Co-production is currently a buzzword in the homelessness sector. But we know its so much more than that. At Oasis Community Housing, we have had a dedicated Co-production Lead since the end of 2022. Here, Co-Production Worker Cal Distin, explains more.

What is co-production?

Co-production is acknowledging that those who we support are best placed to see anything that needs to change in our services. It’s working together with those we support to help review, design and deliver services.

Services that are co-produced are more likely to be successful in achieving the services’ aim, as if your service is more closely matched to what the people using them actually need then more can be achieved.

It’s not just about getting their feedback and implementing change, it’s much deeper than that – it’s a commitment towards creating change with those people we support.

How do we deliver and implement co-production work as a homelessness charity?

Working with the people we support is an essential part of our approach to improving our services in tackling homelessness as a Christian homelessness charity.

We support the people who access or have accessed our services to make their voice heard, ensuring they have a platform from which they can contribute to the direction of the charity. Central to our co-production offering as a Christian homelessness charity is our Experts by Experience (EBE) group who meet bi-weekly.

In recent months our EBE group have co-designed training for staff; been involved in recruitment, including sitting on interview panels; supported with service design; and more. Many of these simply wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Co-production is also about building confidence, as well as an inclusive, positive atmosphere where people can thrive and drive change. For some people this involves me spending time with them and their support worker, to build confidence and skills ahead of them joining the EBE group someday. At the EBE group itself we do this by organising sessions that spark discussion, creativity, and most importantly fun.

Last summer the EBE group celebrated their combined efforts in creating an incredible array of art pieces centred around themes of home, community and the cost of living during the ‘ta da day’ event at our Basis Gateshead homeless drop-in centre.

Why is co-production important?

As a Christian homelessness charity, I believe it’s useful to link what we do back to the Bible.

In 1 Corinthians 12:15-26 the author makes an analogy using the body and points to the value of each individual part. 1 Corinthians is the first of two books in the Bible which were written originally as letters to a church in Corinth, by the apostle Paul.

Using the body as an analogy, Paul raises the question ‘Where would we be if we only had one body part?’ If we only had eyes, then we would have no hearing; if we only had ears then we would have no sight. All of the different parts of the body have a unique and individual role to play, and all are as important as the others.

The illustration of a fully functioning body offers us an insight into the importance of genuine co-production. Genuine co-production is about enabling those we support to actually drive the change for themselves, and recognising that everyone involved in a service from staff to beneficiary has a valuable role to play.

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