To achieve its vision Expert Link operates at two levels. At the local level, they train key actors, such as people with lived experience of multiple disadvantages, service providers and local authorities to develop the knowledge and skills they need to do effective co-production. At the national level, they build on a large network of actors to advocate for government policies that are guided by the voices of people with lived experience of multiple disadvantages experience.

Having tested various aspects of its offer across different local areas in England over the past couple of years, Expert Link has built on their experience and learning to design a strengthened impact model.

This model includes a comprehensive package of training and additional support delivered over one year to equip local groups of actors to do effective co-production. The model also builds on Expert Link’s track record of national policy influencing, to encourage national and local government to support local co-production.

The initial support package includes everything that Expert Link will provide to local groups at the onset of their engagement. It is meant to minimise any requirement for further on-going support.

Expert Link’s foundation training

Expert Link’s expertise lies primarily in training individuals and groups of people to develop the right skills, knowledge and attitudes to engage in effective co-production. Their foundation training “Being the Difference” (2 days) and “Making the Difference” (1 day) combines personal and group development activities to allow groups of people to build the confidence, trust and cohesion needed for effective collective work. It takes groups on a journey to develop strong shared values and purpose and build their capacity to use a strengths-based approach in everything they do.

Whether groups are forming or are already operating and they come to Expert Link for support, all groups supported by Expert Link will start their engagement by taking this foundational training.

Co-production guidance

Expert Link has developed three principles that they believe should guide any co-production activities:

Principle 1: No one person owns the truth. The wisdom and power should reside in the collective

Principle 2: All stakeholders are afforded every opportunity to sit at the table equitably

Principle 3: We focus on the group purpose using a strengths-based approach

While co-production can be summarised through this set of broad principles, the range of practical elements required to implement these principles is delivered through “The Essential Nuts and Bolts” training.

The ongoing support package includes everything that Expert Link will provide to local groups once they have completed the foundation training and familiarised themselves with the co-production guidance. The ongoing support package aims to support groups in sustaining high quality engagement and deliver impactful activities.

Additional bespoke training and support

Recognising that every group will have different support needs depending on its composition and priority objectives in their local area, Expert Link will offer each group and its member’s access up to three additional trainings or support days:

  • The Essential Nuts and Bolts: range of practical elements required to implement co-production
  • Wealth Within: developing individual personal skills
  • Facilitator Training: supporting any individual with basic meeting facilitation techniques
  • Strengths-based approach: diving deeper into how to apply a strengths-based approach in a local co-production group
  • The Full Story: sharing best practices around telling personal stories when seeking to influence local and national change
  • Peer-research: equipping people with lived experience to lead research about issues that affects their community
  • Employing people with lived experience: helping any service providers with best practices around employing people with lived experience in their services
  • Leadership support for chairs: equipping group leaders with knowledge, skills and tools to manage a local co-production group effectively.
  • Facilitation: using techniques from Deep Democracy and Co-Resolve Expert Link will create a safe space and facilitate those tough conversations.

Peer-support network

An essential part of Expert Link’s ongoing support package consists of its GB wide network, with peer-learning and support opportunities for local groups. With this initiative, Expert Link recognises that the biggest source of knowledge around effective co-production lies in experience.

Expert Link’s peer-support network will include four main components:

Monthly conversations: every month, Expert Link will gathers local groups and facilitates online conversations to address key challenges and best practices around local co-production.

Peer-support platform: local groups will also be able to reach out to each other independently, for direct mentoring, advice and potential collaboration. Expert Link has set up an online peer-support platform to provide a safe space for informal exchange with peers.

Monthly check-ins: Expert Link will carry out regular check-in calls or meeting with each group to monitor their support needs and ensure their support package can be updated if needed to suit these needs at best.

Expert Link will gather and summarise all learning gathered through check-ins and monthly conversations and use it to update the network on co-production as needed.

Information and opportunities for national engagement

In addition to peer-to-peer interaction, local groups who are part of the Expert Link network will receive information and opportunities to strengthen their work and be part of a movement for national change.

Expert Link will curate regular tailored communications including fundraising alerts, updates on peer-support events, capacity building and other opportunities. Expert Link will also give priority to network members for consultations on national government inquiries and other influencing opportunities.