Co-production: coaching and mentoring is the key to success

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 - 11:04am

It takes preparation for co-production to work well - blog by Wayne Nicholls from Expert Link.

Black and white hands shaking

People with lived experience need to have a good understanding of why they are taking part, how to get involved and how to utilise their lived experience to the best of their ability.

A good way of preparing people to fully participate in co-production is to use mentoring and coaching techniques. We’d like to share with you one or two examples showing the importance of mentoring from the perspective of those with lived experience.


“When I first started attending meetings I thought I was there to speak about my own personal journey but I noticed that when I started talking about it, the facilitator quickly moved the subject on. I began to doubt the reasons why I was there. My (then future) mentor explained the point of the meeting that I was needed and had a lot to offer.

I needed to understand how I could bring my 40-years of lived experience into the meeting, without telling my whole story. I realised that this was impacting on the rest of the group.

Through our mentoring sessions, we looked at how to present something without beating around the bush. Now, I have a really good understanding of how to use my experiences in the right way at the right time so that we stay focused on the topic. I also learnt how to be solution-focused and use my lived experience to feed into how things can improve”.


“When I first got involved in co-production I found it very hard to process information verbally and felt I wasn’t mentally equipped to have any input. I wanted to walk away.

With perseverance and a lot of support, I realised that I needed to stop playing the victim to my past and to change my way of thinking about myself. This was the only way I could begin to really make a difference.

What helped me was having a really good mentor who believed in me and encouraged me to begin believing in myself. It’s still hard at times, but being coached on my professional and personal development really helped me to put into context my lived experience and how it can best be used.

I have learnt a lot of new skills. The biggest lesson for me was helping me to bring my mind from chaos to order. I now try to visualise ideas rather than thinking in words alone and I no longer feel overwhelmed”.


“When I first got involved in co-production, I was overwhelmed by the bigger picture: how much there was to do and all of the different information that I needed to take in. I also didn’t feel I was worthy to take part in, or even to understand these things. I felt it was above me.

Having a mentor that took time to break it all down into bite-size chunks really helped me to understand things without being overwhelmed. We took things step-by-step, and I could digest the information at my own pace.

I am now speaking with commissioners, doing peer research for the local authority and taking part in meetings with the DWP. Using my lived experience has given me a lot more confidence and I now believe in myself.

It’s important to understand that each person has a different learning style and to work with them in a strengths-based way. People need to understand that their participation is really important and that they are more than worthy to take part. It is also essential to prepare for a meeting and to give feedback afterwards. There’s a big difference between having lived experience and being able to use that in a constructive way. It’s about enabling people to express themselves in different ways in different contexts.

Read more about mentoring and about co-production in our Co-Production Toolkit

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Wayne Nicholls

National Network Manager

Wayne is the National Network Manager at Expert Link.

Twitter: @expertlinkorg

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