Pilot Project – What happened and what did we expect?

As part of the Pilot Project final report, the Leeds City Lab partners contributed their reflections on how their experience of being involved in the research project compared with expectations they had at the beginning of the process:

“Not sure what my expectations were although the subject sounded interesting. I attended two sessions, firstly the LeedsACTS! related one at Shine which was ok though with just a small number attending, and which sustained my interest, and then after that was invited to the final and much larger one at CIHM. I do a lot of cross-sector/collaborative work but I found this session very stimulating, partly because it brought together a different set of people (although with some overlaps) from those I usually work with; partly because the session was highly participative; partly because there is potential for future involvement for both the organisation that I work for (VAL) and those that I am involved with at community level (HDT/HEART). I am keen to be involved in ongoing work.” (Third sector partner)

“I was surprised by how much admin and organisation was required for the day-to-day running of this project. A challenge in co-produced projects is that it inherently requires many participants so a lot of the time can be spent sending emails, setting up meetings and events and generally helping to organise large groups of people. Research and analysis time was actually very specific and localised to post-workshop stages. I joined the project originally assuming the focus would be more spatially orientated but the thinking quickly moved on to less physical but more relevant priorities. My background is in architecture so this felt like a big shift into unknown territory. Upon reflection, this could be taken as an example of the nature of co-production – stepping outside of your usual role and persona and drawing on skills you didn’t know you had while gaining new ones.”  (Project researcher)

“I couldn’t get engaged as much as I’d hoped to – just because of limited personal capacity and the timing of workshops.  I did enjoy the interactions with people I hadn’t met before, but was also aware that I DID know a lot of people as well and am wary of co-production as a label that allows cliques to flourish!  I think the project researcher made a huge difference to the project – she was capable, practical, personable and captured and reflected a huge amount of learning.  Also, she wasn’t an academic – by career or by institution, and I think that helped!” (University partner)

“I have been thinking about co-production type approaches for a number of years and have also previously developed ideas and proposals for a form of ‘city co-production space’ – a ‘city room for collaborative citizen action’ – so my initial involvement in the project was in some ways clouded with all sorts of pre-conceptions and ideas. It’s a big subject / challenge – development of a co-production city lab – and rightly there are many opinions and strong views on how best to develop one. In terms of my expectations, I think I always thought it would be difficult to reach a final consensus or view on how to best create a city lab, and I have been impressed by the amount of progress we have made towards a shared view, and also the extent to which participants have shown a willingness to engage and take the ideas forward.” (Third sector partner)

“I did not go into the project with any real preconceptions. However, I did not expect to become as engaged as I ultimately did. I registered for all of the events with the intention of probably picking and choosing or opting out at some point, but found the experience so interesting and useful that I attended all of the available sessions! Even though the material covered (for the first two sessions at least) was very similar, the different venues and audiences gave the sessions very different dynamics and as a result, very different discussions and in some cases, priorities emerged.”(University partner)

“My experience of the project exceeded my expectations. I was able to meet interesting engaged people from across the Leeds area, from academia, the third sector, business and local government. This provided a unique opportunity to make connections, discuss important issues of mutual interest, and to begin to fashion collective understandings and common ground concerning key issues such as inequality and environmental challenges, Further, over the course of the workshops, we were able to think through innovative, collaborative approaches to such issues.” (University partner)

“I expected that my participation would involve exchange with people specific to the realm of sharing, to ‘soft’ issues focused on ‘how we decide’. What I found was that I could share freely my ideas about what we do and how we do it that went more deeply into the issues themselves.” (University partner)

“I was unsure initially how I might be able to contribute but the activities and collegiate approach facilitated me being able to get involved from the start. Co-production is used an increasing amount across health and care and it was interesting to see how different sectors approach its application. I found the conversations were open, challenging and passionate but everyone’s contribution was valued and listened to.” (Third sector partner)

“My experience of the project compared with my expectations was exceeded in one specific regard in that there were more people and organizations interested and ready and willing to contribute – co-production is a ‘thing’.” (Private Sector Partner)

“It was very close to what I was expecting in a sense that the people who gathered around the project were already disposed towards collaborative work- we did not engage anyone who had no previous co-production experience. This also applies to the kind of venues we occupied – already set up as co-production or community facility spaces.” (Private Sector Partner).

“Very positively.  Sharing motivations and expectations with each other at an early stage was very helpful. Balance between taking oneself out of a normal work context whilst also being aware of the various ’hats’ we all wear was very well managed, enabling,  honest, an open exploration of what co-production might mean for various participants and for Leeds.” (Private Sector Partner)

“My experience in being involved with the project was more or less as I had expected. Very dynamic interaction between different actors in non-traditional settings using group work. I met new people and also caught up with others I had not seen for a while. Perhaps I was expecting more participants from smaller community/neighbourhood groups. At times there was a strong presence from the bigger players (university, local authority) which can sometimes constrain a discussion for change.” (University Partner)