Following Co-production Week, Scotty Bell, our new CoProduction and Service User Involvement Coordinator, has written about his role at Touchstone.
It doesn’t seem that long ago I was typing away to introduce myself and my role at the last organization I worked at. But sometimes an opportunity comes up that matches your beliefs so much that I had to say, “How could I not want this opportunity?”
So here I am, in my first week at Touchstone about to undertake a role that fills me with enough excitement it would fill a kindergarten! I am the new CoProduction and Service User Involvement Co-ordinator. This role is not new to Touchstone but there is new thinking we can embed to ensure we don’t follow many other organizations in presenting tokenism as success.
When I received the job offer, as with many roles before, it started with the “How do you think you did?” phone call. Then the conversation turned to the role itself and what it will entail. I heard Arfan, Touchstone’s CEO, say, “CoProduction should be a professional function of an Organisation, no different to HR or Finance”. As he said this, there was a small moment where I had to check that I had heard him correctly!
CoProduction as a Professional Function at Every Level
The reason I had to check myself is because I have long believed this is necessary to take CoProduction to the level it needs to be at within any organization. I have learned over the years that there are key identifiers to successful CoProduction. For example, seeing visible representation at all levels of an organization – from Interview Panels to Board Meetings to Job Role design – is vital. These are how organizations welcome and include not just the Service User but what they have to say and offer.
Treating CoProduction as a ‘professional function’ is the best way to ensure it becomes a true, congruent and genuine element of an organization. This will then ultimately minimize any form of tokenism or money chasing. Much like anything that carries the power of CoProduction, it requires a brave step to make it a working function.
Making real change, not tokenistic tweaks
It is exciting and aspirational to be entering a culture that doesn’t just use the words of Involvement and CoProduction. The discussion around the job offer made it clear that, at Touchstone, knowledge and direction back that up. I have often said that the only way to make CoProduction work is to take a whole organizational approach. If the belief is that it should be a resourced function, it is definitely a whole organizational approach.
I will be getting to meet my new colleagues over the next few weeks and starting an excitingly challenging role that could change things for so many Service Users. I value the experience that people get when they use services. Involvement and CoProduction can and will play a part in improving that experience at Touchstone and influencing the wider sector to do the same.
Much like Harley Davidson state in their 1970s’ advertisements, ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination‘. I hope to try to look at Involvement and Coproduction in that same way at Touchstone. Even though we are on a bumpy ride, it will go much smoother than if the aim is to focus totally on “Outcomes”. There is always a bit more we can do and more to aim for.