Category Archives: thinking

Co-production and what it means for organisational culture

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Noreen Blanluet. Reposted from an original on Medium.

Co-production in public services: a complex journey of change

“Co-production is an asset-based approach to public services which enables citizens and professionals to share power and work together in equal and reciprocal relationships.” (Co-production Network for Wales)

Co-production is a journey, not a binary measure. It is the organisational equivalent of a personal path to self-actualisation, in which it isn’t possible to finally arrive, stop growing, and tick the “done” box. Instead it is a constantly evolving process of striving with curiosity, collective learning, and incremental improvement.

Effective co-production relies on five core practices:

1. Recognising that everyone without exception has something to offer, and beginning with the strengths that are present in our workforces and communities;

2. Building networks of peers and networks of networks, that can share knowledge, expertise and experience and bring together a diverse range of contributions;

3. Focusing on what matters to the people using public services, and shifting the focus from the systems to the humans involved in them;

4. Establishing strong relationships based on trust, respect and equality;

5. Organisations taking on a facilitation role in which they enable communities to draw on their resources first, and then offer relevant and suitable expertise to fill gaps in provision.

Certainly at the beginning of the co-production journey, public service organisations hold a duty to open the conversation and break away from the conventional model of remote decision-making and service development. However this must be done with an ever-renewed awareness of the locus of power: while you can invite people into a conversation, imposing an agenda and a process is simply not co-production.

This is why community development practices have an essential role to play to re-energise and re-enable citizens suffering from cynicism and resignation at not having been heard for too long. It’s a delicate balance: organisations must create a space and keep it open, but in return citizens must step towards this open door and contribute their voices. Where opportunities, responsibility and power are being tentatively offered, communities need to be able to meet organisations and match them as partners in this evolutionary conversation. Community development can and should enable this in parallel with organisational transformation.

More and more public services are recognising the need to adopt co-productive practices in order to create long-term effectiveness, cost savings, and improve delivery in a complex and ever-changing social and economic landscape. Legislative or policy compliance can provide the initial nudge by imposing a statutory duty for them to “do co-production”. However they are being required to navigate, without a map, the tension between investing time and resources to create sustainable future services, while delivering essential provision right now under increasing pressures.

Many might be hoping for a new, simple, one-size-fits-all, fast and effective system that will solve that tension. Unfortunately co-production isn’t simple: while its principles are straightforward, their practical application requires flexibility, innovative thinking, and adaptability to constantly evolving contexts. It cannot offer a one-size-fits-all solution. People, situations, teams and communities are endlessly variable. The beauty of co-production is that identifying and building on our specific set of assets and resources will return the best possible result for us, which will look different from everyone else’s. But this means that the same core principles will result in context-specific outcomes created with care and awareness, not rolled out blindly regardless of local needs. Nor is co-production fast. Building the solid, trusting relationships that underpin it requires time, commitment, and showing up with openness and consistency. It’s an inner journey as much as an organisational one for all involved.

That is why successfully working to co-production principles requires a radical mindset shift, which translates into a significant culture change for the whole organisation: becoming a learning organisation means getting comfortable with the uncertainty that characterises complex systems, approaching situations with the cultural humility to listen with openness and draw on a range of expertise, and taking calculated risks to test and iterate potential solutions, before scaling those that work in a context-specific way. This requires an authentic leadership that recognises the importance of building genuine relationships of trust, and that enables both the workforce and the recipients of services to be engaged and empowered.

Without this understanding, attempting to roll out co-production as a process-based approach will at best have limited success, and at worst may fail spectacularly. Process-based “co-production” cannot truly deliver effective and sustainable change, because it is missing the point.

For services already under huge pressure, it might seem like too big an ask. It is undeniably a big commitment that will take time; however it is still a better solution than continuing to struggle in vain with increasingly failing systems. By applying a co-productive approach internally to begin with, we can realise that we already have a lot of what we need in the assets and the resources of our teams and workforce, as well as our service users and their communities. It requires breaking with routine to take a bold step and ask: “What matters to you?”, and then truly listening.

While policy and legislation are setting a direction of travel as well as a statutory obligation, too many organisations are still uncertain how to tackle the transition. For co-production to really become the basis of public services, investment is necessary not only in training and toolkits, networks and resources, but also to transform leadership mindset and organisational culture. Explicit support is required to accelerate the pace of change, and to help our public services grow into the co-productive organisations that we need them to be.

Noreen is a strategic co-production consultant who has been observing the recent evolution of public services and is convinced that more positive change is in the works. Linkedin. Twitter.


GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Why should I be thinking about Data Maturity?

