Co-producing future plans: Home-Start West Lothian

home-start-copy-2-e1509614590513.pngHome-Start West Lothian (HSWL) are using co-production principles to develop its new three year strategic plan. Following a co-production workshop with the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) HSWL have been having open conversations with families, volunteers, staff, trustees and funders to allow a people-led approach to development.

This is part of HSWL’s desire to make volunteers and families feel heard and part of the running of the charity. This approach fits closely with Home-Start’s flexible ethos of family support and community development.

How it began

HSWL knew that the most authentic way to be community-led was to begin a conversation. They engaged families and volunteers through a series of questions on Facebook. These included:

  1. "What does Home-Start West Lothian do...?"
  2. What difference does the support we offer to your family make to you all?
  3. What do we do well?  How can we improve on this?
  4. What do we not do well? How can we improve on this?
  5. Are the services we're providing still relevant? If not, what could we stop doing & what else could we be doing?
  6. Who do we work well with? Who else could we be working with?

These questions were posted over two weeks specifically to families and volunteers. When the same people responded to all questions it became a natural progression to invite them to workshops.

These workshops coincided with HSWL’s 18th Anniversary so the questions fit with a message of ‘We’re grown up, now what?’ As well as workshops for service users, two workshops were run for trustees and staff.

Each of the workshops were written up and presented at the AGM to an audience of volunteers, staff, supported parents and key stakeholders (including funders and councillors) who then had facilitated discussions in small groups to identify key areas to develop.

Four groups at the AGM looked at the emerging issues that the workshop had identified and were asked to further explore the following questions:

  • How can we make sure we are reaching and meeting the needs of more diverse families and the volunteers?
  • How do we make sure we are engaging with Dads as much as Mums?
  • What are the barriers to people accessing our support, and how can we address these?

Six areas were identified within these discussions:

  • Dad’s work
  • Diversity
  • Antenatal Mental Health
  • Care-experienced parents
  • Drop-in services
  • Awareness raising

Awareness raising has been a consistent theme across the process, with all groups highlighting the need to raise our profile in order to reach more families. 

Key areas to develop with potential partners and funders included Dads work, Antenatal mental health, and Care experienced parents (parents who were in care themselves).

Underpinning this was a recognition that diversity was needed to be prioritised. Families also felt that a drop-in service would make Home-Start more accessible and may address the stigma of asking for help.

How it’s continuing

These conversations have led to families and volunteers developing new projects. Participants at the sessions have decided to set up a cooking group with facilitation support from HSWL. HSWL use their links with community organisation Cyrenians to provide food, and HSWL provide a space.

Similarly, two participants at the AGM co-production sessions have referred their partners to begin a dads’ group – an area of work that all groups identified as a gap in HSWL services.

A key part of this process has been showing volunteers and families more transparency in how projects develop. Opening these conversations improves HSWL’s approachability and creates a more mutual process.

Conclusion

This work is the start of the co-production journey, and has focused HSWL on the importance of involving the community they serve throughout the process of developing their core work.

Remaining reactive to the needs of the community is vital to the long-term sustainability of the project, and will continue to drive conversations.