Co-production (and more widely collaboration) has been the driving force for our place-based programme. We realised there were communities in Scotland that we were not reaching, despite many of them being among those facing the biggest challenges. We worked with other funders to identify the places that none of us were managing to connect with and, along with our partners*, began to develop a programme that would work differently.
At the heart of this was a shift in the power dynamic that almost inevitably exists between funders and the people whose lives we exist to positively impact upon. That, in my view, is the very essence of co-production. Through the place-based programme we aim to get alongside communities and play an enabling role as they develop their voices, confidence and belief in their ability to achieve change. It is crucial that we proactively seek out people whose voices are seldom heard, and who therefore traditionally are often the furthest from holding power. Much has been written (particularly in Scotland) about the impact of people having – or not having – agency within their own lives and the crux of the place-based programme is to try to tackle that fundamental issue, with the ultimate aim of creating lasting change.
We are beginning to see learning emerge from the programme, particularly from Cumnock (East Ayrshire) where we have been working for some time with a cluster of communities. It is clear that a collaborative approach is vital, in particular working closely with the local authority and others so that action can be taken on local issues. East Ayrshire Council has supported the development of community-led action plans and in Cumnock this has resulted in a number of ‘quick wins’ for the community. As people have seen their participation result in tangible, positive change, their confidence, resilience and belief has grown. Only time will tell, but in theory this should be a virtuous cycle in which participation continues to grow as people see real change resulting from their efforts. Key to this will be the increasing, over time, collaboration and co-production between the community and the multiple agencies and networks supporting the community and in this way enabling meaningful involvement of the community in the planning and delivery of the services impacting on their lives
The stories of people who live in some of Scotland’s most marginalised communities show that we have a long way to go in realising a more equal society, in which co-production is ‘business as usual’. However, the same stories also demonstrate the immense skill, experience and energy that exist across our communities. If we can get behind that, letting go of power, trusting in people and working collaboratively, then I think we have a real chance of creating lasting change and, ultimately a much better Scotland for us all to live in.
Corra Foundation (the Foundation)
14 – 20 November is #CoProWeekScot
*The Place-based programme is delivered, developed and funded through a partnership between: Corra Foundation; Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation; Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Lankelly Chase; and the Tudor Trust.