Illustrated circles of different colours

About this project

Led by Dr Clare Pettinger (University of Plymouth, FoodSEqual) and Professor Charlotte Hardman (University of Liverpool, FIO Food; BeanMeals), this interdisciplinary, cross-project collaboration has engaged researchers from multiple academic institutions in order to better understand how to facilitate, support, and invest in future co-produced research for food systems transformation. 
There is an urgent need for transformation of the UK food system. The ways in which food is currently produced, accessed, and eaten are having significant negative impacts on human health and causing damage to our environment. To address these issues, there has been a recent shift towards the use of creative and participatory methods of research, including co-production. In line with this, "co-producing research across disciplines and stakeholders to provide evidence for coherent policymaking" is a key strategic aim of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Transforming UK Food Systems (TUKFS) SPF Programme.  
As part of the TUKFS Annual Synergy Fund, this research project identified and mapped examples of where co-production, co-design or co-creation methods are being employed for food system transformation across six TUKFS projects. This toolkit shares the outputs of this research project, including 11 case studies of co-production, a 'messy map' representing our key findings, as well as practical considerations intended for researchers, academic institutions, and funders engaging with these innovative methodological approaches.
Blue circle with graphic symbolising relationships for the Synergy project
Orange circle with graphic symbolising power for the Synergy project
Yellow circle with graphic symbolising knowledge for the Synergy project
Green circle with graphic symbolising inclusivity for the Synergy project

What is co-production?

Co-production is a collaborative way of working, with an emphasis on the exchange of diverse forms of knowledge and expertise in 'an equal partnership for equal benefits'.  
It offers opportunities to empower underrepresented communities through engaging them more fairly in research processes and may improve the quality of research ensuring its relevance and applicability to the 'real world'.
Many funding programmes now require research to be co-produced; however, the concept of co-production has been described as 'messy' with varied interpretations across different disciplines and contexts, and a lack of consensus of what its processes should look like.

What we did

This research project used a systematic analysis of project documents, conversations and two interactive workshops to explore and map co-production activities within six TUKFS projects (BeanMeals, FIO Food, FoodSEqual, H3, FixOurFood, and Cultured Meat and Farmers), as well as the experiences of researchers engaged in this type of research.
Workshops were led by a creative facilitator, Hannah Mumby, making use of Hannah’s unique 'co-production oracle' card deck, supporting reflection and prompting discussion on key issues related to co-production for food systems transformation.
Data from conversations and workshop discussions were collated to create 11 case studies of co-production activities. Our findings are also represented in a 'messy map' that highlights key principles for co-production, as well as researcher perceptions of the 'gold standard approach', key barriers and challenges, and any solutions and strategies identified.

What we learned 

Key learning and practical considerations for co-production for food systems transformation 
Drawing on our findings from conversations and workshop discussions with researchers and project team members involved in co-produced research, we have created a checklist of practical considerations for researchers, academic institutions and funders engaging in co-produced research: 

Co-investigators associated with TUKFS projects

Dr Neil Boyle  
University of Leeds; Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People (H3)
Joanne Craven  
Independent serious games consultant; BeanMeals
Dr Bethan Mead
University of Liverpool
Dr Lisa Morgans
Royal Agricultural University; Cultured Meat and Farmers 
Dr John Dooley
Royal Agricultural University; Cultured Meat and Farmers