This is one of a series of guest blog posts on topics relevant to public services in Wales, written by Dyfrig Williams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the Cutting Edge Audit project for the Wales Audit Office, which looks at how we can challenge our existing use of data and technology and assumptions that we normally take for granted. We’ve been thinking radically about how we might use new technology to transform the way that we work.

I’ve been working on how the Wales Audit Office acquires data to give us deeper knowledge and fresh insight. That’s involved looking at how we produce and make use of Open Data, how we make data accessible and data warehousing.

Why is Data Maturity important?

In the course of my work I’ve come across some organisations who are making fantastic use of the data that’s available to them, such as the Queensland Audit Office. But we’re very much at the start of our journey, so how do we begin?

Data Maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data, and the concept gave us a tangible vision for our work. We began looking for frameworks that could be helpful (and there’s more out there than you can shake a stick at), and we found Data Orchard’s Framework to be particularly simple and user friendly. It’s especially useful as it’s looking at what this looks like for not-for-profit organisations. I particularly like this breakdown of it from a great post by Ben Proctor, as it’s so easy to understand:

  1.     Ad-hoc gathering of data in some areas
  2.     Pulling data together centrally
  3.     Starting to use data looking backwards
  4.     Using data in real time to manage the organisation and move resources rapidly
  5.     Modelling the future before making decisions to enable better decisions to be taken
  6.     Modelling the future the organisation wants and working backwards to understand what needs to happen now to deliver that future

This framework has really informed my thinking. It’s helped me think about how we get to point 6, where we’re modelling the future that the organisation is working towards, and ensure that the things that I’m working on set us out on the right path beyond the lifespan of the Cutting Edge project.

Learning and sharing

Throughout this project, we’ve been talking to other organisations to learn from what they’re doing, and we’ve been able to learn from good practice and from what they’d do differently if they had their time again. It’s been great learning about how the Office of the Auditor General for New Zealand have reduced the complexity of their systems by making them open by default. Our project has also been working iteratively to produce small tests and prototypes so that we can build on our successes, but also learn from our failures.

This is where unconferences like GovCamp Cymru are really useful. It’s a unique opportunity to meet people who are passionate about improving public services, who share what’s worked well and what they might do differently if they had their time again. If you’re making the most of the data that’s at your organisation’s metaphorical fingertips, please do give me a nudge at GovCamp Cymru – I’d love to have a chat with you so that I can learn from what you’re doing.

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Dyfrig Williams is a Good Practice Exchange Officer for the Wales Audit Office, where he encourages public service improvement through knowledge exchange. He is on Twitter as @DyfrigWilliams and blogs about public service improvement at http://medium.com/@DyfrigWilliams.

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GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

Wales as an innovation nation

Last year our platinum sponsor PA Consulting investigated the landscape and opportunities around innovation in Wales. They began with insights from delegates at GovCamp Cymru 2016, and continued by talking to individuals and organisations who want to see Wales on the global innovation stage.

In their report published in January 2017, these were their conclusions:
– Wales is punching below its weight;
– Wales needs to focus its attentions in key areas of competitive edge;
– Wales needs to see Brexit as a game-changing opportunity to impact the self-effacing nature of delivering success for and in Wales.

Click the link below to view &/or download a summary of the PA Consulting report that began at GovCamp Cymru 2016.

PA Consulting report summary: GovCamp Cymru Innovation Report January 2017

Do you agree that Wales could do better at innovation? What should the focus be for the next few years?


GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.

What does Wales’ public sector look like in 2022?

We’ve been having discussions with various people around what would constitute positive outcomes for the upcoming GovCamp Cymru 2017.

Beyond useful networking and fruitful conversations, which are always good (we know this from past feedback), some thoughts emerged around how the conversations taking place at the event could/should feed into the formal socio-political agenda.

In 5 years’ time, if the topics we are bringing up at GovCamp Cymru 2017 have made it onto the formal/traditional/official agenda, then we will have achieved!

What important aspects of civic life are missing from the formal policy conversations and need to be on decision-makers’ radars?

What will be part of the public services, democracy, and local and national government landscape in 2022 – in an ideal world where these topics will have been heard and brought in to the formal agendas?


GovCamp Cymru 2017 is happening on 14th October.  Join the conversation online on the GovCamp Cymru Slack. (New to Slack?) Join the mailing list for ticket releases, the first batch will be available on Monday 26th June, 10:00am. Find us on twitter and Facebook!

Do you fancy contributing a guest blog post on a topic relevant to public services in Wales? Get in touch with noreen@satorilab.org.