hogain, University of Sheffield, who presented to the title: Compromises and Challenges: Co-producing a Framework for Domestic Retrofit in Haringey: North London. The presenters spoke of how the original brief of this project was to assist the local authority in developing a co-operative model for domestic retrofit, and engaging local businesses and community groups. However, when in the field the researcher’s job was completely re-written. As such, the researcher reflected on the importance of being flexible in co-production research.

The final presentation in this session was by Iain Scott, University of Edinburgh, who presented on Co-design: A Report on Collaboration between Older People and Students of Architecture. This presentation looked at co-production from a post-collaborative planning perspective. In considering designing age-friendly places Iain reflected on the importance of choice, and allowing participants control over the form and duration of their engagement.

The final parallel sessions of the day were:  Exploring the Value of Co-production, a discussant panel; Cultures; and Models. The session I attended was Models. Within this session Rosemary Dewey, NHS Bradford Districts Clinical Commissioning Group, and Micky Kerr, University of Leeds, presented on Co-designing Technology Tools for Informal Learning in Healthcare SMEs. Following this, Margarete Parrish, Jane Ewbank and Caroline Bury from Bournemouth University presented on Practices and Research Lessons Learned from an International and Inter-professional Approach to Co-production. Finally, John Cullen from the University of Sheffield presented on Supply Chain Accounting and Employment Practices: The Challenges of Co-producing Diagnostic Toolkit.

This was a really enjoyable and informative event where discussion was shared over Twitter using the hashtag ‘copro16’. I look forward to the ensuing debates over social media!

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