How We Work


What is co-production?

Co-production is the engagement of all stakeholders – people who use services, the local community and professionals – in the design, delivery and assessment of services.

This is a radically different way of approaching services:

  • People are asked to design community based initiatives together (instead of assuming professionals know best).
  • People are seen as assets in the community and asked to help in delivering services (instead of assuming they are a problem that needs to be solved).
  • People are asked to define what success means to them and judge services based on those criteria (instead of having others define what is good for them).

While the idea of co-production has recently gained significant prominence in mainstream mental health thinking, at BowHaven we have been working this way for a number of years.

This is because our model of co-production came about naturally from our service user led roots, with a recognition that both members and professionals have their own unique and valuable contribution to make.

As a result of this, our model of co-production is completely authentic and highly effective in making a difference to our members’ lives.

Why do Co-production?

Co-produced initiatives provide a framework for people to build skills and move beyond the cycle of dependency that traditional services offer, as well as ensure services fit the needs of the community. When the process is done well, people feel respected and valued.

Some Principles of Co-Production1

Co-production places an innate emphasis on valuing community and relationship as essential factors towards social and personal outcomes. The interactions between people that build social capital act as the ‘immune system’ that keep society (and individuals who make up society) healthy.

In addition co-produced approaches:

  • Define public service members as assets and look at what skills they can bring to the delivery of services.
  • Facilitate community based support by valuing supporting other members of the community to provide help, as a service outcome in itself.
  • Build community and social capital by their design. Strengthening community outcomes reduces the need for professional help and is a key component to co-produced service design.
  • Support resilience and independence: Co-production allows people to gain skills and experience that mean they need to rely on professional help less in the long term.
  • Ensure reciprocity: by making sure those who help deliver the service also benefit from the service; and encouraging those who are receiving support give something back.

Based on ‘Co-production: A Manifesto for Growing the Core Economy’ by Lucie Stevens and Josh Ryan-Collin

The process of co-production

The process of co-production requires flexibility about how and when people are involved in order to be effective.

1. Levels of Involvement

The diagram below shows 3 steps involved in co-production. Each can be seen as a step in the co-production process, or as a ‘level’ of involvement.


When seen as part of the co-production process, each step builds on and relies on the ones’ below. In order to effectively consult one has to inform first, in order to involve, one must have consulted, etc. Once action has been taken the process moves back to step one (as people are informed of what has happened).

When seen as levels of involvement, the diagram offers different options of involving people based on their circumstances. Different levels of involvement are useful at different times. Asking a person to help design a service (step 3) when they need basic support is not useful. However, being treated with respect and asked your opinion is usually always helpful.

2. When should people be involved?

We understand that people have different needs at different times in their journey towards greater wellbeing. Our approach is flexible in regards to people’s needs. The chart below shows different domains in which a person may be involved in the process of change in one of our initiative.


Direction of action – In order to help others or make a difference in society people need to be engaged in their own personal wellbeing. Therefore at BowHaven we always start with the ‘me’ domain (see illustration).

Direction of benefit – Once basic support needs are established, people derive personal benefit from helping others and engaging in positive social change.




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