I have often been asked to write about our day to day experiences of coproduction in practice, but have never managed to get around to doing it…until now. As any of us who work in frontline organisations or organisations that are involved in any environments that are shifting and changing
will know, we often do not have the time or space to step outside of the immediate experiences that we are present in, and reflect on the broader local and global contexts within which work, and which impacts on our daily lives, and that of our families and communities.
At the start of this year we completed an evaluation of our work and learning over the past 16 years, conducted independently by expert researchers in the field. They took a specific focus on our most recent history of working with the ideas of coproduction in real and practical ways. This process of evaluation, of revisiting what we have done, the choices which we made and why, in what places and with whom, and how this emerged the frameworks and prototypes for our theories of change, has shone an illuminating light on the building blocks and processes that have enabled our shift from a community empowerment network undertaking involvement and engagement work, to one which is operating in and responding to the major environmental, structural and behavioural shifts that our public institutions and communities are currently experiencing.
Professor John Benington, giving the key note address at our Coproduction Research Conference in
July 2015 said that these local challenges everywhere are symptoms of global challenges. That whilst
the foreground of public policy is dominated by narratives of austerity and crises in public systems
these are reflections of a range of background changes that are simultaneously global- changing our
context ecologically, politically, technological, socially, economically and organisationally.
WCEN has had nearly two decades of experience in hot-housing learning and practice within a local
contained space, which has simultaneously been impacted by theses global changes. We have felt
the full range of public policy that has come down from various Government pipelines, demographic
shifts in people and populations and the rise in so called lifestyle diseases, that is now the biggest
cause of early deaths all around the world. This all running alongside the rapid growth of
technologically enabled eco- systems that have fundamentally altered how we communicate and
connect with each other and the world around us.
This gives us a unique vantage point. Having seen various Governments and their policies and
programmes come and go, whilst remaining organisationally awake and alert and together, we are
able to draw an informed analysis on what we believe will work, and will not work, in what has
become a shared and collective endeavour to enable everyday people to be at the centre of the
change and transformation that is impacting their lives and that of their communities. We have seen
most recently, in very dramatic ways through Brexit and Trump, of what can happen when we do not
get this right, and are unable to foresee and plan for change effectively.
The launch of our new website, and regular blog post from the WCEN team and our friends and
fellow travellers will serve, I hope, as dispatches from the frontline of our changing times, and the
efforts that we are making together to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our communities
are not being left behind, and that all and everyone has a genuine stake in helping to shape our
better, smarter futures. If we are to survive and thrive as local and global communities, there is, in
fact, no other option.