Learning through Stories: Tuesday 15th November, Tayside Deaf Hub, Dundee

002.jpgWhen people are involved in making decisions that affect them and their communities, it can have a lasting impact, on their lives and how wider communities engage in shaping public services. The Scottish Co-production Network has gathered a vast range of these co-production stories from across Scotland, and beyond. But how can we use these to help deepen our understanding of the impact of co-production, and share what works to support others to embed co-production in their approach?

As part of Co-production Week Scotland, the network’s most recent learning event invited network members to explore what can be learned through stories of co-production. Network members came together in Dundee to share their own experiences, and to demonstrate some creative ways that people have come together to shape activities and support for their communities.

The event brought together around 50 participants to the Tayside Deaf Hub, a community facility run by local people which offers spaces for the activities run by the deaf and deafblind community in Dundee.

The event was opened by Olivia Hanley from Scottish Community Development Centre who welcome participants and invited them to start the day by meeting each other and talking about stories which have had an impact on them.

007.jpgThe first presentation was given by Ron Scrimgeour and Lizabeth Adam, members of the Deaflinks Board, a local organisation which evolved from direct demand from deaf and deafblind people for somewhere that truly met their needs and which involves them in all aspects of service planning and development. Deaflinks was set up by deaf people in January 2009 and is truly a deaf-led organisation. The vision of deaf and deafblind people in Tayside is to develop services, promote activities and learning that truly reflect the needs of sensory impaired people in the area that will empower them to become equal, independent and active members of the communities in which they live. Deaf Links have co-production embedded in everything they do. They work as equal partners with local deaf and deafblind people in developing and delivering services locally. Ron and Elizabeth told their own inspiring stories about life living with deafness/hearing difficulty, and how they grew the organisation from working with others who shared similar experiences. Ron talked about being listed as a ‘service user’, and how this made him and the other board members feel, and Elizabeth talked about how members of Deaflinks wanted to do something when they felt that services were out of date and didn’t treat them like individuals. Both shared their views on co-production, from their experiences of being involved in the planning and services of the organisation.

“The term doesn’t always sum up the dynamic energy of what co-production is, but co-production works”

“Co-production is often seen as a “quirky 3rd sector thing, but it needs to move beyond that”.

004.jpgSecond to speak were Louise Christie from Scottish Recovery Network and Ruth Brown from Dundee Voluntary Action. Louise and Ruth told their own stories of how they decided to work together on the Making Recovery Real project in Dundee. The project is a partnership involving local statutory and third sector partners and Scottish Recovery Network which is working to ensure that the voice of people with living with mental health problems is at the centre of the journey to transform mental health and support in Dundee. They do this by working with people to collect and share stories of lived experience and recovery to influence policy and practice and by creating more roles for people with lived experience in peer support, peer education and learning and in strategy development. Co-production is at the heart of this project as it is working with people to increase opportunities for people living with mental health problems to have both a say and role in the design and delivery of services and supports to improve mental health and wellbeing in Dundee. Louise and Ruth talked about how through Making Recovery Real they wanted to find ways to make use of the local networks and resources to support mental health in Dundee, and how they partners involved had a collective commitment to doing things differently which put lived experience at the heart.

“We had a reflective start, which took time but was valuable for when we brought the groups together to identify priorities for the project”.

“We wanted a huge splash when we launched it so we brought together stories. The film had a huge impact and showed the power of sharing stories”.

009.jpgAfter a chance to network over the break, participants heard personal experiences from Greenbuds, a project based Dundee Association for Mental Health, that encourages individuals to access outdoor activities to improve mental health and wellbeing. Participants are involved in all aspects of the project including planning, delivery, evaluation and development, and many of the group came along to the event and gave a joint input. Firstly Kevin shared a presentation about Greenbuds and the activities that they do, then Shona gave her personal story and shard the impact being involved in Greenbuds. Gordon then shared a poem about co-production from another member of the group, Tammy.

The group then facilitated an exercise where we used art and creative writing to share stories of co-production. Here are some of the pieces that were created, and some of the comments from participants at the event:

.. the creative activities inspired me to think about approaching the next event I am involved in differently!”

“the most useful part of the event was the activity as it put me outside of my comfort zone”

“being able to share stories and experiences with others who can help shift the balance of power”

“Brilliant! Great people. A real buzz”