Top tips for delivering co-production workshops

Top tips for delivering co-production workshops

The Supporting Autistic Adults’ Intimate Lives (SAAIL) research project focuses on increasing recognition and support for autistic peoples’ intimate lives within adult social care in England. Here, Bethany Jay (researcher) and Dr Monique Huysamen (principal investigator), describe how the team ran workshops with project stakeholders to co-produce autism and intimacy toolkits.

In the final stage of the SAAIL project we co-produced two toolkits, one for autistic adults and one for professionals. These online resource banks cover a range of topics related to sex and relationships. To do this we designed two accessible online stakeholder workshops to enable us to co-produce toolkits that truly reflected the needs and desires of autistic adults. Stakeholders included SAAIL participants and an array of professionals, academics and service providers who had an interest or expertise in some area of autistic peoples’ intimate lives, many of whom were autistic too.

Planning and designing the workshops

Top Tips

  • Consulting stakeholders during the planning and design phases is key to preparing for meaningful and accessible co-production.
  • Do not underestimate the value of offering technology trial runs to support people co-producing research online with you.
  • Make sure online co-production methods are flexible, and offer multiple mediums for people to contribute, making it accessible to as many people as possible.

We started our planning process by consulting with potential attendees by sending a Microsoft (MS) Form questionnaire – see what we asked here. (MS forms have a ‘immersive reader’ functionality, making them more accessible.) Stakeholders provided several important recommendations. Firstly, they suggested we tell attendees what to expect from the workshops so that they could feel fully prepared, providing detailed information about how the workshop would run on the day, and to provide this information in a timely manner. We therefore created detailed agendas and made these available a week in advance.

Another recommendation was providing one-to-one technology trial runs (online meetings to try out platform functionalities) for anyone unfamiliar with the platform. In the weeks leading up to the workshops, we offered slots where people could book in with one of us so they could try out accessing meeting links, logging in and out of meetings, using breakout rooms, turning on live captions, etc. Not everyone who could have benefited from these trial runs took the opportunity, and one or two people did encounter technological difficulties on the day. However, we planned for technology support to be available throughout workshops, and we had one SAAIL team member whose main role was to provide technological support to workshop participants so that no one needed to struggle on their own. Running into technological difficulties during workshops can, and did, cause anxiety for some people, highlighting the importance of planning and offering support during coproduction workshops. Technology trial runs were a valuable way of supporting people and pre-empting potential technological difficulties; the value of providing this space where all participants can feel supported should not be underestimated.

We chose online workshops over in-person workshops because this was the majority of our stakeholders’ preferred choice, and because it enabled international stakeholders to participate. However, online workshops were not preferable or accessible to all stakeholders wanting to contribute and coproduce the toolkits with us. To ensure nobody was excluded we offered alternative ways to contribute. Stakeholders could view and contribute to our online Padlet pinboards (discussed next) regardless of whether they attended the workshops or not, we offered one-to-one meetings with individuals where they could share their thoughts and ideas, and others emailed us written content.

SAAIL is a sex-positive research project that aims to explore and represent autistic adults’ intimate lives in affirmative ways.

Delivering the workshops

Top Tips

  • Padlet is a useful tool for live, effective, and continuous coproduction but requires extra time and resources to encourage stakeholders’ sustained engagement.
  • Be flexible with workshop design to allow stakeholders to take the lead with workshops (they are the experts)

The aim of our co-production workshops was twofold: for stakeholders to engage with and co-analyse SAAIL interview and focus group data, and to contribute new toolkit topics based on their own expertise, interests, and priorities. Padlet allowed us to achieve this with pinboards containing quotes and themes from our data that stakeholders could comment on, add relevant links, images and documents to – before, during and after the workshop (view our 5 pinboards here). They were made available one month before and after the workshops – starting co-production a long while before, and continuing co-production a long while after, the workshops took place. During the first workshop  attendees went into “breakout rooms” where they discussed and added to the pinboards before re-joining the larger group for discussions.

Padlet empowered people to engage in genuine collaboration and allowed toolkit co-production to continuously happen in one live place. However, Padlet was not perfect. Like the technology trial runs, stakeholder engagement with Padlet waned at times before and after the workshops. This meant we had to encourage engagement with Padlet outside of the workshops. This indicated the importance of offering continual support after the workshops.

As we wanted our workshops to be stakeholder-led we did not design our second workshop before the first workshop to allow the design of workshop two to be directly informed by stakeholder priorities. This included the structure of the workshop; for example, the breakout room function was not used in workshop two following stakeholders’ feedback. It also included the content of the workshop: in workshop one attendees highlighted important topics they wanted included in the toolkits that were beyond the scope of the SAAIL project. This meant we had to draw on stakeholders’ expertise and workshop two was centred on presentations led by our stakeholders rather than by our team. Workshop two led to amazing stakeholder-produced toolkits such the neurodiversity and Hypermobility toolkit by SEDSConnective and the BDSM toolkit. The relationships and networks developed in workshop one were key in organising workshop two and for further toolkit co-production.

If you have found our top tips helpful in planning future co-production workshops, let us know at and find out more at

Check out a longer version of this blog published by autism@manchester here.

Read NIHR Social Care Speciality posts here →

All news articles categorised as 'blog posts' on this site give the views of the author(s), and not the position of the NIHR School for Social Care Research

Friday, August 4th, 2023

Written by:

Bethany Jay
Bethany JayManchester Metropolitan University

Graduate Research Assistant

View online profile →

Monique Huysamen
Monique HuysamenManchester Metropolitan University

Senior Research Associate

View online profile →

Other blog posts:

Supporting older people’s care moves Blog post

23 February 2024

Supporting older people’s care moves

Transitions between care settings: how evidence-based resources can help

Food and drink in later life: the role of homecare Blog post

21 February 2024

Food and drink in later life: the role of homecare

What is the role of homecare in tackling undernourishment in older adults?

Exploring the benefits of music in care homes Blog post

19 December 2023

Exploring the benefits of music in care homes

How care home residents and staff can benefit from music-making