Edgar S. Cahn – Scotland taking the worldwide lead in co-production

Edgar S. Cahn, founder of TimeBanking, former counsel and speech writer to Robert F. Kennedy and co-founder of the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia celebrates Co-production Week Scotland in this special blog:


In devoting an entire week to promoting co-production, Scotland is taking the lead worldwide. Congratulations. You are transforming what it means ‘to help others’ from a well-intended service delivery role to being a catalyst that enlists those being helped as partners and co-producers of real change, for themselves and others.

TimeBanks USA is undertaking to bring co-production into our higher education system – both for undergraduates at the University of the District of Columbia and my law school. The law faculty will shortly authorise a course in Becoming a Changemaker which introduces law students to co-production that reframes providing legal services to clients from a service delivery role to a transaction that enlists those clients as co-producers advancing System Change.

This past week, at the Annual Conference of our National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), TimeBanks USA, my law school, and the NLADA conferred a formal Client Contribution award to clients who had advanced social justice.

As we look at the recent election, we can see that we may be learning that the well-meaning effort of all our NGO’s to ‘do good’ may have relegated those recipients to being passive and disenfranchised – a status they did not appreciate. This election may have been their expression of dissatisfaction with that role and status. My hope is that co-production will be the way to restore us to the core values on which this nation was founded. Empowering the disempowered and disenfranchise is the mission to which I have committed myself since 1963 when I served as a Special Counsel and speech writer for Attorney General Robert Kennedy. I’m  not turning back – and you in Scotland have provided a model for us all.

Edgar recently gave a special lecture at our event Health, Human Rights and Co-production. Read the #LetsCoPro Storify here.


Creative Competition 2016 Highly Commended – Short Story

‘You are the expert…What does a healthier Scotland mean to you? What does a fairer Scotland mean to you? What changes would make a difference to your life?’ This year’s Creative Competition theme was ‘Voices of the Experts’ and our entrants told us their views by submitting to our Poetry, Short Story, Photography, Film and Arts and Crafts categories.

Creative Competition 2016 Highly Commended – Susan Robinson

The Potion – Susan Robinson 

There was once a not-at-all wicked witch called Willa, who lived in Scotland, possibly not all that far from you.

Willa did not live in a crumbling down old cottage in the middle of a dark and scary wood. She lived in a very ordinary one bedroom flat in town. But she may as well have lived hidden in the heart of a dark wood, for she never saw or interacted with her neighbours; those busy people who bustled by, immersed in their own lives and worries.

Willa lived alone. She went about her daily business, hiding behind her billowing black cloak and pointed hat. People saw these accessories and made snap judgements: that Willa was wicked; mad; best to be avoided.

No one said “Hello” or “Good morning”, or “It’s a bit cold for the time of year” to Willa. Instead, they averted their eyes, hurried on past, and tugged their children away, telling them not to stare.

There was something different about Willa, she was not like everyone else, and that made people nervous and uncomfortable. They ignored Willa to her face, and speculated about her behind her back, spreading wild rumours that further fuelled the fear of her.

So Willa made her way through life, silent, alone and misunderstood. She was not wicked, nor dangerous, just very sad and lonely, battered and damaged by life’s events, and struggling on the best way she knew how.

Willa did not like going out, being stared at, and spat at, people turning their backs on her and walking away, the whispered accusations that floated her in the cold wind. But nor did she like staying in, staring at the same four walls as they closed in on her, flicking on day-time television that depressed her still. Her flat was dusty and laced with cobwebs, not for any atmospheric witchy effect, but because she was depressed and too tired to dust or vacuum. And anyway, with no visitors, what was the point in cleaning anyway?

The irony, Willa reflected was that people feared her because they did not understand her, and thought she might turn them into a toad. But if they had bothered to ask her, Willa would have explained that her form of magic was aimed at helping and healing. She could rustle up a potion to clear up teenage acne as quick as a flash, and even knew a poultice which could help reverse male pattern baldness.

She just wanted to help people, if only they would let  her. She longed to feel useful, to utilise her skills and talents. But look at the state of her, she thought in despair. How could she help others if she couldn’t help herself?

She had not done any magic in such a long time. The depression she suffered from sapped her magic from her along with her energy. Was it possible that she could create a potion that could make things better?

As she considered making a potion, Willa felt a small flicker of hope within her. A feeling long dormant, but still there, waiting to be coaxed back to life.

Willa thought long and hard about the ingredients she would need. Newt’s eye, frogspawn and rat’s tails wouldn’t do, nor would herbs picked under a full moon. This would require serious ingredients and a lot of hard work and energy. Willa decided she was up for the challenge, and set to work.

