Unleashing all the wisdom


Nobody has all of the skills, talents and wisdom needed to do co-production. But everyone has different skills, talents and experiences to bring to the table, even if some of us do not have the confidence to do so.

In our latest Conversation on Co-production we were joined by people who have experienced multiple disadvantages and others, to discuss what skills we bring to co-production to make it successful. Here’s some that stood out to me.

Some of our skills

Having experienced injustices, many people have a real passion for social justice which can help drive co-production forward and bring success. Some people can excel at providing structure and organisation to help link people together to help achieve shared goals.

Through an empathy for others people recognise that everyone has something to bring to the table, and we all have the right to be heard. If we are non-judgemental, we can grow alongside people. Understanding some of the shared experiences others have had can lead to strong connection and trusting relationships

Being tenacious and resourceful in able to survive can lead to great creativity, opening up opportunities by providing a different way of looking at what is possible. Some people have incredible positivity, having come out of negative situations and learnt about how we grow and change –the cup is not half full, it is overflowing!

And perhaps the most important skill of all for co-production? Listening.

“Whatever I know is because other people have told me.”

Stigma and deficit based approaches

Unfortunately, many people who have experienced multiple disadvantages do not recognise their skills and talents. Societal stigma and deficit-based services are amongst the many contributory factors for why people are blinded to their own skills.

But there also seems to be a taboo by wider society to acknowledge skills and talents that people have, if these are associated with – what could be deemed – negative behaviours. As a participant had mentioned to someone raising money through dealing drugs – “You’re good with money, you have people skills, you’re athletic (to run from the police), you’re good at time keeping.” Their response? “You’re the only person that’s ever said that to me.”

So it is not a question of whether people have skills and talents, but it is how these can be used to create positive social change.

Unleashing skills and talents

So how can we support each other to ensure our skills and talents can be used to make a difference?

Begin with the attitude that everyone has skills and talents. We know this! And we can work together to bring about the change we want to see.

Look at the power balances present in our activities, and try to develop a more equal relationship between all the people involved [See our blog ‘When to re-balance the power’]

Make the time for trust. Sometimes many activities involving a range of people do not give the time or space to even ask what skills and talents people have. As was suggested – a skills audit could be built into the work and repeated every 3 months as people learn and grow.

Bring the best out of people. There are many activities that enable people to reflect on their skills and talents. In our training, we use an exercise to get people to ‘step out of themselves’ and to observe the skills that they have. It is a very powerful exercise.

And finally – look at who is recruited to roles. If we understand that skills and talents can come from different experiences, we can bring the best people together to make the difference we want to see. So explore the values of recruiters, and ensure the involvement of people with lived experience throughout the recruitment process.

This blog is my take away from our latest Conversation on Co-production – thank you to everyone for taking part and sharing their wisdom – all the good bits are yours!