In the November issue of the ENIL Newsletter, we wrote about our work on the ELOSH project. This Europe-wide project, with national partners in seven countries, is focused on developing training materials on integrated support and housing for different groups with support needs (disabled people, including people with mental health problems, and homeless people). ENIL’s role in the project is to provide expert guidance on how to ensure the material and pilot training packages are co-produced with people who use services.
While more common in some countries, ‘co-production’ is a new concept in many parts of Europe. ENIL defines it as “inclusive working practices between experts by experience (disabled people) and organisations. It is about equal partnership and collaboration between parties passionate about improving service provision. Every person involved in the process of co-production is valued, respected and listened to, with everyone involved in designing, developing and delivering. Co-production improves services, improves communities and can help make Independent Living a reality for all.”
In ELOSH, working in co-production with people who use services means that the national partners in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Greece, Ireland and Finland are expected to involve service users in the local coalitions, the localisation of the training materials (i.e. adapting the training to the national context), preparation and delivery of the trainings. One of the more successful examples of involving service users in this process was provided by the Slovenian project partner – ŠENT – the Slovenian Organisation for Mental Health.
In order to better explain the benefits of co-production and to demonstrate how it can work in practice, ENIL decided to interview Andreja Štepec from Slovenia, a mental health user who co-produced the ELOSH training material and delivered the training together with ŠENT.
Please tell us your name and about your background.
My name is Andreja Štepec. Since 2005, I have been working at ŠENT. Initially, I was working on rehabilitation. I was then employed in our office for information, projects and destigmatization. In 2008, I became a president of the user board in ŠENT. I was also working on legislation and received a lot of support from our professionals. Since 2008, I have been working for ŠENT full time.
How would you define ‘co-production’?
It is a win-win situation. Users have life experience, not just knowledge from books. Like me, users and professionals are equal and working hand in hand with each other. This gives the best results in terms of programmes for users.
How did you ensure that the principles of co-production were firmly embedded within the training?
Users feel that they are equal and that their opinion matters. As I am a user, also working as a co-producer, users are able to express freely and without fear when they feel something is wrong. They therefore approach me with any issue.
It is also important that users in the programme were encouraged by the profesionals and that their views were not limited or interrupted in any way by the professionals.
What are the benefits of having a co-productive approach to service design and delivery?
Users have practical experiences and they have a lot of solutions for their needs, because they must deal with specific barriers in their life. Only they can tell what they need and what is best for them, so they must be included in these processes from the beginning to the end, as well as in the evaluation.
What do services and organisations need to do to ensure they start developing a co-productive approach?
They need a will to do their job right – to empower users and create programmes and services for them. Not just to comply with standards, but to satisfy the users’ needs.
What would you say to people who believe co-production is too difficult to achieve?
Co-production is very easy to achieve; you just have to give users the right and chance to talk about their experience. Many of us are experts in our field and we can also do many other things. Furthermore, many of us are highly educated people and have a lot of knowledge from other fields.
Photo: © ŠENT
To find out more about ELOSH, please go to: www.elosh.eu
For more information on co-production, please see: http://enil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FAQ_Co-production.pdf