May update: BSL videos, case studies and extended recruitment

A river running through a small town on a bright sunny day, with stone buildings with balconies right next to the river and reflected in the water
A river running through a small town on a bright sunny day, with stone buildings with balconies right next to the river and reflected in the water
The view from the balcony of The Watershed community centre in Slaithwaite, where Co-operative Care Colne Valley held an event on Saturday 14th May 2022.

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything with this WordPress site – partly because I have had a lot going on (including a thankfully mild case of Covid and some personal-life events, both good and bad), but also because there wasn’t a lot to update on the research front. I have done a few more interviews, but was feeling like things were rather frustratingly stalled for most of April. However, luckily in May things picked up again.

I have now got 3 co-ops for case studies:

  • Signalise, a co-op of British Sign Language interpreters and translators and Deaf users of their services, based in Merseyside but operating around the UK.
  • Co-operative Care Colne Valley, a multi-stakeholder care/personal assistance co-op based in a small, relatively rural area of West Yorkshire, with care workers, service users, volunteers and investors as classes of members.
  • Enabled Works, a workers’ co-op in Leeds that grew out of the closure of sheltered workshops for disabled workers. (I’m going to visit them on Wednesday, and I am very much intrigued to find out how exactly they found out about the possibility of becoming a workers’ co-op and how they managed the transition from a highly top-down sheltered workshop structure to a worker-owned and self-managed one…)

All of these co-ops are relatively new, having started within the last decade, and in the cases of Signalise and Co-operative Care Colne Valley within the last few years. Both of these co-ops can also be characterised, to a greater or lesser extent, both as multi-stakeholder co-ops and as platform co-ops – both of which, especially the latter, are relatively new and vaguely defined forms in the UK. Possibly the growth of platform co-ops has been accelerated in a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced so much of social life (especially for disabled people) into online spheres, and generally accelerated the digitalisation of society? However, in contrast to the others, Enabled Works, while only a few years older, seems to be a fairly traditional single-stakeholder workers’ co-op with a single physical workplace, and not that much involvement in the online world. All these co-ops, however, seem to have managed to thrive in the face of the increasingly severe challenges of everyday life facing the working class in Britain in general, and disabled people even more acutely. I’m excited to be able to look more deeply into the details of the challenges and barriers that they all have faced and the strategies they have developed to overcome them.

Signalise have also provided me with BSL video translations of the text on 3 key pages on this site: Welcome (the ‘front page’ of the site), About the Research, and my Call for Participants. This makes my site more accessible for Deaf potential participants – who I would love to recruit some of, so if you are reading this and know of any Deaf people (or other disabled people who may be British Sign Language users) who are or have been members of co-ops and who might be interested in participating in this research, please pass this on and/or ask them to contact me. I am very happy to be able to use Signalise’s interpreter services for any interviews with Deaf or otherwise BSL-using participants who any need it!

While I had planned my recruitment period to be March, April and May 2022, given the delays that I have experienced and the fact that I have just got the BSL translations more than halfway through May, I have decided to extend recruitment until the end of June for the following groups, who are as of now under-represented in my research:

  • Members or ex-members of co-ops other than housing co-ops (such as workers’ co-ops or multi-stakeholder co-ops)
  • Deaf participants, or those who use British Sign Language for any other reason (including those who are or have been members of housing co-ops

(Nothing at all against housing co-ops! I just already have a good selection of interviews with disabled people with varied experiences of and perspectives on living in housing co-ops, and far fewer with experience of any other types of co-ops. Of course, the fact that disabled members/ex-members of housing co-ops seem to be easier to find and interview than disabled members/ex-members of other types of co-ops may be a research finding in itself…)

I’m also starting to think more seriously – prompted in part by some of my interviews and by other people who have contacted me – about wanting to organise a conference about disabled people and co-ops, which would not just be an academic event but also have practical purposes like networking between disabled co-operators, and between co-ops in disability fields, for mutual support, and workshops on things like how to make your co-op as accessible as possible and how to set up new co-ops. There’s also the possibility that I may be able to be involved in the Co-operative Ways Forward conference which is happening in Manchester in September.

I would like any conference that I organise to be a hybrid event, which it will be possible to participate in both in person and remotely – both because of Covid and to hopefully meet many other access needs of potential participants which could not all be met by either an in-person event or an online event alone. An online element being included raises the possibility that there may even be one or more international keynote speakers – watch this space!

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