Why work together?


By the end of this unit you will have completed exercises exploring:

  • Project values - what makes your project unique. What will success look like?
  • Expressing your values - thinking about ways to communicate your values. When we are working on projects that will be remote, it is really important to consider how we can make then stand out.
  • The drivers of your project - gaps, strengths, risks - work through the following conversation prompts with your project team or on your own.
  • Your asset bank - what resources do you have already to support your remote project idea?

Embedding values

When challenges are presented, such as distance, time, or the unique circumstances of a global pandemic, we can find ourselves de-prioritising working together. All kinds of group work – whether it be partnerships across organisations or co-production processes involving many different types of people – require a commitment from those leading projects. So why make the extra effort to make projects participative despite barriers to doing so?

The many positive aspects of working together to make change and the need for working together is enshrined in policy in Scotland.

Participation is a priority for the delivery of high-quality health and social services. Policy such as the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan (Scottish Government, 2016) and 2020 vision set out for health and social care in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2013) have highlighted the need for participation in health and social care in Scotland.

It is now recognised within policy that participation must be an essential part of social care. One of the four main principles in the Christie commission (2011) is that public services must facilitate the empowerment of individuals and the wider community by involving them in the design and delivery of care.

The Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014 highlighted the need for services to be person-centred, with the community influencing the planning and delivery of services. In addition, the National Health and Social Workforce Plan, the Scottish Social Service Council (SSSC) codes of practice, and the Community Empowerment Act (2015) all state that there must be systems in place to get feedback from PWUS, their carers and families, and the public, to support the design and delivery of high-quality public services.
Gail McMillan (Participation: its impact on services and the people who use them)

If we consider a human rights based approach to social care delivery, one of the key principles of this is participation. People who use services have unique insights into their successes and failures. It is only this knowledge and working together that we will be able to deliver services that truly meet the needs of the people using them.


Iriss promotes co-production as a gold standard of participation, and one of the best ways to create change in social care. Co-production is a way of working with, rather than doing to, people and communities to achieve better outcomes. A co-production project sees people who access support as assets and builds on people’s existing capabilities. In addition, it breaks down the barriers between people who use services and professionals.

Co-production is called for when solutions need to be found that rely on knowledge from multiple sources, where each member of the co-production team has a skill or knowledge that the other team members need in order to find solutions (Durose, 2017).

Co-production projects are planned, developed and delivered by a group of people who have different backgrounds and interests. The outputs of a co-production process can be huge – services, processes and pathways; or small – a community hall’s furniture, a poster or a blog page.

Co-production sets the bar higher than standard participation. It relies on shifting power towards people who use services and carers, who must be included in a co-production team. However, in order for successful implementation of change it is equally important that the team includes relevant frontline workers, practitioners, managers and has buy-in from decision-makers.

It may be that in the current circumstances you are in, it is not possible to bring together a full co-production team. We would encourage you to hold the model of co-production as the gold standard of participation and, where you can, work to this model. This may involve using a variety of strategies to engage different people in your project work.

Iriss promotes bringing the members of a co-production team together to have conversations and to learn from one another. This allows for dialogue to be opened up and creates space for new ideas to grow from the cross-pollination of experiences. Things are possible even if we are not able to all be together in the same room. It is important that where possible we are still taking the time to work together so that we can maintain a person-centred and human rights based approach to service design and delivery.

Working in partnership

While co-production is used to describe processes where there is a mixed group of people collaborating, sometimes a project requires collaborative working between organisations. The project plan you develop during this course can be used interchangeably between co-production, partnership and workplace projects. It is up to you to work out what will be best suited to your situation. This course offers some adapted questions from our Partnerships & Co tool.

Articulating the value of your project

The best way to engage people in your project and recruit group members is to be able to clearly articulate the aims of your project and its values. There are many ways to do this and some are more obvious than others.

  1. Before you approach other people about the project, have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve and what the limitations of your project are. It is as important to identify the boundaries of your project as it is to focus on the big dreams that you hope to achieve. This shows people that you have thought through the impact of the work and are not going to try and bite off more than you can chew.
  2. Find multiple ways of communicating the values of the project. Try a written statement, recording presentations or videos, and social media.
  3. Develop clear branding that people can associate with the project so that they can quickly identify work associated with it.
  4. It helps to have the first steps of your evaluation already in place at the beginning of the project. This will help you let people know how you will measure the success of the project and what outcomes you are hoping to achieve. It also shows how you will measure the success of the project which can be inspiring in itself. Have a plan of what you want to do next if the project falls through or doesn’t work out as planned.
  5. If there are other similar projects that have happened elsewhere, share these examples with participants at the beginning. This can help them visualise how their input can support the project.
  6. Create a narrative around your project. Look at the bigger picture and try to paint a story of how the project will change people’s experiences and lives.
  7. Identify what is unique about the project.

Practical exercises

  • Project values - what makes your project unique. What will success look like?
  • The drivers of your project - gaps, strengths, risks - work through the following conversation prompts with your project team or on your own.
  • Your asset bank - what resources do you have already to support your remote project idea?

Read, listen, watch

  • Iriss on…Co-production to support an asylum seeker community
  • Listen to our Iriss.fm episode about Co-production Week 2018. We spoke to Sam Jordan from the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) about what Co-production Week is and some of the activities that took place over it. Kieran and Abbie from Young Movers talk about the work they do to involve children and young people in co-production and the event they led for co-production week.
  • Why, the government wondered, every time they tried to solve a problem, the problem seemed to get worse? The Parable of the blobs and squares shows that there is more to people than their problems – that the solution to problems lies in the problem itself, not in an imposed solution, and that co-production matters!

What makes co-production different from participation?

This video describes what co-production is and how to develop co-productive approaches to working with people who use services and carers. It explains the difference between co-production and participation.

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