Sunday, 8 November 2015

You’re not ready



One worker-director’s personal journey

I value myself as an ordinary person, as a human being, and went down the route of looking for employment. I was told by Job Centre Plus that I had to seek advice from a disability employment advisor (DEA). I attended the appointment where the DEA spent the appointment on explaining how I’d never find employment. It made me feel unworthy and felt I was the problem, where the problem was they couldn’t find the appropriate employment for me because it wasn’t out there.

So the message I’m giving is it wasn’t my problem, it was theirs.

So, he sent me to supported employment agencies that he thought would suit me, and the various work placements and training came into this. I decided to knock that on the head because it made me feel ‘special’ in the shut out and stared at way. And none of it led to employment.

I’ve always remembered the Wetherspoon’s story, and that story kept me going. Wetherspoon’s was started by someone who was told by his teacher he would never succeed in business.  The teacher’s name was Wetherspoon, so that’s what the man called his first successful business. 

Now I’m the one who’s proved them wrong. I have created work for myself and other people. It just needed people who shared my vision to come together and get on with it – some of those people are now colleagues and some are from outside Barod, including the Work Choice provider I finally got myself referred to.

And, in case you are wondering, Barod isn’t the name of my old teacher but it was chosen for the same reason. Job Centre Plus said I wasn’t ready. The Disability Employment Advisor back then sent me on courses because I wasn’t ready.

Our company?


 It’s called Barod, because we are in Wales and in Welsh, Barod means Ready.  

Shared Space

Coproduction is a buzz word. It gets used a lot. And it gets used to describe a lot of things.

We always start by thinking about power and control. I guess that's because we are used to not having either, despite being told we have been given them.

So, for us, coproduction is not a new type of engagement or involvement. Engagement and involvement always rely on someone else saying you can get involved. Usually the "someone else" is your service provider, local authority or government. As long as someone has the power to choose to involve you, they can choose to stop involving you as well. Same goes for empowerment, engagement and all these other buzz words for shifting how things work between the powerful and less powerful.

The hard reality is that the "someone else" really does hold the power and control. They have the money, the influence, the professional training, sometimes even the democratic right if they were elected. As long as "someone else" holds power and control, engagement and involvement are hugely important for improving the quality of services, policies and planning.

The problem for us comes when "someone else" holds the power but believes (or pretends) that we are all working as equals and we are coproducing.

We came up with a way of trying to explain the difference between involvement and coproduction. We call it "My space, Your spaceShared space". The idea was sparked by a chance comment from Professor Catherine Robinson 18 months ago when we were trying to work out why we couldn't communicate how our vision of "team research" was different from the teams in most inclusive research.

Over the 18 months, the seed of an idea has grown into something we are ready to put out there as our contribution to the debate on the future relationship of public services and public.

Do watch the PowerPoint show, and let us know what you think.

If it makes sense but leaves you wondering how to do it, you are welcome to talk to us about workshops, consultancy and action learning sets.

If you think it's a load of cobblers as a concept or completely impractical as a practice, we'd love to hear why. We love critical friends who help refine and challenge our thinking.