Willa’s Potion for a Better Scotland

  • Take society’s attitude to anyone who is ‘different’ from them for whatever reason (be it experience of mental health conditions, disability, race, religion, gender, nationality, sexuality or age) and boil in a large cauldron over a hot fire. Bubble until stigma and prejudice begins to evaporate. It could take some time (anything from several hours to several generations) for stigma and prejudice to fully evaporate.
  • Once evaporation is complete, a solution of tolerance and understanding will remain.
  • There may still be lumps of ignorance with the solution. To counter this, add a generous dollop of education, laced with empathy, and stir vigorously in a clockwise direction for ten minutes, until the lumps of ignorance have been dissolved, leaving behind a smooth bright yellow potion.
  • Take a handful of disparate individuals (rinse off any residue of isolation and loneliness), and using unicorn hair, being to make connections between them. Continue weaving the individuals together with unicorn hair to form strong, multiple bonds, including friendships, social networks and a sense of community and belonging. Add to the yellow potion and stir counter-clockwise.
  • Take access to mental health services and multiply provision by ten, using the incantation “must do better”. Take mental health service provision and use a mortar and pestle to grind out any unnecessary bureaucracy and excessive waiting lists, and discard. Add in responsive, appropriate services (including crisis care), and compassionate knowledgeable professionals. Blend together to form a smooth blue paste.
  • Take a well funded, flexible third sector, which can provide personalised support and act as a valuable safety net to fill any gaps in statutory provision. Add to the blue paste above.
  • Sprinkle good information and signposting about services over the top.
  • Add the blue paste to the yellow potion in the cauldron and stir clockwise seven times over a low heat, until the mixture turns bright green.
  • Finally, take a handful of opportunities for everyone to be able to access green space, sports and leisure, culture and education.
  • Add to the green potion, stirring counter-clockwise five times.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool before drinking.

Exhausted, Willa stirred the potion one last time, before removing the cauldron from the fire. It had taken a long time and all her energy, but if it worked, it would be worth it.

With trepidation Willa drank the potion. At once she felt hope and optimism flood through her body. Things felt different. It had worked!

But it was not enough for Willa to drink the potion. She needed everyone to drink it: the people on her street; the people who work in shops, and hospitals; who drive buses; children; parents; teachers; policy-makers; decision-takers; politicians; big business bosses – everybody!

And so, Willa summoned all of her remaining strength and created a huge storm cloud over Scotland. Using every ounce of her power, Willa made her potion rain down, over the towns, cities, villages and countryside of Scotland. She hoped that her potion would land in the right places and be absorbed. She wanted children to splash in puddles of tolerant understanding and to drench commuters with a sense of community and compassion.

It rained Willa’s potion for an hour, and then worn out, she collapsed into a deep sleep, wondering if it was possible, that once the cloud had passed and the rain had stopped, she might wake up to a brighter tomorrow.

The Roots of Democratic Culture – Lisa Curtice

The Roots of Democratic Culture

You know the feeling. The meeting feels stuck. One person keeps making the same point, only more vociferously, another insists on bringing up something else just as the Chair tries to move the agenda on.  The rest have switched off and stopped trying to participate. Decisions are postponed and power relationships are reinforced.

Read More “The Roots of Democratic Culture – Lisa Curtice”

2MExperts Workshop Overview – Medicines; levelling the playing field

One delegate at the 2 Million Expert Voices conference expressed her frustration with the communications skills of clinicians:

“If you don’t know what’s wrong with you it is hard to find out from doctors and surgeons. They have a language all of their own. They went to medical school for seven years to learn this language. To have any idea what they are saying I would have to spend a week with a pile of medical dictionaries. They need to tell me in my language not theirs.” Read More “2MExperts Workshop Overview – Medicines; levelling the playing field”

Consultation and Involvement

Citizen participation is increasingly becoming a greater part of the health and social care landscape.  People have a massive role in creating the type of world we want to live in, including people who use support and services.  The Academy’s podcast with Oliver Escobar of Edinburgh University and What Works Scotland, Dr Andy Williamson of Democratise and Chris Yui of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations took the opportunity to discuss the key issues and challenges posed by greater levels of citizen participation. Read More “Consultation and Involvement”

People Like Mum

I have always perceived health and social care through a paternalistic lens.

This week I have been thinking about health and social care through the lens of lived experience, and its impact on families, in particular, my own.

I think of my mum when I think of the impact of long term conditions on a family’s ability to stay well and what mechanisms are in place to help them do so.  Her eldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child. It was a bit touch and go.  Her youngest child was diagnosed (when living abroad) with ulcerative colitis.  The terror of an unfamiliar health system coupled with a devastated and frightened girl was hard to bear.  Her husband went to hospital feeling a bit under the weather, came out 3 weeks later with a heart condition.  He later went to the dentist, was diagnosed with cancer. Her mother suffered a broken hip; the road to dementia was steep and distressing.

Read More “People Like Mum”