Author: Alexandra McKell, Head of Innovation at Leap Confronting Conflict
What we do
At Leap Confronting Conflict, we work with young people and the adults that surround them such as parents / foster carers or practitioners, helping them build skills to effectively navigate conflict. Our training fosters healthy relationships, and encourages positive decisions and self-growth.
Those we work with have an important role in shaping our service – in particular, making sure it meets the needs of young people today.
Where we started
Leap has been involving young people in influencing our service for several years: through feedback from young people who have completed a programme, to having Young Trustees on our board, and Young Ambassadors. I even came to Leap through a Peerlink Steering Group.
At Leap, co-production has been about learning from young people what does and doesn’t work, keeping up to date with how young people’s lives are changing, and designing programmes of work together.
In 2018, we wanted to move from having pockets of co-production to having young people influencing Leap’s work at every level. We came to define co-production as “The organisation working together with the people we are providing a service to. We will value a co-producer’s expertise of their own lived experience and share knowledge to mutually achieve our objectives at every level of Leap.”
This is a vision we strive to meet every day.
How we have developed our co-production practices
First, Leap had to establish where we were with co-production in the organisation, so we recruited a co-production officer who led an audit. They spoke with several staff, trainers, and other stakeholders, and reported on the state of play, recommendations, and a strategy for developing our practice. This led to the below.
Developing co-production policies
A recommended action was developing a co-production policy with Leap’s Young Ambassadors, outlining 10 key considerations for how young people wanted to be treated and worked with. For example, one is around trust and relationships, and how staff and young people communicate with each other – specifically, that language used should be easily understood by young people.
Building understanding amongst staff and young people
We appointed two Leap co-production champions who developed and delivered workshops to staff to help upskill them in co-production and build it into their work where possible. These were received well, raised awareness of co-production, and helped develop a language and shared understanding across the organisation.
We also worked with two Young Ambassadors to develop a workshop to support understanding for young people involved in Leap co-production projects.
It has been great for staff to see and be involved in projects like Leap’s Under Our Roof programme where care experienced young people shared their experience and decided how they wanted to influence policy and practice (which led to the production of Leap’s Let’s Talk Conflict podcast).
Leap’s Keeping It Social project also brought young people together to share their lived experience of social media and develop resources and exercises to raise awareness of young people’s wellbeing, relationship with conflict and safety when using social media.
Measuring and evaluating co-production
We developed an evaluation framework which looked at young people’s experience of co-production and what skills and personal development they gained from involvement, e.g. leadership, teamwork, listening well or sharing their opinion. We continue using this today to help reflect and improve practice.
Other steps we took
We also developed a renumeration policy for young people, shared our learning through co-production workshops to help other organisations, supported staff practice with four co-production staff forums a year, and recently reviewed co-production at Leap after two years, which led to key recommendations for 2023.
Challenges in the co-production journey
Whilst some steps in this journey have been relatively easy, there have been, and still are some challenges.
Really ‘doing’ co-production
Whilst many staff attended co production workshops and developed their knowledge around it, some struggled with bringing the practice into their work – due to capacity or confidence. To address this, in 2023 we made it a requirement and responsibility of all staff to include co production in their area of work and to reflect this in their operational plans. The organisation also has created capacity within the head of innovation role to support staff with doing co-production in their areas of work and support with confidence, skills, etc.
Co-production during Covid-19
Covid made it difficult for Leap to work with and engage new young people in our programmes. The number of young people engaging with us slumped, and that continued throughout 2021-2022. Where possible we opened opportunities for involvement to young people outside of Leap’s pool of graduates and did increase co production activity this way.
Leap delivery with young people is returning to pre covid levels and we are currently redesigning pathways for young people to get involved in co-production at Leap.
The language of co-production
A challenge also came from the language we used. Despite us having involved young people in service design for years, calling this ‘co-production’ alienated some who had been practicing ‘youth participation’ or ‘youth voice’. We are currently looking at the different terms we use, and how people relate to them across Leap to support a more inclusive environment.
Key reflections and looking forward
Developing Leap’s co production culture and practice has been an amazing journey, with lots of steps taken and many yet to take. Through all of it, working through good relationships, having safe spaces for the work, truly listening and sharing power with young people, and involving feedback loops has all been important.
Our next steps will be:
- Expanding and deepening Leap’s training capacity and expertise internally and externally, including with the youth sector through our new co-production workshop.
- Finding more avenues for conversations and practice of co-production, such as spaces in staff meetings, away days, and delivering workshops for staff around areas of co-production like listening practice and sharing power.
- Reviewing pathways from our programmes into co-production and make this sustainable.
- Hold yearly reviews of co production involving staff, trainers and young people who have been involved in co production to capture what we are doing well, what we can do differently, and continue to strengthen Leap’s culture and practice of co production.
Watch this space!