When to Re-balance the power: Conversations on Co-production

Co-production is about a re-balancing of power. But this can be difficult. Knowing when and how to re-balance this power to make co-production effective is something that we often wrestle with in the world co-production.

In this weeks ‘Conversation on Co-production’ we explored some of those difficulties. With so many in the room we benefited from a wealth of wisdom, ideas and suggestions of ways to think about re-balancing power. Here’s my interpretation of what I heard from the group.

A great place to start, when we think about this is, to ask where and how co-produced activities begin, because they have to originate from somewhere don’t they?
It is important to recognise that the origins of any co-production can come from a wide variety sources, whether that be funders wanting to connect with those they aim to fund, or parts of the system that feels disconnected, or services that come from a place of wanting people to become engaged and feel a part of, or whether it’s a grass-roots movement driven by the power and energy of the people. Co-production can come from anywhere.

What is crucial to understand is that wherever the origins of any co-produced activities come from, that they are driven by a want or a need. We must also recognise that it is often one individual that starts the process of co-production and acts as the energy that draws others toward it. One might call that person the instigator or leader and it appears that part of their role is to recognise who is and who is not present.

If we recognise that we may be the leaders or instigators of co-produced activities, then we must also recognise the power that brings. But whether you are a leader or not, recognising your own power and were that comes from is fundamentally important if we want to re-distribute power to enable effective co-production. Power is not only about what belief we may have or have not, but also about the perceptions that others may have about us. Educational, institutional, monetary, class, position and authority are just a few of many.

Coming from a place of both recognition and humility gives us the power and authority to share our own power whilst empowering others. But this in itself is a challenge when sometimes the perceptions and beliefs that we hold of one another act as a barrier. Finding a commonality helps to build trust and break down many of those misconceptions. The sharing of stories and experiences, having common values and purpose and listening to one another are all tools that help break down barriers and build bridges that connect.

Supporting others who have learnt and grown in a world of dis-empowerment, authority and permission is something that we can all do. By ceding our power and supporting others to use it wisely is a gift that will reap rewards long after we’ve left the room.

We would be interested to know your thoughts and wisdom on re-balancing power, so please share and help to build a world of co-production.

Our next Conversation on Co-production we’ll look at how to recognise our skills and talents, and recognise the skills and talents of others, so that co-production is effective. To sign up, click here. And why not invite someone else to the conversation, so we can spread the word and build a movement!