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Of all the resources we’ve created at Homeless Link, one of my proudest achievements is our Co-production Toolkit, developed in partnership with Expert Link back in 2018. This publication includes an Introduction to Co-production as well as insight from many others with experience and expertise. It’s only a starting point, but the toolkit opens the window onto an exciting and inspirational world.

I first became passionate about co-production when I visited the Booth Centre in Manchester. Not only are they exceptional at delivering a broad range of activities and services, but they are a co-produced organisation. This means that every part of the organisation involves the people who access it; from the day-to-day running to decision-making, involvement in recruitment, attending strategic meetings and much more.

What really got me hooked was seeing that co-production was transformative. People might walk into the Booth Centre because they are experiencing homelessness but they walk out with their talents, interests, skills, personality and spark reignited. When people are valued, listened to, trusted and involved, amazing things can happen.

This is also reflected in the work of another amazing co-production champion, Arts and Homelessness International (AHI).  AHI are a great example of how to co-create a whole organisation; with 50% of their Board and staff having lived experience of homelessness. Regularly bringing together arts and homelessness organisations from around the world, their work is innovative and inspirational. Not only that, they’re taking co-production and co-creation in new and exciting directions.

AHI are currently collaborating with two Local Authorities, Coventry and Haringey, to co-create their rough sleeping strategies. They will work through a participatory, policy-making methodology called Legislative Theatre with specialist Katy Rubin who recently facilitated the co-creation of the Greater Manchester Homelessness Prevention Strategy. This process will build on the already strong commitments both Coventry and Haringey have in co-creation, to bring about deeper culture change and develop strategies with the people most affected by them. At the heart of the process is re-balancing power – genuine co-creation breaks through existing power dynamics and structures.

Another innovative strand to their work is their upcoming Arts and Homelessness Leadership Programme which aims to work with 8 artists and creatives with lived experience of homelessness over a period of 12-18 months. The programme will be co-produced but is likely to include elements of training, involvement in AHI projects, a personal budget and space for creative work.  The ‘Associates’ will also be become co-creation champions and trainers for the wider sector.  

Co-Production looks different everywhere but there are steps everyone can take towards introducing co-production to your organisation. This can be anything from finding new ways to open up conversations with people accessing services, setting up peer networks, recruiting staff with lived experience (and including people with lived experience in recruitment) and involving people accessing your services in decision making.

If you want to hear more about co-production in action, I recommend joining Expert Link’s monthly Conversations on Co-production where people with lived experience of homelessness and those with a passion for co-production come together to talk about the issues that matter.

In the meantime, enjoy Co-production Week! Check out our resources to consider how you might take that next step forward and let us know your progress so we can share more examples of co-production in action! Get in touch with me at Vicky.album@homelesslink.org.uk