ALISS — It’s all about Co-production

“So…what is ALISS?”

I get asked that a lot; I really don’t mind because the people asking are usually looking for ways to help support people, or sometimes are looking for support for themselves. It’s brilliant being able to help!

I usually begin my answer with the first line of our ‘About ALISS’ page on our Beta website;

“ALISS helps people find and share information about local services and resources that support health and wellbeing”.

But here’s the thing; it’s struck me that I’m not really answering their question. Instead, I’m telling people about what ALISS does rather than what it ‘is’.

It’s a bit like someone asking me ‘so who is Stephen Plunkett?’ and me answering ‘well I lead on ALISS engagement with stakeholders, build partnerships, and report to the programme board’. That’s part of what I do in my job, but it’s not what defines me a person. I’m a husband, son and friend who tries his best to help people live healthy and happy lives and who still harbours a not so secret ambition to be a rock star! That’s who I am.

Right now there are big changes happening to ALISS. Lots of these are functional and operational changes that are being documented by my colleague Douglas in his own blog. Keep tabs on this as it’s a brilliant way to keep up to date with our developments. Making these changes also provides an opportunity to step back and reflect on those deeper questions about ‘what ALISS is? So I thought I would take this opportunity to share my own view on what defines ALISS.

I believe that ALISS is co-production in action.

Now I know we talk about co-production all the time, but bear with me on this one! You see, ALISS is built around the belief that given the right tools and support, people can and will work together to find, share and maintain information about community resources that can enhance health and wellbeing.

ALISS was created to be different from the traditional model of a centrally administered and ‘standalone’ database of local services. We think that’s an outdated approach which doesn’t fit well with the ethos of collaboration and joined up approaches that we as a nation are aiming to embed within health and social care. We believe that ALISS has an important role to play in helping to realise the ambitions set out in the 2020 vision for health and social care, particularly in regards to the person centred, outcomes focused delivery of services. ALISS can help illustrate the richness of our communities and the scope of services available to support health and wellbeing. We also have big plans around providing other types of data that can help to inform responsive localised planning and commissioning, but that’s a topic for another blog!

So what’s the practical impact of co-production? Well for one the information in ALISS hasn’t been gathered by ALISS staff. Instead, it’s been added by a diverse range of over 1300 individuals and organisations and is the product of their engagement (sometimes professional, often voluntary) with communities and the people who provide services and support within them. The ALISS programme provides support and guidance around things like asset mapping to aid that engagement. Our ALISS digital services provide mechanisms to enable the information gathered to be found and shared. This might be via the ALISS website or through any other website or digital platform that has ALISS search functionality embedded within it. This is a service that we can offer for free and it’s part of our innovative approach within the digital health landscape. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in finding out more!

I believe that if you are serious about co-production it should be reflected in all aspects of what you do. Therefore we have always tried to embed co-production principles into the operation of the whole ALISS programme. For example, the ‘blue-print’ for ALISS was not informed by the ideas systems designers or developers, but through listening to the lived experience and ideas of ALLIANCE members — disabled people, people living with long term conditions and unpaid carers. Likewise, our stakeholder led innovation and reference groups have provided guidance and critical insights throughout the life of the programme. Even the changes that we are currently making are informed by the learning that we’ve gathered and are designed to respond to requirements of ALISS users and strengthen the ethos of co-production as the basis of how we operate.

A good example can be seen in the changes we are making around how the information contained within ALISS can be updated and maintained. In our old system, if there was an issue with a resource (say for example a link to a webpage was broken, or the description was out of date) any user could report it, but only the person who added the resource in the first place could fix it. Now that’s fine if they had added only one resource, but what if they had added more than 500? Is it reasonable to expect that they could maintain that level of information? More importantly, does it fit with our co-production approach? Perhaps not, so we are going to respond to and do it differently.

In our new approach, ALISS users will be able to suggest edits to any resources that they believe contains inaccurate or out of date information. The edits will be reviewed and checked by other users before being applied to the resource. In essence, the responsibility for maintaining information will be opened up to all users and will no longer sit solely with individual account holders. This will be replaced by a new collaborative approach in which the responsibility is shared.

There are lots more examples of how the changes that we are making will strengthen co-production and collaboration in ALISS and I’ll be using this blog to discuss these in the coming months. That said, co-production isn’t always easy so I’ll also be communicating some of the challenges we have faced and explain how we are working to overcome them.

So there you go, co-production really does define what ALISS is all about. In fact, it’s what makes ALISS work!

Stephen Plunkett, ALISS Partnership and Development Manager, the ALLIANCE

ALISS is an information service which aims to make health and wellbeing support and activities easier to find.