In this blog we reflect on a productive partnership that has helped nurture systems change. We look at what elements most contributed to this relationship and the role coproduction can play in catalysing change.
Common Ambition and Fulfilling Lives South East (FLSE)
The Brighton and Hove Common Ambition project works with people who have lived experience of homelessness, frontline providers and commissioners in order to improve health services and outcomes for people experiencing homelessness in Brighton & Hove. This is done through co-production. Common Ambition is funded by Health Foundation and is run in partnership between ARCH Healthcare, Justlife, University of Brighton, Brighton and Hove CCG and Brighton and Hove City Council Public Health Department. Funding was secured in 2021 and the project is guided by a passionate steering group of experts by experience.
The FLSE project, based at BHT Sussex, is one of 12 partnerships funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to provide intensive support for people experiencing multiple and complex needs, involve people with lived experience at all levels and challenge and change systems that negatively affect people facing MCN. While this eight-year project will soon be coming to an end, we recognised the potential of collaborating with Common Ambition.
At FLSE, we were keen to collaborate with the Common Ambition team from the start; we saw a real opportunity to share our learning while amplifying our voices to champion for changes in healthcare services and systems to improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
What we did together
Ever since early 2021, monthly catch ups between staff members helped facilitate a collaborative approach, providing a regular space for exchange. Nicky Pyper, Project Manager of Common Ambition, says ‘The support Fulfilling Lives has given Common Ambition since the very beginning of the project has been invaluable. Always on hand to discuss arising issues, share learnings and make connections, we would not be where we are now without them. The monthly catch ups have been really useful as a place to share best practice, look at how we can work together and ask for advice. Then knowing the team were always willing to share their knowledge or could point us in the right direction for help when we were designing the project, bringing our lived experience groups together and then carrying out research was such a support to the project.’
We invited Common Ambition to internal Project Group meetings about promoting changes to address health inequalities, shared our reports and blogs and invited the Common Ambition team to our Action Group to get first-hand accounts of service experiences from FLSE volunteers with lived experience.
Both FLSE and Common Ambition teams share a commitment to co-production and this was an important part of our partnership work. FLSE has worked for eight years to test lots of ways to bring co-production to life and have learnt useful ways to align co-production and systems change efforts. We wanted to share the FLSE approach and learning of facilitating co-production in practical systems’ change projects to support the Common Ambition team shape and set up their co-production approaches.
Co-producing with partners and people with lived experience weaves authenticity and integrity into the fabric of systems change. It makes sense to involve the people who will be using services in their design, delivery, and evaluation, and to work closely with those who know them best to ensure a safe, accessible working environment. Furthermore, the professional relationship that develops as a result of inclusive, equitable collaboration is different in quality to one that does not prioritise these approaches. When all invested parties work together towards a common goal, without rivalry or a defensive position, the partnership becomes supportive in nature; with the attitude that we are helping each other to achieve a common goal. This mutual trust is the foundation for a respectful, strong, supportive, and effective partnership.
Sharing learning – a deeper dive
One of the highlights of this collaboration was FLSE’s Service User Engagement team creating and facilitating custom-made training sessions for Common Ambition’s Steering Group members. The sessions focussed on topics such as confidentiality, professional boundaries, mutual respect, effective communication, active listening as well as what real co-production looks like in practice and how it is different from other forms of engagement.
Our team adopted a trauma-informed lens while co-designing the sessions. Prior to the training, our team visited a steering group meeting to familiarise themselves with the members of the group and find out what their expectations and asks were for the content of the sessions – what and what not to include. Then, we invited the staff from the Project to review and feedback on the training to account for any sensitivities or requirements and ensure that we enhanced the group’s ongoing learning. This was a successful strategy because it allowed us to build an open and trusting relationship from the very beginning and develop a sense of psychological safety for the group members. This was also reflected in the feedback we received from the participants, with all of them giving us a 10/10 score to the question whether they would recommend us to a friend or colleague.
For us, these are the three tips to consider when facilitating workshops for service user groups:
- Get to know your audience and use a trauma-informed approach based on principles of safety, trust and transparency, choice, collaboration, and voice.
- Address barriers to inclusion which can be thought of in terms of making language accessible, accounting for any mobility/disability issues for example.
- The topic you present on may be entirely new to your group, so be prepared to tailor your session and change tack if any tricky situations arise.
Nicky Pyper commented about the training that “We can’t thank the Fulfilling Lives team enough for the fantastic training you delivered. It was exactly what the group wanted and was thoroughly sensitive to the group’s needs throughout. It was the perfect mix of presenting, group work, activities and discussion. The group all commented on how great the trainers were, in particular noting their down to earth and caring approach. It didn’t feel like we were in a classroom setting, rather that the whole group was going on the journey together. Group members commented that they felt like they learnt a lot. We will be building on the work Fulfilling Lives did with us and making sure we revisit our learnings regularly.
Looking to the future
As FLSE is now reaching the final stage of the project, we are proud to know that Common Ambition will continue influencing the system to make primary healthcare more accessible to and impactful for people experiencing multiple and complex needs.
Michaela Rossmann from the FLSE team reflected that “being open and proactive in partnerships is key when trying to influence systems. For me, sharing learning and supporting each other, finding commonalities and focussing on the positives are what makes the partnership with Common Ambition so unique. It’s built on trust, mutual respect and understanding. Common Ambition has been an ally for FLSE from the start and it’s been great to see the project go from strength to strength.”
Nicky Pyper reflected that “Common Ambition will carry on the FLSE legacy of putting the voice of those with lived experience at the heart of system and service change and will continue to advocate for co-production. We will also be continuing to shine a light on ‘Bright Spots’ and raising awareness around the challenges people experiencing MCN face when accessing and using healthcare services. Areas that our lived experience groups have found particularly interesting are the implementation of frailty scores for people experiencing MCN and treatment in A&E, we hope to continue to explore this.”
For more information about FLSE’s systems change work to address health inequalities please read our Ripple Effect impact report
For more information about the Common Ambition project, please visit their website
Michaela Rossmann, Systems Change Officer:
Aditi Bhonagiri, Engagement and Co-production Worker
Ian Harrison, Engagement and Co-production Worker
Rebecca Rieley, System Change Lead
For further information about Fulfilling Lives work in this area, please contact:
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