Kindness, empathy and truly listening don’t cost anything but make a big difference - Hannah Kane

This year’s theme for Co-production Week Scotland is ‘Putting Co-production into Practice’. For Scottish Recovery Network key to this is taking the time to build meaningful relationships and human connections. It involves making sure people can contribute, on an equal basis, in a way that suits them throughout the process.

The Moving from Consultation to Co-design project with NHS Lanarkshire is doing just that. There is a real commitment from all involved to ensure lived experience is at the heart of developing a new service for people living with complex mental health problems, who may attract a diagnosis of personality disorder.

Initially, we reached out and made connections with local people, groups and organisations. We wanted to ask how best to involve the people of Lanarkshire. Something that came out really strongly is that taking the time to do things differently can work. This approach is not about quick consultation on existing services. It’s about involving people on a much wider scale than just those currently accessing the service. Including people with lived experience from across Lanarkshire who need support.

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We offered a variety of ways for people to share their views on what matters to them and how this new service could support their mental health recovery. People got involved through our online conversation cafes, speaking directly with local organisations, through one-one conversations and a short online survey. It was important that people felt able to make decisions about their involvement and how they wanted to take part. Instead of giving people a ‘take it or leave it’ option or a form to fill in, we truly did want to facilitate people’s involvement as much as we could.

Hannah Kane, Network Officer, Scottish Recovery Network
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Once we identified key themes from the engagement process, we hosted two co-design sessions in partnership with staff from NHS Lanarkshire. We collaborated with people to turn ideas into practical plans for the service. Suggestions included a drop in wellbeing hub, a collaborative and holistic approach to care planning, co-ordination of services and support and training that is co-produced and co-delivered. The need for a trauma-informed approach was a big part of the feedback given. People told us they felt listened to and valued for the first time, that they could use their experiences to create change for themselves and others.

Human connection has such a powerful impact when it comes to co-production. Taking an extra couple of meetings to build relationships and trust with people before they felt comfortable coming along to some of the events was massive. Even just offering to stay behind if anyone wants to chat shows people how much you care. We often overlook how much building relationships with people is such a great resource in itself, and it was really apparent in this project as many people who took part are now involved in other pieces of work we are doing.

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My advice to other services and organisations who want to truly meaningfully engage with people who have lived experience is just to be clear from the outset around WHY you want to engage? Is it because you want to develop something new and you truly value the contribution of the people who will be affected most by what you develop? Remember that building trust and relationships is one of the most valuable resources that we can have as part of these projects. Kindness, empathy and truly listening to people doesn’t cost anything, and they make the biggest difference when it comes to engagement and creating positive change.

You can read the full Moving from Consultation to Co-design report and watch the project film at www.scottishrecovery.net from 23 November.

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Hannah Kane, Network Officer, Scottish Recovery Network

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