Modern Pioneers #6 – Alan Armstrong, Barod
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts.
Today’s post looks at the work of Alan Armstrong of Barod CIC. A new co-operative, Barod counts ‘reviewing publicity materials to make them more accessible for people with learning difficulties’ among its key services.
“We are Barod. We put “jargy-jargy” English into bilingual everyday words and use ‘easy read’. We do training and research, and work towards changing ideas and attitudes. We do a lot of work with local authorities, NHS / local health boards and the government, and want to do more with private companies. We currently have five employees, two with learning disabilities.
We chose to work together as a co-operative because we wanted to be our own directors and workers of our own company and we would be our own boss. This would mean we would have no boss higher than us and that we would all be equal. We chose this method because we would all have the same equal pay as both workers and directors. Why we also chose this method of co-operative is that the profit we made within Barod would go back into running the company, and any surplus profits we did make would go into the People First movement.
When we started, two people came off benefits and began earning a living wage within our company. For the material we use, we use local places so that we make sure we’re putting money back into the Welsh economy. We ask the people within the People First movement to help us with services like ‘check-it’ (a quality assurance tool for easy read) and workshops, and we make sure they get paid for helping us. Because we get paid they get paid. We’ve gone to the Wales Co-operative Centre and used Twitter to ask about stuff we wanted from other Welsh co-ops who are similar to us, on purchasing material off them. So they get to know who we are, as much as networking with other co-operative companies.
We are the only company in Wales that have worker directors who have a learning disability and who have come off benefits. The reason why I wanted to become a worker director of my own company is that it would be like being self-employed but also provide the ability to work as a director. Therefore, I have an equal say on decision making, how we network, how we do marketing and also being my own boss.
We chose to put our money into the Co-operative Bank was because we tried other banks and they didn’t take us seriously enough to become our own boss/worker directors, as some of us had a learning disability.
I believe co-operatives are a good thing for the economy of Wales because it helps people set up their own businesses and enables them to work as a team when they start up. It gives more opportunity for employment, to help people get off benefits and get into a working life and have a living wage. Co-op businesses that start up in Wales are giving back opportunities for people who have many different skills to set up their own businesses. This means the economy within Wales will boom. “
Find out how co-operatives can be helped in Wales, through the business support section of our website.