Connecting as equals: Conversations on co-production


This week on our Conversation on Co-production event we talked about Connecting as Equals. To help shape the conversation, as in previous events, we posed ourselves a couple of questions. What do you think the barriers are to connecting? and What tools do you use to build connections within the group?

I am never surprised by our conversations, but at the start I am always curious to see where it lands and what nuggets or pearls of wisdom will be revealed and how they are revealed. Today was no exception.

Although I try hard to split our time evenly across the all of the questions we pose ourselves, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. Things that I thought were history and which we’d recognised as a barrier and moved on from were still there, loud, proud and very centre stage.

So let’s look at some of the main themes,

Language.

This is still an issue for many. The use of language as a way of excluding people or imposing [knowingly or not] power and authority over another person is by far one of the easiest ways to stay disconnected and yet worse still make people feel inferior or diminish there self-worth. The use of technical language or anagrams without plain language will often mean that people can’t or won’t participate for fear of looking incompetent.

People

We are only human aren’t we? You would think that in today’s world we would be mindful enough to recognise that some people have been on really challenging journeys, filled with unimaginable things. As human beings our experience not only shapes who we are but how we feel and how we engage with the wider world. We need to recognise that people may need support to fully engage.

We also need to recognise that for some, whose lived experience is very different to those they support, have real human emotions too and one of those is fear. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of what might happen, fear that won’t be able to manage people or expectations.

Bureaucratic Cultures

The systems that we move within, possibly driven by fear at times, has in parts developed into cultures of miss-trust where red tape and the “them and us” culture thrives. Sometimes when peer research is carried out within communities in order for it to become accepted as having any authority the researchers have to jump through hoops to get it accepted. Why? It seems that any research has to go beyond the normal procedure of verification just because its from “them.

Time and Relationships.

An old saying is that “time heals all” and that is probably true here to. Co-production takes time, relationships take time to build. But with time and meaningful relationships we can overcome a lot of the challenges listed above. We would have the time to explain our language, maybe using Plain Language or Easyread or even set up systems to help people understand technical jargon.

We would have time to recognise the potential in people and the abilities within communities which in turn would mean that we wouldn’t feel the need to police or impose authority. We wouldn’t fear the unknown because we would start to trust. In time we could become known and accepted and not challenged. In time we could support one another to grow and flourish, to become confident within ourselves to meaningfully participate.

Resources

But I guess a lot of this is about money, resources and the drive to meet outcomes. But if we did have both the money and resources and we had the time without the pressure of short outcome deadlines, then our world could, or even would, be very different.

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