Members' Forum: Putting co-production into action

We chat to member Billy and volunteer Barrie on their thoughts on the Members' Forum and co-production at HEL.

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Every six weeks at Headway House, member representatives from each day come together to share thoughts, concerns and suggestions, gathered from their fellow members.This time, we thought we’d chat to those involved and give our supporters a sneak peek into the process that puts the idea of co-production into action.

Volunteer and brain injury survivor, Barrie explained the importance of the Forum, ‘The Members' Forum is basically full of brain injury survivors trying to assess what could be done better at Headway, trying to share ideas on how it can be improved. It’s important because Headway needs to know what brain injury is – because effectively we are the experts.’ 

"In my view, the members are the asset of this organisation, without them, Headway simply wouldn’t exist." - Billy, Headway member

Billy

Keeping communication open with our members is essential to maintaining an organisation that includes everyone in the decision making. Member representative, Billy, one of the forum’s longest attendees explained why that was important to him:                                                                            

‘I enjoy sitting around and chatting; asking members their opinions on things and then taking them to what’s essentially a mini council. So we meet, we bring up these ideas and we take our discussion back to the members, so it’s a way of having a dialogue.’ He continued, ‘in my view, the members are the asset of this organisation, without them, Headway simply wouldn’t exist. You should value your assets and it’s a way of putting the value on the people. If any organisation fails to value that then they’re not doing a very good job.’ 

"It’s just not an us and them situation." - Barrie, Headway volunteer

At our latest Forum, members discussed the results of our recent planning and development week at which we had a co-production workshop led by the Social Care Institute of Excellence. Co-production is the modus operandi at HEL (it’s how we function). It means members, staff and volunteers working together towards shared goals with mutual respect, consideration and involvement. As Barrie explained, ‘Headway do a lot of co-production, it’s just not an us and them situation. Some people are staff, some are members, some are volunteers, you wouldn’t know, you’re all working together. That’s the thing, you’re not being dictated to by somebody, you’re actually co-producing.’ 

However – it's a state of being that demands constant self-reflection and active effort. The Forum is how we act upon that demand. 

Looking forward, members have decided to draw up their terms of reference: a set of processes that the forum stick to, as well as looking to ensure each member of the Forum has attended a board meeting. We discussed that ideally a member could be on the board but in the meantime having strong connections with them via the Forum was a great step. 

At the end of the session, one member asked, 'What's the next step?' and we decided, that was something everyone needed to work on. The key thing we learnt at our co-production workshop was that it's a process that needs all of us, staff, members and volunteers to work together to make it happen. We look forward to the next forum where we'll review how our ideas have been put into action. 

Barrie S