At the Co:Create UnConference we explored the question…

“How can we capitalise on the art of being human to improve collaboration in the healthcare system?”

The day consisted of short talks on four topics, with the chance for speakers and attendees to reflect and discuss on what they’ve learned. Here's a brief summary of the topics we covered.

1. Humans as storytellers
Chrissy Bonham and Adrian Scott

What story do you tell about yourself? Chrissy and Adrian explored the narratives around mental health – the way that individuals and professionals talk about themselves and others.

Chrissy shared her personal experiences of a time of ill mental health. In particular, she described a powerful moment when the narrative around her life was shifted, and moved from a deficit based narrative that was consistently perpetuated by herself and others. The turning point came when she was asked, by a health professional, to discuss the positive aspects of her life – things that she loved, what was going well, and what she was looking forward to. She described this change in personal narrative (how she, and others, talked about herself) as ‘life-changing’. She was no longer the lady with an illness: an individual that was struggling, suffering and needed to be fixed. Her narrative transformed to being asset-based, positive and empowering.

This discussion advanced to the role of co-production in shaping these stories. We can discover the stories people tell about themselves, and the stories that we tell as professionals. We can both help to shape stories about the humans we work with, and use these stories to craft what we do. We have the power to change the stories that people tell about health and social care.

Co-production can give people the tools, the power and the space to change these narratives.

2. Humans as designers
Andy Young

First, Andy reiterated that not all humans are designers! Becoming a designer is a craft: a skill that needs to be refined, honed and learned.

However, all humans can be creative, compassionate and great to collaborate with. They also – in particular, service users and front-line staff – have brilliant knowledge, ideas and insight when it comes to designing services; forget thinking outside the box - these humans know what it’s like to be in ‘the box’.

Co-design enables people to share their experience, thoughts and knowledge with the designer. And the role of the designer is to create the space and opportunities for conversations and input, and interpret this in a meaningful way.

3. Humans as behaviours
Andy Hollingsworth

People don’t always behave as you think they might – this fact probably resonates to everyone reading this. Many different factors can affect behaviour: bias, social pressure, emotions, personal experience… the list goes on! Furthermore, our human quirks mean that we do not always behave rationally, or predictably.

So, how do we create services that incite a particular behaviour? If people aren’t using the services in the ‘right’ way – where does the responsibility lie – with the designers, or the users?

Andy introduced us all to the EAST framework. The EAST framework says that, to encourage a behaviour, we should make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely. A good place to start! It also helps us to think about exactly what behaviours we’d like to see when we’re in the initial stages of development and co-production.

He also discussed the importance of testing frameworks and services, to ensure that they incite the behaviour we’d like them to. However, he reminded us that testing is not foolproof – for example, people might behave differently in focus groups than they do in real life. Inaccuracies may also stem from groups not being representative, observation bias, or inconsistencies in human reaction.

However, using the EAST framework, and effective and meaningful co-design, we can begin to produce services that are helpful, effective and efficient.

4. Humans as collaborators
Morwenna Foden

‘Friends hold hands up’.

Morwenna began with a wonderful analogy for collaboration: people are better and stronger together.

She described co-production as experts by profession and experts by usage coming together. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing co-production ‘right’ (i.e. engaging with people in a constructive and useful way), as co-production is an attitude, not a formula, and there’s no prescriptive way to go about it.  However, ensuring diversity with those you’re co-producing is a brilliant first step. Diversity should be both a value and an outcome. And a key point Morwenna made was that “consensus is suspicious. If everyone’s agreeing on something – then who are we not asking?”

At the UnConference, we thought about what makes for good co-production, and came up with holistic, resourced, transparent, inclusive, iterative, positive, equal, sustainable.... to name a few!

We’d love for you to share the values you uphold in co-production. Got some thoughts about humans as collaborators? Share them with us at @WeAreCoCreate.

Hannah Dougherty – Communications and Toolkit Officer, SYHA


Emma Ward