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A person is at the centre of a circle of circles, each circle highlights the different roles that person can play - volunteer, researcher, mentor, coach, leader/associate, paid system roles

Valuing Lived Experience: Learning with National Voices

January 24, 2022

Lizzie reflects on her role as a Learning Partner supporting National Voices to develop their Voices for Improvement project.

At Co-Production Collective, we believe that reflection and learning are fundamental to co-production. It’s right there in two of our core values – we’re challenging and we’re transparent. This means asking questions, investing the time to really listen to the answers, and using that to shape our continued activity. It also means involving others in that process, bringing different perspectives together to share insights and support positive change.

We support others to work in this way too and for the last six months, I’ve been working alongside Rachel Matthews (who some of you may recognise from our UCL Centre for Co-Production days!) and Keymn Whervin at National Voices, the coalition of health and social care charities in England. Alongside many other contributors, they’ve been co-designing a prototype programme called Voices for Improvement, in partnership with Q Community.

Voices for Improvement

As anyone who is part of our co-production community knows, those with lived experience have so much knowledge about how health and care could be improved, but very rarely get the chance to influence this at a strategic level. Equally, we know many leaders want to develop their own practice and embed co-production across their organisation in order to improve outcomes, but traditional methods like committees and advisory groups can be limited in their effectiveness.

Voices for Improvement provides the opportunity for those with lived experience to provide coaching and mentoring to those in senior positions in health and social care. Rachel and Keymn have experienced this for themselves – Rachel comes from a healthcare and research background, while Keymn brings years of lived experience as a carer. Both have a passion for co-production and improvement but have faced many obstacles as they’ve tried to make this a reality across organisations and systems. However, the combination of coaching and working in partnership has been transformative for both of them; this example of bringing their Lived and Learned Experience together demonstrates the real potential of Voices for Improvement to make a difference across health and care.

A Learning Partnership

My role in this work has been as a Learning Partner, supporting Rachel and Keymn by offering space for reflection, some friendly check-and-challenge, and asking lots of questions. We’ve been exploring ‘what’s changing?’, ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ as the programme has developed, as well as identifying the barriers and enablers of working in this way and doing things differently.

Just like this programme itself, I’ve not been doing this work on my own either. I’ve been joined by two Co-Learning Partners, Richard and Marlon, who have been designing and delivering the evaluation of the coaching and mentoring training programme alongside me. Their lived experience adds depth, brings new ideas, and identifies different questions than I could do on my own.

Some of the themes we’ve identified include:

  • Working with the willing - collaborating and co-producing with those who 'get it' creates momentum and energy which brings other people along with you too
  • The importance of flexibility - we need to meet people where they're at, and work with what is
  • Tolerating the blur - balancing working flexibly and with uncertainty, at the same time as trying to move a project forward practically, is a real challenge

Find out more

If this blog has sparked your interest and you’re keen to learn more, come along to on Valuing Lived Experience: Learning with National Voices on Wednesday 9th February, 10.30am-12pm. This virtual event will bring together lots of different voices to share more about the programme, what we’ve learnt so far, and how you can get involved.

Find out more and register via the Eventbrite page. You’re also very welcome to get in touch with me:

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