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Education Research Seminar 13 January 2016

Co-production in social and market researchRoundtable on co-production processes

The University of Brighton Education Research Centre, Business School and the University of Sussex Centre for Innovation and Research in Children and Youth (CIRCY) hosted a joint seminar on Co-production in social and market research

Weds 13th January 2016, Moulsecoomb

This was a well-attended event attracting a diverse range of participants from both UoB and UoS, from the Business School, Education and Social Work, Health Sciences, the Centre for Learning and Teaching and the Students’ Union.

Matt Arnold is Executive Insight Director at brand consultancy The Gild and previously worked across insight, innovation, and planning for global companies such as Microsoft, Orange, Unilever, Diageo, Bacardi, Coca-Cola, and Mars. Matt specialises in the area of co-creation.

Matt emphasised that co-creation is not a process but a philosophy, a holistic approach to how to develop, build and grow something, ‘the art of bringing multiple stakeholders together with rich immersive insight’, to put consumers at the heart of a brand and business to create sustainable growth. He discussed the various reasons or points at which co-creation might be used: positioning development, creating white space opportunities, new product development, innovation, service design, scenario planning and internal change management.

Denise Hicks is a self-employed strategist who has worked across advertising and communications planning, brand strategy, innovation and new product development, qualitative research and trends analysis, for clients including The Guardian, NBC Universal, Diageo, Johnson and Johnson, Britvic, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, and the University of the Arts London.

Denise discussed the practicalities of running a co-creation process, advising on the importance of ‘planning early to the nth degree’, anticipating tensions between different audiences to help them come together, the need for both ‘blue sky thinkers’ and R&D people who act as the parameters offering a reality / feasibility check, and the rigour with which the process of refinement needs to be addressed.


Above: Matt and Denise

Liam Berriman, Lecturer in Digital Humanities at UoS, discussed co-production with young people. It often appears to be democratic and to bring in those who have less voice. One tension is how to build participation for young people specifically, recognising the value they bring, and considering what they are given at the end of the process. He gave the example of a ‘hackathon’ one day workshop based around children’s everyday objects, where young people were given something to take away, a record of the day, while their contribution was also part of a bigger record too, the Mass Observation archive.

Sevasti-Melissa Nolas is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at UoS and the Principal Investigator of a European-funded study, Connectors, a cross-national and ethnographic longitudinal study exploring the relationship between childhood and public life.

She reflected on ‘co-production’ from a social psychological perspective drawing on her experience of collaborative working with children, young people, their parents, professionals and communities across diverse policy areas. She argued that most of her research – as with other academic research – involves ‘co-creation’, but it often gets re-described in the process of writing up for academic publication. Academics tend to use more ideological language to describe what we do, eg around democratisation, but she noted that the pragmatic language Matt and Denise used might be more honest to the lived experience of co creation: that it requires tight control, and a lot of time. None of this is a short cut! Academics tend to take more time to theorise, revisit and make sense, although this means that results take longer to appear.

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