Excluded young people know what they need and what they want. Why don’t we work together to create projects and services that use everyone’s skills and expertise?

This will make change happen, not just in individuals, but in communities and society too.

Services that are co-produced with young people can deliver more effective outcomes. Participation in activities with practitioners creates a more level playing field for all, and often results in more easy access to support and help through indirect conversations whilst engaged in activities together.

A partnership approach between practitioner and young person allows each to learn from the other, draws on the strengths and knowledge of each and allows more balanced power within relationships to be experienced by all. Participation also gives ownership of services to young people alongside practitioners, which means they have a vested interest in their own service and how it responds to their needs.

Participation and engagement is key to young people’s well-being and access of support. They have passions, dreams, interests and hobbies and it is these that will drive them to participate. By engaging with young people through the things that matter to them, services will reach them in a more fulfilling, meaningful and effective way. It will also enable them to develop the new and existing skills through the activities of participation.

Participation creates opportunities for young people to build upon their own personal resources and strengths, such as self-esteem, employment skills and resilience, whilst also helping others. Helping others plays an important part in enabling more confidence and self-worth to develop, as well as seeing others in the peer group as valued resources of prosocial support.

MAC-UK's Co-production Toolkit

The purpose of the Co-production Toolkit is to contribute to increasing the number of excluded young people who are shaping and designing services. We hope that the toolkit will add to the validity and quality of co-production by providing clarity about what co-production is.

The Toolkit will provide an accessible and easy to use guide to co-production, including both information and practical tools. We believe that now is an important time to develop this toolkit. The concept of co-production has now entered mainstream statutory services as an important part of working alongside excluded young people, however, there is little practical available support for those wishing to apply it within their services, especially from organisations, like ourselves, who have a robust experience of applying it within statutory settings. We believe there is a need for more explicit understanding on what co-production is and its benefits and how it differs from ‘service user involvement.

The Toolkit is aimed at practitioners who work in services and/or organisations that work with excluded young people aged 16 - 30 yrs. We hope that commissioners of services and/or organisations that work with excluded young people aged 16 - 30 years will also benefit from this toolkit, along with funders, trusts and foundations with an interest in investing in young people.

The Making of the Toolkit

MAC-UK have been transforming mental health services for excluded young people through co-production for 10 years, having now co-produced solutions with over 900 young people in projects across London since 2008. One of the projects, Music and Change, the founding project of MAC-UK, worked alongside a group of young people to co-produce a mental health project, that took what worked in the clinic, out onto the street. Young people and practitioners developed a range of youth-led activities that provided an avenue to therapeutic conversations and an ability to help young people with housing, employment and making changes in their communities.

The following audio clips were produced by the Music and Change team after the ending of the project. The team included experts by experience, clinical psychologists and key workers. We recorded open discussions about the challenges and benefits of co-production, reflecting on what we did well and what went wrong. We also wanted to document why and how we had done co-production.

It is really exciting to see this audio come to life and we hope you find it useful. We welcome feedback and reflections and hope the content gives you a taste of what is to come.