|Self-Employment for Disabled People - Experiences from Africa and Asia (ILO, 1989, 100 p.)|
|2. Self-employment - An option for disabled people|
Self-employment has so far been treated exclusively as an individual activity undertaken by one person. It is important to stress that there are many examples of successful co-operatives or group enterprises where numbers of people have come together in order to pool their resources and their skills and to start a business together. This form of self-employment has many advantages; people can share the numerous responsibilities of business, they can take advantage of the economies in purchasing and operations that arise from the larger scale of their enterprise, and they can benefit from the mutual support and encouragement of their fellow members rather than having to labour alone.
The record of group enterprise, however, is far less successful than that of individual business, in spite of the obvious advantages. The commonest reason for the failure of such enterprises is the failure of the group to work together effectively; jealousies arise, members do not accept leadership from among themselves, and the end result is most frequently one of two disappointments: either the group breaks up and the enterprise ceases to operate or the group is hijacked by a particular individual who often exploits his or her fellow members and runs the enterprise for selfish ends.
Disabled people, like other marginalised groups, are particularly likely to be able to work together effectively because they share a common problem and feel that they must stick together in order to show the rest of the world that they can succeed. Groups or co-operatives of disabled people, like any other enterprise, must be effectively led; they must avoid being used by political interests and they must be managed in a businesslike way using the necessary skills to produce goods or services at a price that others are willing to pay. Such groups must also be genuinely owned and managed by their members, rather than being dependent on outside financing and direction. It is vitally important for anyone who is assisting disabled people to work together with them to ensure that the initiative and control belong to the group rather than coming from outside. If this can be achieved, disabled people may be more likely than most to overcome the problems of group enterprise and to exploit the undoubted advantages.