Wales: Leading the way in co-production


By Anke de Vrieze and Diogo Soares da Silva

In the past two months the city of Cardiff has been able to enjoy to the presence of no less than six SUSPLACE researchers. Besides the three researchers (Lorena Axinte, Malin Bäckman and Cátia Rebelo) that have their home base at Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE), an additional three researchers (Marie Quinney, Kelli Pearson and Diogo Soares da Silva) moved to the Welsh capital for a secondment at either PLACE or the Welsh Government. At the end of April they were introduced to the Welsh context during a week-long workshop organized by PLACE in collaboration with the Welsh Government and aimed at developing a platform to support change-makers working across Wales. SUSPLACE’s assistant-coordinator Anke de Vrieze joined them for the occasion.

The workshop, facilitated by Usha Ladwa-Thomas and Mark John-Williams from the Welsh Government, allowed like-minded individuals to come together and brainstorm on potential ways to enhance collaboration and co-production among themselves, inside as well as outside their departments. More than 40 people with various backgrounds (academic, policy officials, third sector, etc.) took part in the workshop, working towards a manifesto and a joint plan of action for co-production. Although the original intent of the workshop was the co-production of a support platform for public servants working with communities, it evolved into an exploration of the potential of co-production in strengthening the work of those workers, unleashing community strengths and capacities.

Prof. Edgar Cahn and Dr. Chris Gray, founders of TimeBanks USA  and long-standing pioneers in co-production, were invited as external experts to co-facilitate the workshop and bring in their knowledge and expertise. They proved a great source of inspiration to both the participants from the Welsh Government and the SUSPLACE researchers

Co-production can be defined as a way of achieving better outcomes by sharing power and responsibility. It involves seeing people as assets and in charge of their own situation; although most of us believe this, we do not always demonstrate it. Co-production requires all participants to change the way they work and, as Prof. Cahn and Dr. Grey mention, relies on a set of core values: recognizing people as assets, with every human being a builder and a contributor; redefining work, including whatever it takes to raise healthy children, preserve families, make neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, care for frail and vulnerable people, redress injustice and make democracy work; reciprocity, replacing one-way acts of generosity with two-way transactions; community or social capital; and respect, accepting everyone regardless of opinion, situation, or circumstance.

As Chris Gray and Edgar Cahn explain in the above video*, the Welsh Government can be considered a frontrunner in working with co-production. An important framework is the 2015 Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, a progressive piece of legislation that enshrines principles such as collaboration, involvement and long-term vision at its core.

In an additional two videos*, two participants to the event – Hazel Cryer who works for ACE, a community organisation in the west of Cardiff, and Peter Willis, working for Severn Wye, an independent charity and not-for-profit company – reflect on their experiences of the week and the give suggestions to take co-production in Wales another step forward.



*All videos were made by Malin Backman, Kelli Pearson and Anke de Vrieze during the week.