Some Free Advice

Ask: Is there anyone doing anything better?
This requires you to seek out best practices and interesting approaches. Read the journals and newsletters, go to conferences, talk to people who are doing good stuff, stay connected, surf the net, etc.

Ask: Why can’t we do it?
Take the heart of the matter and apply it to your situation. No, you don’t have an infinite number of grad students to work on that terrific project done at the university, but you may be able to change and adapt their idea as well as those of other providers for your own purposes.

Find Allies
Nothing we have ever accomplished has come full force from one person. Ideas need to be nurtured, modified, and presented in ways that are acceptable. Strive for hallway conversations – times when you are so excited about an issue or concept that you can not wait for the “appropriate” time and place to discuss it. You will know you are onto something when you grab people from what they are doing and start disagreeing, agreeing and soul searching on the spot.

Establish a Vision
Examine your innermost assumptions and those of the organization. What are you and the organization’s absolute core beliefs? Do you really believe that people with disabilities can only function in a group and can only be served in a group? Why? Do you really believe people with disabilities can only associate and befriend others with disabilities? Why? The more basic the disagreement, the more difficult it is to compromise. Without agreement on vision, however, your organization will never fly.

Look for Opportunities to Act on That Vision
Never underestimate the power of a good old fashion crisis. Losing money on workshop sales yet again? Why not take the opportunity to shut it down? Outgrown your space? Why not take the opportunity to move services into the community? Are all residential facilities full? Why not take the opportunity to support people in their own apartments? Sometimes it is easier to move in the right direction when you are forced to do something different.

Show the Benefits to Individuals
We got into this line of endeavor because of some desire to help people. Look at the gains people make in the community and see the possibilities for others. For someone who has succeeded in living in their own apartment, can you really look that person in the eyes and say, “you need to be in a group home?”

Remember One Person at a Time
Don’t worry about changing the program. Change services for one individual, then another and another and another… If successful for individuals, the program will eventually dissolve.

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