The 10 rules of co-production

Just a little reminder about the rules, so they’re all in one place

#1 Nothing… starts on time

Be patient. Remember people have lives.

#2 Research, research, repeat

Know your subject backwards and then forget everything

#3 Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Make sure you are tooled-up for the journey

#4 Find your gatekeepers

Find those key-holders and password-knowers

#5 Whoever comes, they are the right people

If it’s only 5 or if it’s 50, they are the right people

#6 Be human

Smile, small talk, pass compliments

#7 Expect the unexpected

It will happen

#8 Plan proactively, practice reactively

Improvise and don’t worry

#9 It’s OK to be human

And it’s OK to care

#10 Listen

Above everything else, listen.

#11 Make sure you have some good boots

Pretty sure I mentioned these, but just in case.

And alongside the rules, remember…

Be patient

Be passionate

Be curious

Don’t panic

And what else, when all this is over?

When all is done, your outputs are out there, the community is happy, and the evaluation forms have gone, you will feel hollow and melancholic.

The community you have been a part of are your friends, and you will miss them – their voices, their laughter and those amazing cakes. This all normal. This is the part of community engagement the co-production theorists don’t tell you about, but I have. I feel it every single time.

Think about what you achieved in those few short weeks or months. Remember the enthusiasm and the positivity you felt. Remember the stories you’ve heard and the sights you’ve seen.

Drone photos from Cinematic Sky

Give yourself a round of applause or a pat on the back. Buy yourself a treat, because you deserve it. You did something extra-human, extra-ordinary and unique. You are good human being and a great co-production facilitator.

Spend a few days thinking about what you managed to create. Think about what went wrong. And not everything will have worked. Not everything you hoped to achieve will have been possible, though you’re probably not going to have been thwarted by a pandemic, as was the case with the Inch project.

Think about things you’d do different. Think about all you’ve read in this guide, and think about the way you’d write it, and do it better than I have.

A little reflective practice is a remarkable thing. It tunes us into future possibilities, reinforces our confidence and allows us to dream a little.

That Nörsjek coffee table is spectacular, so maybe you should try the matching Yörtvejsk cabinet next.

It’s built with the same tools. That’s the thing about co-production and IKEA. When you’ve done one, the next one is so much easier, and makes so much more sense.


And a final final word, which I had thought to include but forgot. If there were a motto to suit participatory engagement and community co-production, then I can think of no better than Henry David Thoreau’s words…

‘It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

That is what I try do every day, and it’s something we all should aspire to in our work and in our lives.


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