The power of stories

Written by: Sarah Currie, National lead for co-production and community capacity building at Scottish Government, and third and independent sector engagement lead for strategic commissioning at Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Sarah shares the power of stories to inspire working co-productively.

Now there’s a use of power that’s got a positive connotation for our Scottish Co-production Week theme! We so often associate power as being a negative, particularly where co-production is concerned as it should be about doing things with people and on an equal basis.

Working across two large organisations with a role that focuses on co-pro Scottish Government and Healthcare Improvement Scotland, power is a dynamic that’s hard to ignore. Part of my role at Scottish Government is to build capacity, confidence and capability for applying co-production approaches to policy making.

Power is a theme that always features in the conversations I have with colleagues, whether it’s explicit or implicit.  It’s natural that some professionals are reluctant to relinquish their power. It’s equally natural that some community members are reluctant to relinquish their position as passive receivers of services, who can complain when things go wrong but think it’s someone else’s job to fix it. It’s no surprise that change is hard.

So with these challenges in mind, myself and colleagues at Scottish Government started to develop an initiative that would help to address some of these concerns. We came up with an idea entitled ‘100 stories of co-production’.

Stories you might say, how powerful are they?  Well, as someone recently reminded me, we use information to present facts, arguments as a lens and stories as vehicles to help people engage and remember.

Our hope is that the 100 stories initiative will help:

  • to encourage, motivate and inspire the people who are already doing co-production
  • to provide a tool for those who are already in the movement to raise awareness and spread the word to their colleagues, neighbours, etc.: it’s hard to make the argument on your own. The stories are aimed to be useful conversation-starters to advocate for co-production
  • to help build a shared understanding of what co-production means in practice
  • to demonstrate the variety and diversity of places and ways that people are co-producing.

With a favourable policy and political context, and at least ten years of co-production prototyping to build on, the ambition is to ‘up the game’ of the co-production movement by generating accounts of the reality of co-production and what it really takes to work together to achieve better outcomes – acknowledging that this can be difficult, and often involves significant learning for everyone involved. We aim to raise the profile of people who have grafted to show that co-production is possible, and can share – in an authentic way – what they have learned along the way. Our approach in the stories is to be honest about the raw, gritty difficulties in making real cultural change and shifts of power – stories that include ‘saying yes to the mess’!

We know there are people who have misunderstood what co-production is – cases of tokenistic participation – people paying lip-service, using the terminology because it’s fashionable, but not actually taking on board the core principles of collaboration and relinquishing power.

The ‘100 Stories of co-production’ aims to offer the co-production movement in Scotland an opportunity to reach ‘beyond its bubble’, and to connect with new audiences by creating stories that show more of ‘what it really takes’ to work in co-production.  We hope this will go some way to addressing the power imbalances, reinforcing the message that anyone can co-produce and we can all learn from one another.



The latest 100 stories films will launch during Co-production Week Scotland on 30 November 2017. ‘100 Stories of Co-production’ is an initiative co-produced by the Scottish Co-production Network , the Ingage team at Scottish Government, the ihub in Healthcare Improvement Scotland, and social enterprise film-makers media co-op

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