Can Co-Production approaches to policy development be approached in a more ethical, effective and empowering way?

Research collaboration between Cheshire West and Chester Council, Keele University, drawing on expertise of Chester University’s RECAP team and partners Mondrem and Symposia. The full title of the study is Research England Quality Research Uplift, Special Projects Fund (QR SPR).

We will be using in-depth interview approaches in the first instance, followed by online surveys and finally ethno-drama and other creative workshop approaches, to help us to:

· Learn more about the lived experience insight, understanding and viewpoints of all actors involved in that process, including heads of service, senior managers, team managers, frontline workers, councillors and a diverse group of people with lived experience of poverty, both with regard to poverty and it’s root causes and with regards to the Poverty Emergency and it’s purpose and priorities

· Enhance understanding of the Poverty Emergency and broaden the community engaged in making it work as intended

· Explore approaches to deepening empathy, understanding and evidence-insight across the whole participant group

· Enhance the quality and effectiveness of the interface between those with lived experience of poverty, those delivering services at the frontline and the decision-makers and authors of policy

· Enhance the empowerment and confidence of those with lived experience and narrow the ‘democracy gap’

· Grow and nurture a wider and even more diverse community of lived experience for future work

What the Poverty Emergency Declaration says about our commitment to working more closely with universities and bringing evidence, lived experience, policy development and resource allocation closer together for a fairer future across our borough:

‘Take a collaborative and evidence-based approach, working more closely with health, universities, trade unions and poverty-related community groups to improve our research and intelligence’ (resolution 10).

‘Embedding Lived Experience – Building on the foundations of the Poverty Truth Commissions, to reach out to people affected by poverty and use their experience to develop better policies and services which respond to their needs’ (Commitment iv)

Progress so far:

· Academic support and £20,114 funding secured by Derek McGhee (Professor of Sociology, Director of the Keele Institute for Social Inclusion, Faculty Dean for Research, Humanities and social Sciences)

· Research team assembled blending a range of insights and skills to enable an impactful programme design and robust evaluation of the outcomes of that programme

What Difference Will Your Involvement In The Research Make and Why Do We Need Your Help?

As outlined in the Poverty Emergency motion that the council led the way in signing up to in October 2020, the dual crises of pandemic and recession offer a valuable opportunity to use our position as a council, working alongside others and using evidence and lived experience as our basis for re-setting the narrative around poverty, being honest about the reasons for its existence and insuring lived experience and evidence are embedded within all that we do as a council, in pursuit of a much fairer recovery across our borough that fully recognises the range of serious and disproportionate impacts on those who are poor, just because they happen to be on a low income.

We have committed to approaching this issue differently than in the past and this research and closer collaboration with academic colleagues is one of our first tangible steps on our new path.