Friends hold hands up

I never thought my degree in Biblical Studies would come in much use... but this story of Moses and his friends, who held his hands up when he was too tired so that his tribe would continue to win in battle, seemed a great image for Humans as Collaborators.

As John Donne wisely pronounced, “no man* (*or woman) is an island – every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”. In recent times, it feels pertinent that as humans we have so often become focused on our differences, instead of seeing our similarities and celebrating our diversity.

Working on a health and social care improvement project within a housing association is a great example of true collaboration. Health, care and housing are by their very nature wholly intertwined, and the work of the Co-design and Improvement team at South Yorkshire Housing Association harnesses the rich history of co-production that housing associations are built upon. They also focus on individuals: people are not separate diagnoses or support plans, but are humans living in their homes.

Our projects model the philosophy of collaboration, or co-production, at every stage. With Co:Create, we work to embed co-design right at the start of the process when health and social care services are commissioned. Proud to Ask is a co-delivered project, harnessing the assets of the city of Sheffield to combat isolation in older people. Our Over2You project co-evaluates health and social care services, raising the aspirations of customers and giving them a voice in driving up quality. Age Better in Sheffield models a fantastic co-governance structure where decision making is shared between professionals and people with lived experience.

And yet, although this might sound very straightforward, we believe that co-production is an attitude, not a formula. Gold standard co-production is holistic, resourced, transparent, inclusive, iterative, positive, equal and sustainable. Achieving this requires leaders and organisations that are willing and able to collaborate and as Jim Tamm describes so eloquently - "radical collaboration requires attributes such as truthfulness, self-accountability and self-awareness".

And the secret ingredient to authentic collaboration? Always being suspicious of consensus – wondering who we’ve not included or even asked. And embracing the richness that diversity brings to the process. Diversity should be both an outcome and intention of co-production, and it reveals the beauty of human collaboration.

Morwenna Foden – Co:Create Programme Lead

Emma Ward