June update: interviews, case studies, and Sweden!

collage of 4 photos taken in various parts of Stockholm: a city skyline with historic buildings and church towers across water; a street with colourful apartment buildings; a green-painted wooden house surrounded by trees in a park; city rooftops with a pair of tall, geometrically shaped concrete towers behind

It feels like it’s been a long time since I updated anything here, but actually it has only been a month. While my time perception is always a bit unreliable, I think it probably feels longer because it has been an eventful month!

I’m still doing research interviews, but I feel like this is now coming towards its end. I originally said I would do them between March and May, but (perhaps predictably) time got a bit flexible and I have ended up doing them scattered over time and through most of June. I have a couple yet to schedule that may go into July – but I have now done 17 individual interviews and I’m going to do between 3 and 5 more, which neatly fits with my original plan of doing approximately 20. My second call for participants aimed particularly at members of workers’ co-ops seems to have worked, as several people who are or have been members of workers’ co-ops (of a variety of types and sizes) responded to it, so I now feel like I’ve probably got (as far as can be possible in such a small sample) reasonably broad coverage of the types of co-ops that exist in the UK (especially also taking into account my case studies).

I’ve also hopefully got a few interviews to come with people in my 3 case study co-ops: Enabled Works (as seen in my previous post), Signalise, and Co-operative Care Colne Valley (there will be posts on these latter two!), but I think all my interviewing will be done (barring anything unexpected) by about a week into July. Then, of course, I need to get it all transcribed (luckily, I have an available transcription co-op), coded and analysed…

The survey for co-ops, which was the third strand of this research, closed at the end of May. Due to being busy, I still haven’t looked in detail at the results, but there will be an update soon with preliminary findings.

In early June I also mixed business with pleasure by spending a week in Sweden – my first travel outside the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Visiting friends and sightseeing were parts of the trip (the image gallery at the top of this post is a selection of photos of Stockholm), but I also did some interviews while away (by the magic of Zoom), and most excitingly managed to visit Sweden’s largest and oldest disabled people’s personal assistance co-op, STIL (Stockholm Independent Living). While the official scope of this research is disabled people’s involvement in co-ops in the UK, STIL is (more or less directly) relevant for several reasons:

  • As I found in my PhD research about personal assistance, the model of personal assistance co-ops that exists in Sweden (and the other Nordic countries) has potential for replication in the UK, and if it could be replicated here, could help significantly with many of the problems experienced by disabled people who employ their own PAs directly (such as difficulty recruiting and retaining PAs, and struggles with administrative aspects of being an employer, such as tax and payroll, which many disabled people here either have to face alone, or pay profit-making agencies to deal with them, which reduces both their control over their personal assistance and the money available to actually pay the PAs).
  • The pure consumer co-op model of STIL and other Nordic independent living co-ops (disabled people who have personal assistance needs are the co-op members; PAs are employees of the co-op, working for/with an individual member, but not co-op members themselves) forms an interesting and worth-analysing contrast with the (relatively few, small and new) personal assistance/social care co-ops in the UK, which are multi-stakeholder co-ops (both service users and workers, and potentially other classes of people as well, are members).
  • STIL, excitingly for me, are potentially interested in being involved (remotely) in the hybrid conference that I am hoping to plan for this autumn – which, while it would probably be an online presentation via Zoom or similar, would make it an international conference!

Overall it has been a fun but somewhat exhausting month (with some interesting developments in my personal life as well). I have a lot to catch up with, but hopefully there will be more updates soon…

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