Full Participation is Messy

I am just returning from some strategic planning that we did in Nebraska.  Disability advocates came together from 3 unique agencies to explore how their collective actions can make inclusion more of a reality in that good state and I was hired to play a coordinating role.

It is important to know that NE has been an innovator in the challenge of community inclusion for folks with disabilities dating back to the late 60’s when Wolf Wolfensberger and associates initiated the early versions of “nomalization,” that is known today as “Social Role Valorization.”  Early efforts of deinstitutionalization and community involvement were pioneered in Nebraska.

The work we did at this retreat started with some exploration of recent outcomes in a comparison to the national core indicators.  These indicators showed that, although some advances have occurred in comparing Nebraska to the rest of the country, there are still wide gaps for families and individuals with disabilities that need to be addressed.  Top among these challenges are transportation issues, employment (meaningful things to do) and true relationship voids.

Using a World Cafe learning model, the participants at the retreat went to work examining things that should, could, and then will be addressed over the next year.  The Cafe model sets the table so that everyone, regardless of background, experience or station, weigh in and participate in the dialogue. 

In a way, this is messy work.  Often with planning, the leader of the group comes forward with ideas and holds their fellow colleagues accountable in carrying things out.  Most of us are used to this model, and we usually just follow someone else’s lead.

But when we practice inclusive planning, as in the World Cafe model, everyone is expected to offer thoughts and perspectives - and herein we find the messiness.  Yet, in the end, it is the best way of planning as the ownership of the direction is shared, often allowing more people to have a vested interest in the outcomes.

So the next time you are doing any planning, work hard to make it inclusive.  The challenges are greater in the beginning, but the outcomes will be so much stronger in the end.