Making Space

Co-production is all about working together as equal partners, and the care and support provider Making Space has committed to this principle by putting it right at the heart of their strategy. One way they are approaching co-production is by ensuring that everybody across the organisation is familiar with Making It Real.

“At Making Space, we’ve really embraced Making It Real. For us, it’s one of the ways we can work to make sure that the voices of people are written through our services like a stick of rock,” says Keri Smith, the organisation’s Associate Director of Development and Projects.

Making Space is a national charity that provides care and support in communities, in people’s own homes, and in specialist care and support services.

With over a thousand members of staff supporting people, ensuring that co-production and Making It Real are at the forefront of people’s minds has been a big undertaking. They have taken a ‘Board-to-floor’ approach, making co-production and Making It Real key parts of their organisational strategy and using lots of different approaches to get everyone involved.

Ian volunteers with Making Space on co-production and improvement projects. He says, “The purpose of Making It Real is to help people we support feel really valued, and give people a chance to lead on changes based on their own experiences.”


Co-creating plans, naturally

A key practical part of this commitment is asking each and every service to co-produce a Making It Real plan with the people they support, and to review and update it every three months. The plans use a template, created by Making Space, which draws on the six Making It Real themes.

“We have embedded Making It Real in our organisational strategy,” continues Keri. “For example, regularly completing Making It Real plans is a key performance indicator for our services. But you can also find posters about Making It Real in our services themselves. That way everyone knows about it and can share their thoughts and ideas – from the people who use our services right through to the people on the Board.”

Making Space has created a template based around Making It Real, centred around the six Making It Real themes:

  • How do you help me to live the life I want?
  • What do you do to make sure I have the information I need, when I need it?
  • What do you do to help me keep connected with family, friends and my local community?
  • How do you make sure that I get the support I want my own way?
  • How do you make sure I am in control of things that are important to me?
  • What do you do to ensure that the people who support me and the people in charge are good at their job and are setting a good example?


Follow-up questions, such as ‘what do you not do?’ and ‘how can we work together to help make this real?’ help the plan to move from thoughts and reflections towards positive steps toward change.

These plans could just feel like another piece of paperwork to complete, but Mark Thornton, Making Space’s Co-production and Volunteer Coordinator, believes that plans don’t need to be created through forced, formal meetings.

“We encourage people to gather the information for the Making It Real plans in lots of different ways, and to make it natural. For some people, sitting down and being asked a load of questions might just feel like more form-filling. But if we are always thinking about Making It Real and co-production, we can be more in tune with people’s ideas and thoughts when they just come up organically, and add to the plan later. It’s about giving people lots of different ways to engage, and if they don’t want to, that’s fine too.”


Building understanding and engagement

“Co-production isn’t just a form to fill in; it isn’t just a plan; it’s a whole way of thinking,” Mark continues. “To make sure everybody understands the principles behind it, we need to create resources about co-production and keep refreshing them as time goes on.”

Making Space’s resources include a video that introduces the organisation’s work on co-production, which is now part of the training for new staff.

Mark has also created posters explaining Making It Real that are displayed around their services. These contain a QR code that people can scan in their own time, taking them to a page where they can learn about the I statements and provide their feedback and ideas.

“We do have some services where there are regular meetings and everybody has a chat about the Making It Real plan and service improvement in general. But for some people, that’s not their preferred way of getting involved. These posters are just one example of the different ways people have to engage,” says Keri.


Leading with passion

Maintaining interest and engagement with co-production in a large organisation involves a lot of work, and Keri emphasises the importance of having someone to really take the lead across the organisation. She says, “Embedding co-production is a marathon, not a sprint. It grows and evolves over time, so you need somebody like Mark who has the tenacity and drive to say constantly, ‘OK, I’ll come back and work with you again’ rather than just leaving people with a plan to complete.”

On an individual service level, there is also work to be done by whoever is responsible for completing the Making It Real plan – and at Making Space, that does not necessarily need to be the service manager. Keri continues, “Services can choose the best person in their team to lead on Making It Real. It’s about putting it in the hands of the person who actually wants to spend time speaking with the people we support and has a passion for it.”


Seeing change happen

With Making It Real plans having been created at many Making Space services across the country, there has been a wide range of ideas that have led to change over time. 

Ian shares a practical example of changes he’s seen, saying, “I am involved in reviewing and improving our Making It Real action planning programme for services. Recently, I recommended making sure that staff and people supported do not have to repeat comments or contributions towards their plans in multiple places.”

Other changes range from developing open-door policies to help people feel better connected to staff, through to people supported by Making Space starting to chair and record meetings at services themselves. 

“Making It Real is just one of the ways we’ve worked to embed co-production, but it definitely holds a unique place for us,” Mark concludes. “It invites people to not only give feedback on how things are, but to actually produce that change together. And that’s what co-production is all about.”

Learn more about Making Space on their website.