For Co-production Week (3-9 July 2023), Redeka, one of our Co-production and Community Engagement Workers, looks back on our 29-year journey towards Co-production celebrating all our key milestones and where we’re at today!
“From when Mary Frances Trust was established in 1994 to today, Co-production has been at the heart of everything that we do. It may not have been under this title, but the ethos was the same: services work best when they are designed together with the people that use them.
Originally, MFT had an organic way of co-producing with their clubhouse model whereby clients were involved in day-to-day communications and decisions, contributing to the direction of the Charity. In recent years, due to the growth and evolution of our services and delivery, we have established an Advisory Group of people with lived experience of mental health services and continued to embed Co-production within our culture.
Our Advisory Group ensures that we are listening to the people that use our services, and their input is highly valued. We have been working on continuously improving Advisory Group involvement at every level of our organisation, and we have made some tremendous progress. From strategic level involvement such as new communication links with our Trustees [see photo], attending commissioning meetings, inputting into our new strategy to operational level involvement such as sitting on interview panels, supporting with staff induction, designing our new Welcome Pack for new clients, and contributing to new courses and activities.
We are also making headway with creating a culture of Co-production, where the values are carried by all of our staff, and the organisation is committed to evaluating and improving the way we do Co-production. Our staff are recognising when there are opportunities for people with lived experience to be involved in projects, and we are making progress with people being involved from the beginning, rather than feedback at the end. Recently Kate, our Community Connections Virtual and Face to Face Support Co-Ordinator, was able to co-produce one of our new courses “Let’s Talk” with a client, who enjoyed the process so much, they have now joined our Advisory Group. This was such a positive experience for everybody involved, and we now have another valued member to support and steer Mary Frances Trust – amazing!
The importance of Co-production at MFT has been further demonstrated by investing resource into the team – we have increased our staffing level to two Co-production and Community Engagement Workers (Jan and myself), who can now focus on different aspects of Co-production and build upon our current progress. Co-production is also a key part of our new strategy that will be released in the coming months and as it was co-produced with staff, Advisory Group members, Management Board and Trustees, it was only fitting that Co-production emerged as a priority for everyone!
Plans for the future
We have come a long way in making Co-production a paramount practice that we use, however there is always room for evaluation and improvement – it wouldn’t be Co-production without it!
Moving forward, we want to focus on continuing to strengthen the Advisory Group’s presence and influence in the organisation by being involved in the beginning of decision making processes and projects, supporting staff to embrace Co-production with education, training and stronger communication links with the Advisory Group. We also want to continue to build networks with other lived experience groups in the borough to learn and share good practice.
Without Co-production and people using their experience to help develop services, we would be missing so many opportunities to create the right type of support and service that meet the needs of the community. Often, this is the driving force behind our dedicated Advisory Group volunteers – they want to help MFT to provide the right type of support in the right way for the people that need to access it.
If you’ve enjoyed hearing about the Co-production journey at MFT, make sure you read Advisory Group member Eleanor’s personal experience of Co-production.