The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is transforming the way people with disability access supports. To make the most of the NDIS, people with disability need a good understanding of their consumer rights.
Building on the learnings from an initial consumer awareness initiative, Fair Trading partnered with people with disability – with Being, Community Disability Alliance Hunter, Communities and Justice NSW, Diversity and Disability Alliance, Ethnic Community Service Cooperative and NSW Council for Intellectual Disability – to co-design and co-deliver Talkin’ Together, a consumer rights engagement program.
The partners have now shared their co-design and co-delivery model through a launch at the International Convention Centre in Sydney and an online toolkit. As the evaluation team, we were privileged to be part of the launch. Videos in which peer facilitators described their active involvement in the co-design process were a highlight.
The co-design and co-deliver model
Co-design reflects the call for ‘nothing about us, without us.’ It recognises the rights of people with lived experience to shape the policies and programs that affect their lives and values the expertise that people with lived experience bring to this process.
It often requires us to challenge the way things have been done – cultivating new practices, cultures and mindsets.
Other organisations looking for where to start can check out the ‘discover, develop, deliver and debrief’ model that the partners established for Talkin’ Together. Through the videos, the peer and Fair Trading facilitators shared their insights into what worked in bringing their different perspectives together to engage people with disability in conversations about their rights. There were also Auslan resources co-designed with the Deaf Society NSW.
When commissioning the evaluation, the partners recognised the need for an approach that would also value lived experience. Our team relished this opportunity to expand our participatory approaches.
When we work with people with disability, we do so from a rights basis – from the foundation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We look to find meaningful ways to involve people with disability. This is not only important from a rights perspective, but also because it supports better evaluation. It helps disrupt traditional power dynamics that can come from a perception of evaluators as ‘expert’ outsiders. And it informs questions that matter to people with lived experience, data collection processes that are inclusive and accessible, and interpretation of findings that is informed by lived experience.
For the Talkin’ Together evaluation, we were able to engage three people with lived experience to support the evaluation, with the support of the partner organisations. We worked with them over the three months of the evaluation to check our data collection processes and tools, to observe the Talkin’ Together workshops and collect data from participants, to run a workshop with the participating organisations, and to interpret what we’d found and clarify the report.
In other projects we have engaged people with lived experience through organisational or project-specific advisory committees.
These models of engagement are not a hierarchy – though we aim more towards collaboration and co-design than consultation. What we’ve learned is to work with consumers’ preferences about their engagement, the project context, and the supportive infrastructure for co-evaluation.
What we found
The evaluation identified the value of co-design. Designing workshops with people with disability meant the content was tailored to the needs of each target group, and participants could better engage with the messages and what they could do to stand up for their rights. It also identified the value of co-delivery. Having peer facilitators meant participants felt comfortable, engaged, related to and that they understood the content. There were also transformational benefits that can only come from peer interactions – people realised, “If you can do this, so can I!”
Participant outcomes included an increased understanding of their rights, increased confidence in speaking up for their rights, and feeling empowered by hearing how their peers have managed issues and by seeing their peers lead workshops. Peer facilitator outcomes included growth in knowledge, skills and confidence, feeling valued for the expertise they brought, and gaining employment experience and opportunities for further employment. Finally, Fair Trading gained experience in co-design and the knowledge to effectively engage with people with disability.
You can read more about the evaluation here.
The launch was an exciting look-back at the project. From the moment we entered the room, it was clear the relationships that the peer and Fair Trading facilitators had built were lasting – both within and across organisations. The value of what they had produced and how much they had learned along the way shone through in the presentations, videos and their interactions with one another.
We can’t wait to hear about how other organisations use the co-design and co-deliver toolkit. We’re also looking forward to ongoing opportunities to work with people with lived experience to strengthen evaluation.