Conversations on Co-production: Roles and responsibilities

We often talk about the roles we play within the world of co-production, be we don’t often reflect about what that means or the impact that they have.
This week in our “Conversations on Co-production” series we asked ourselves exactly that. There were four main roles that emerged during the conversation.


This is a quite a difficult role to hold because it makes us question whether we are present representing the views of others in a room or are we there representing our own experiences. More importantly can we only represent own own experience?
Of course self-representation or advocacy is the ultimate goal, however there are lots of reasons that people can’t or won’t be present in the room. Things such as logistics, self-belief, confidence and abilities can prevent people from representing themselves. We could argue that if you have the experience of someone sharing their experience with you, then yes it may be that you can be seen to represent someone or a group if you are sharing the experience that you had with them.
What we should understand is representation is a skill or an art. Ensuring that you are listening, that you have your messaging right and gaining the trust from those you represent are paramount to successful representation. If not, representation can be done really badly as so often is the case.


When we think about leadership we need to think about what is good leadership and how does a good leader lead. It is natural to have leaders and followers, but allowing leaders to emerge rather than imposing leadership upon others would be seen as a good approach in co-production. We also need to recognise that situations change and along with it the focus of our energy. Just the same, leaders constantly emerge and as they do we should support them to flourish.


We understand that there are numerous levels of accountability and responsibility, but we also recognise that with power comes accountability. Often we have seen that power has sat with services and local authorities who hold budgets. A world of co-production is based around shared power and thus shared accountability or responsibility.
There are two ways in which we can view accountability, firstly as individual and secondly collectively. If each of us is accountable for our own words and actions within co-production then we start to trust one another. Building on that if a group can agree to be collectively accountable for the group’s actions and outputs, then a culture of shared responsibility that strengthens the group will develop.

Enabler or facilitator

The role of an enabler or facilitator holds the space that allows for the sharing of knowledge and wisdom. Knowing who and what is in the room and where the knowledge is coming from helps. What we often forget is that facilitating or enabling people to have a voice is important, but just as important is enabling people to listen and hear.


In the world of co-production, where power is yielded and the wisdom sits within the collective, it is often difficult to see how things get done. Without individuals holding roles that naturally come with power or responsibility, it is hard to see envisage any co-production because some surely must take charge and be accountable?
Co-production takes time, and we need to have patience for that. But co-production also needs fluidity so that roles can change. If you imagine a role as a space, maybe a circle on the ground, and that the best person to fill that space will emerge and step into it when the time is right. If we are all prepared to be accountable individually and accept that we may cede our role, and along with it any power, for the great good and accountability of the group then co-production can and will work. The key would be not to leave a void in key roles.