Co production and sustaining engagement

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This emancipatory research has been characterised by embedding participatory principles within all processes of the research. It has been a way of working together for a collective goal rather than something that has been just added on. This is illustrated by the following group statement:

‘We are a community of researchers who got involved in research because the research question holds some meaning for us. We have listened to people’s stories and by making the findings accessible, we feel that we are giving something back to people who have given their time and experience to us within this project.’

Co-producing this research has meant that responsibility between academic and service user and carer researchers has been shared. We have all recognised the value of each other’s perspectives in bringing a new understanding to issues that we have normally only seen from our own perspective. Co-production in this research has been based on trust, respect, openness to learn from each other and a strong regard for the rigour of the research process. The following group statement stresses the importance of flexibility in promoting this way of working:

‘People need to feel that they are able to step on and off the research process according to their life circumstances at any time. This poses challenges for people who remain with the project as they can sometimes feel that they are the only ones left and therefore carry greater responsibility to make the project a success. Building a stable core team is essential to the progress of the research, but this building process needs to take place using a step by step approach.’

Service users and carers have said that what has been important about this approach is that they have:

  • Asked a research question that is meaningful to them.
  • Designed research tools (inc. questionnaires and interview guides) that are accessible and get to the heart of the issue.
  • Discussed issues and contested each other’s perspectives throughout the research process but especially in the data analysis phase.
  • Challenged and developed the research process, through robust discussion.
  • Challenged the traditional position of the academic researcher as controlling the research process.
  • Acknowledged the time and experience shared by participants through engaging them in discussion about the findings through a workshop.
  • Actively fostered partnerships with the Trust to ensure that the research findings are embedded in new service developments.
  • Challenged bureaucratic processes around involving service users in research and developed solutions, for example, around service user and carer payment and other forms of recognition.


The project received the Best Service User Involvement Plan Award at the
National Institute for Health Research, Mental Health Research Network,
Scientific Research Conference on the 21st April 2010.




‘Co production is so much more than just being involved. It’s not an invitation that can sometimes be tokenistic. It’s about power, action and really controlling all aspects of the work. This, however, takes real commitment and time to do right.’ Video