5 Factors to consider when setting up a new

‘co-production’ group

At this month’s Conversation on Co-production, members of the network explored best practice and considerations when setting up a new group. It was great to see some new faces, alongside our regular attendees and this made for a great discussion with fresh ideas and conversations!


There are many factors to be explored and considered right from the start when setting up a ‘co-production’ group. Members of the network suggested around twenty factors for consideration, before narrowing it down by vote to the top 5:

1. Work out shared aim and values from the start – Members agreed that this is the number 1 consideration when setting up any group and that it should involve all members.

“You just need to be really clear from the beginning about what the group is about…it is easy to put a group together in terms of getting people together, but you need to be very clear from the onset why you are putting the group together and what you hope to achieve from it.”

“Give the group a direction to travel.”

“If you are going to coproduce something, you need to have an idea of having a shared aim and goals for that group. Values are really important I think in the groups I have set up before. I think if you have very different value sets or you are coming from a place of very different ideas, you have got to work through some of those and agree on what things you can agree to disagree on.”

“Everyone is accountable for the agreed ways of behaving.”

“The involvement groups are set up when staff notice there is an influx of a certain type of referral or cases that always have something crop up in the background…then it would be a case of setting up a group around that and the people in the group will identify the specific parameters of what it then leads on to.”

“Get back to a blank piece of paper. When you set up a group…once you get the group together you list and challenge all the assumptions so you can get back to the blank sheet of paper.”

“There has to be an understanding that the development of the group is up to the group. Give them the flexibility and meet them along the way…If you have an advisory group where people advise but then people just ignore what they have to say, then people are not going to stay…”

“Be really clear about what decisions people can and cannot make.”

“Allow lived experience to decide what to do…one of the big assumptions is that you cannot get lived experience in until you have already decided what to do as it may go a way you do not want it to go.”

Check out David's values training video here!


2. Have a diversity of members – Consider who is involved with the group and make sure it is as representative as possible. Make access as easy as possible for all and explore different avenues to ensure certain groups of individuals are not excluded.

“I have noticed the higher up I go in strategic circles, you kind of start to lose touch with the regular people that you are supposed to be there to do the work for. Although I have kept one foot in that ground now…you may have people that don’t have that and have become professionalised people rather than those with lived experience. It is always best to have people who do not interact well with the system as it is as well as those who are more confident with the system, that way you are still garnering the views of people who are less heard.”

“Most of the time it is not equal, so where it is not equal how do we make it so?”

“It is good to have a mix of people who do not easily engage within the system as well as people with strategic experience at strategic levels”


3. Be sure to consider barriers to inclusion – When setting up any group, it is important to consider the varied needs of individuals. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do all we can to not only remove barriers but to be conscious that our own practices are not stopping people from contributing and engaging.

“Accessible communication is a big thing in our forum…in making sure that people get information in a format that is suitable for them so it is not just all done via email, it will involve myself or my team calling people up or posting things out and just keeping in touch with people. It also comes down to the colour of the paper, the font, the size, those things really matter and that really helps keep people engaged.”

“If people have English as a second language how do you make sure you have all the translations you need to make sure that isn’t a barrier to access. Digital exclusion needs to be thought about when planning your budget…”

“It is never going to be perfect for everyone, but making an effort goes a long way.”

“Utilise the availability of transcribing via zoom etc…”


4. When thinking about communication, also consider the language you are using – evaluate the way in which you communicate and ask yourself, is there a better way of saying this which will enable people to understand? Clear communication is key for understanding.

“I find it quite difficult to come in, people don’t understand that the UK public has a national public reading age of 9 years old. I found it really exclusionary when people come up to a so called professional standard and they talk to me and I hear them speaking in a whole different language that I do not understand. Keep things very simple, easy, laid back… let's show mutual respect for each other.”

“I cannot meet you in the middle because I have not been educated in academia as far as you have so I do not fully understand it. I find it a way of excluding me as English is my second language so it is almost like a power tactic to exclude me.”

“It is more than acronyms, it is about everything we do. If you have someone in the room with cognitive impairments, with various mental health issues, we experience the world very differently.”

“We had a group where we were allowed to set up our own ‘do’s and don'ts for when people came to speak to us. Not speaking about subjects that could traumatize without forewarning to the person who was chairing the group, abbreviations and acronyms were not allowed to be used etc. When you come and get our opinion, you need to come and give us feedback at the end. We changed the terms of reference into a document called ‘who we are and what we do’. It was all very much set by us and the members of the lived experience group. Everyone who came to the group was given these outlines.”

“That person who is using those terms and phrases may not even understand what they are saying, they are just kind of repeating what they have heard or are told…You can use those terms and phrases but if someone doesn’t understand and you cannot explain it simply enough for them to grasp what it means then it is most likely you do not understand it either.”


5. Explore reciprocity – What do we hope to get out of co-production and how do we reward people for partaking?

“How do we pay people back for their time? Is it just because they want to, because they want to feel like they are making a change to the system, which if you get the right feedback can be fairly true, but is that fair? How do we not abuse people? You know, parachute in lived experience and ask them what they want and then kick them out the door when you are finished. Are they really getting value out of the exercise?”

“Why don’t you get the group together and ask them what they want? Go through the budget together and work out how they would like to spend it. We have done that in the past and actually although everyone agreed there would be a set voucher, over time there are very few people asking for them. There is a little pot of money building up that at the end of the project they can work out how they want to spend it.”

“There can be other incentives other than financial ones. I've been inviting people to a group and saying that it's an opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, receive training, and it can be good experience for a CV/interviews if they're thinking of entering the job market.”


What do you think? If you have any thoughts or ideas on your own learnings from setting up a group or would like to share your own ‘top tips’…we would love to hear from you! You can email us at info@expertlink.org.uk

If you are wanting some pointers on getting started with co-production, check out Expert Links videos

To hear about and join in with future conversations, sign up to our newsletter here and get your free tickets to join us at Conversations on Co-production here


  1. Chris Ostmeier-BrillMarch 22, 2022

    Brilliant insight from the network!

  2. Jon TownshendMarch 31, 2022

    Thanks for sharing this – some great insight in a small and easily accessible format. I’ve shared with colleagues at Derbyshire County Council who are working with me on our co production efforts 🙂

  3. mark Frederick WoodheadApril 13, 2022

    It is important not to let the wealthy and powerful co-opt ‘coproduction’. First – there is a danger of coproduction being diluted, maybe by some service users, by using ‘coproduction’ to refer to any rung on the ladder of coproduction rather than specifically the top rung. See TLAP’s ladder of coproduction, based on Arnstein’s ladder of participation.
    Second, Raymond Plant, in his book Community and Ideology, suggested that community had become an aerosol word, a word sprayed onto things. So we get everything from ‘community arts’ to ‘community policing’ (I kid you not). I thiI want to claim ‘coproduction’ for what I am doing – nk he is right, and I thing ‘coproduction’ is heading in the same direction. Let’s try to resist that. It is a short step from ‘coproduction is a good thing’ to ‘anything I am involved in should be labelled as coproduction’ – and if you challenge that , I am offended, and I want to claim ‘coproduction’ for what I am doing – surgery, law, making tins of baked beans, building roads, etc. And so ‘coproduction’ becomes meaningless and we have to find a new term.


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