Background noises

A bit of background to explain how and why I got involved:

Until last July I was Head of the Department of Creative Communications in Cardiff School of Art & Design – on a good day the best job in the universe (and most days were deliciously good). By profession I’m a graphic designer focusing on information design and social design, with research interests in creative teaching & learning, and student motivation & engagement. My leadership style tended to favour benign democratic bossiness, plentiful enthusiasm and lots of cake, all of which went down well with colleagues and students alike.

Then we were reorganized, the HoD job ceased to exist, and despite the University retaining me in an Associate role I was suddenly bereft of companions to boss/enthuse over/eat cake with. And in the midst of my bereftitude I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship with £10,000 which I could use in any way I wished (more or less). Which was fantastic, but at the time I was too busy sulking to really appreciate it.

my dear son makes a last, desperate attempt to persuade me to forego both cakes and sulking

I continued to sulk and eat cakes in a lone and lorn fashion for a month or so. Then, disturbed by my expanding waist and the chocolate and cream dribbles down my front, my son took me in hand. He works for Spice, a time-banking organization in Wales. He suggested that it was about time that I started doing something useful with my transferable skills, and specifically, that I should transfer them to co-production.

So I began to read about co-production, and got in touch with nef and NESTA, and through them I joined the CP Network. And I became hugely excited by the humanity, democracy and holistic effectiveness of co-production approaches, and particularly by their focus on community. Then I started meeting practitioners and talking to them about their work. I’ve spoken to youth workers, community workers, housing association staff, NHS practitioners, environmental campaigners and time-bankers… And I became even more inspired.

Academia tends to be full of people who are talking the talk rather than walking the walk. What is exhilarating and energizing about co-production practitioners is that they are actually practising what they preach and making a real difference in their communities. So, having discovered a new focus for my enthusiasm, I asked practitioners what I could contribute. It was suggested that I might try to produce a resource which would share best practice, lessen the need to reinvent the wheel, and which might also provide an evidence-base for the effectiveness of co-production. This seemed like a good idea to me. So I sent out a questionnaire to find out if anyone else thought it would be a good idea and if so, whether they would be willing to co-produce it with me.

You did and you are.

And hence, newly enthused, re-benigned, and with time, some relevant transferable skills and the £10,000 Teaching Fellowship fund, I’m on the steepest (but probably the jolliest) learning curve of my life.    Ruth Dineen 2.1.2012



  1. Ruth,

    This blog is brilliant – and what a great exciting thing you’re doing.

    I just wanted to share something me and Emily Wilkinson have been working on for the last year and a bit:

    “Come to your senses gives people an opportunity to creatively engage in and express their experiential, emotional and sensory experiences of a place. We use methods, such as collaborative mapping, to help visualise and reveal individual and shared experiences in a visual form. This process can expose underlying themes, issues and concerns.”

    See the blog for some projects and pop-up events:

    I look forward to reading more here!



    • Hi Laura
      Good to hear from you. Love your project; links up to nef/NESTA’s ‘wellbeing’ agenda, and we can all do with a bit of that! Hope that you and Emily can come to the Cardiff co-pro event on 23 February – and maybe you’d like to join the Wales Co-production network to inject a bit of youth and dynamism?! Cheers

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