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Collaborative Co-production creates Mutual and Sustained Learning

VOICES collaborative working

Author: Sharon Sharman, Learning and Evaluation Manager, VOICES


A reflection of positive partnership work during some of our toughest times


VOICES learning info


Opportunities included a variety of masterclasses, bespoke workshops, short courses, accredited courses, and co-delivery of online conferences and webinars in which organizations have worked together to deliver positive practice.  These include Homeless Link, Adult Safeguarding Boards, NHS and LGA (Local Government Association).


Although the delivery route had changed (moved to online platform during lockdown) we applied the same logic model that had been tested over previous years and captured in the Citywide Learning Progamme Evaluation 2020:


VOICES logic model


The influence for the design and delivery of the learning opportunities were the core success factors of the learning programme:

  • The creation of a shared-learning environment across organisations working with people with multiple needs
  • The provision of high-quality learning opportunities that are current, tailored to participants’ needs and delivered by engaging and skilled trainers
  • The centrality of lived experience to the programme


How did we make it happen?

Although lockdown measures did not come into force until 26th March 2020, the VOICES team acted rapidly to support customer, staff, and stakeholders considering Covid – 19.  Urgent meetings were held to inform colleagues that substantial changes to working practices were imminent and to provide people with the opportunity to discuss their concerns.   This was the week that everything changed for the VOICES citywide learning programme.

The next morning, I was up early – I set up my ‘temporary’ home office, logged into my laptop, checked my e-mails, and froze.  The previous evening, through the night and the whole of the early hours the ‘noise of the news’ had continued through the TV and radio – it was very clear that Covid-19 changes were being debated and would inevitably result in a culture shock for many people.  For a few moments I felt that ‘it was all over’ – that it may be the end of the learning programme, that we would not deliver the community development plan and that we would not be working with our dedicated and specialist knowledge providers for some time.  I quickly searched my mind for evidence that could reassure me that I was wrong to feel defeated and it did not take long for me to recall a multitude of positive truths that convinced me to believe that we could ‘make it happen’.


Positive truths

  • A culture of embedded shared learning
  • Healthy, long term relationships with stakeholders who recognise that coproduction is crucial in the delivery of partnership programmes and projects
  • Internal and external stakeholders who embrace new ways of working and change
  • A community of experts – by experience, knowledge and through practice, who embrace challenge and collaboratively overcome barriers
  • Flexible, adaptive individuals who tailor their delivery to meet bespoke needs
  • A citywide community of participants (approx. 550) who value shared learning opportunities and environments and who influence the design and delivery


From these reflections we quickly developed a plan to move the learning online and one that would enable us to sustain delivery of our unique citywide resource.  This involved numerous changes that we needed to manage which, in themselves provided learning and development opportunities to all involved.  These included:

  • Identify appropriate platform for online delivery of opportunities -learn how to use them; test and trial; practice to increase skills
  • Communications with stakeholders:  negotiating changes that would be needed to prepare content for online delivery; sessions would need to be shorter so as not to have people looking at PC screens for long periods without a break; breakout rooms would be required to split attendees into smaller working groups for discussion time in workshops and interactive content would need to be adapted for online participation
  • Design and delivery of learning sessions to internal and external colleagues to share knowledge and skills in using online platforms
  • Development and distribution of a ‘how to use zoom’ guide for the citywide partnership – recognizing that many colleagues may be unfamiliar with this we felt this was crucial in supporting people to access future opportunities
  • ‘On the day’ support available for each online event to help participants with guidance relating to technical / access issues
  • Development of online feedback polls to ensure continued collaborative design


Other Achievements through the citywide learning programme

The VOICES Community Development plan activities and Community of Practice have also transferred to online delivery.  By December 2020 we had completed a series of five sessions in the community of practice discussing challenges and positive practice in prison discharge – findings will contribute to the VOICES prison discharge legacy partnership project.

We have mobilized the VOICES legacy projects of which several include the delivery of bespoke coproduced workshops– these include themes such as Legal Literacy in Housing and Welfare Benefits and the Multiple Needs Toolkit and Care Act Overview (co-designed and co-delivered with members of the Adult Social Care Team, Stoke-on-Trent City Council).

We would like to say a huge thanks to all involved who contributed to the design, delivery, participation, and evaluations of these opportunities.  The figures are a true testimony to the resilience, flexibility, and commitment to our citywide partnership and to our learning city:


  • Expert Citizens CIC
  • Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent (SNSCAB)
  • North Staffordshire MIND
  • Stoke-on-Trent Community Drug and Alcohol Service (CDAS)
  • KFx (a drug consultancy initiative)
  • Steven Talbot Training and Consultancy
  • No One Left Out
  • All The Small Tings C.I.C.
  • 1001 Lives
  • Royal Stoke Hospital
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council
  • Homeless Link
  • Adult Safeguarding Boards
  • NHS and
  • LGA (Local Government Association)
  • All of our valued and committed particpants

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