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Co-production: How CoP members involve clients in service delivery, advocacy and decision-making

Our previous blog discussed how improved public policies, more resilient communities and changes in social attitudes can contribute to a better post-pandemic future. In the CoP webinar held on 15th October, we discussed how members can involve people experiencing homelessness and insecure shelter in three areas: knowledge generation and decision-making, collective action and advocacy, and service delivery. We explored how CoP members have different definitions and applications of ‘co-production’, the involvement of users in the creation and management of public services.

Co-produced service delivery: involving clients in design, delivery and evaluation of services

“People experiencing homelessness and insecure shelter are the experts of their own lives”

One of the main values of the Booth Centre is “partnership working”, to integrate people experiencing homelessness in the design, delivery and evaluation of their services. With the global pandemic, however, the Booth Centre had to find innovative ways to continue the co-production of service delivery. They did this via the Connecting through Activities project; online wellbeing and creative sessions “run with and for” people experiencing homelessness. These sessions included a range of activities from career guidance, to philosophy talks, to bird watching and singing sessions. The centre has also implemented an online session on Facebook to bring clients together and talk about their experiences and feedback on the different activities. This means clients are involved from beginning to end; planning and then delivering the activities, right the way through to evaluating them.

The Booth Centre has worked previously with Homeless Link to develop a co-production toolkit. Find out more here.

Co-produced advocacy: securing land and safe homes

“A strengthened relationship between beneficiaries and local authorities leads to improved service delivery”

Habitat for Humanity Zambia runs an advocacy campaign that focuses on people’s land rights, or security of tenure, and increasing access to financial services. This programme relies on community-level partnerships, formed by local municipal councils, frontline workers and the project’s beneficiaries. Beneficiaries co-produce the programme by identifying their needs, suggesting solutions and proposing priority targets. To enhance beneficiaries’ participation, the programme implemented study circles (small group discussions on community matters), saving groups (community-led groups to save money) and other spaces to incentivise meaningful conversations between parties. These spaces are fundamental to ensure equitable participation; for example, “through dialogue forums, beneficiaries engage with local authorities and policy-makers […] using evidence-based data”. These activities have provided skills and tools for beneficiaries to have more leverage to negotiate and to better advocate for their rights to safe, adequate housing and land.

Co-produced knowledge: a collaborative response to a humanitarian crisis

“Research is traditionally seen as an external expert-led process, and community members and workers are devoid of contributing to the process”

“Communities want to know how they can benefit from the project… we need to change the power dynamics”

In India, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action has been mapping the impact of lockdown measures in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, to understand vulnerabilities within households, assess coverage of government relief, and to give recommendations for inclusive and collaborative rehabilitation. This research involved community members and frontline workers at different stages of the research, for instance in the process of sampling and interviewing, ensuring that “the voices of the most marginalised [were] represented”. An idea behind this effort was to “democratise the notion of knowledge creation”, allowing research participants to contribute to and benefit from its outcomes. In this case, the outcomes of the research have contributed to advocacy measures centred on the experiences and demands of the beneficiaries themselves.

Let’s continue the discussion…

Most CoP members are engaged in different forms of co-production and, despite being from different contexts, this methodology appears to have similar benefits across regions. However, some questions emerged from the webinar and we invite you to reflect on them with us on the CoP forum (click the link to go there directly):

- Are there any practical tips for involving clients in service delivery?

- How can we better involve users in data analysis?

- How can we manage expectations of our clients in co-produced projects?

In our next webinar, we will be focusing on the conceptual frameworks behind co-production and we will invite experts to share their ideas with us.

The CoP team

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Comic Relief is a major charity based in the UK, with a vision of a just world, free from poverty. Find out more about Comic Relief work around safe and secure shelter here

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EDP Associates is a consultancy specialising in urban development, labour market analysis, research management and employment and skills policy.

DevLearn is a consulting firm specialising in implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and communications for inclusive economic growth.