Monday, December 7, 2009

A Quick Thought On Slow Change

In Transit

Have been on the road the last few days with a dodgy laptop, so no blogging. I am still in transit but have some time at this airport to go blogabout - the free internet access terminal gives me 15 minutes only so I'd better get to it.

I finished out the UK trip with a couple of meetings, the first about the role of social workers/case workers in the world of personalised support, and the second with a support agency who have been focused on personalisation for years. I intend to blog separately on both points, so watch this space. Instead, for this brief, almost airborne blog posting, I thought I'd share a sleepless thought about change.

I have had the immensely good fortune in my life to have lived and worked in a number of different countries, and in roles characterised by the forces of, or the need for, change. In the same way, the topic of change has also been a recurring feature of this work trip, so its now on my mind.

At various points in our lives, we each get the need for, or otherwise are confronted with, the forces of change. Sometimes we want it, sometimes we don't, sometimes it feels like it's for the better, sometimes not. Whatever the reason for its presence, it's hard to ignore and harder to avoid.

In the world of citizenship and disability, one thing stands out in respect of change. Change can come from all sorts of places and for all sorts of reasons. However, it is my experience, such as it is, that the most helpful and sustainable change for people living with disability has been initiated by those same people. Change initiated by politicians or policy makers, by bureaucrats or businessfolk, is far less likely to be helpful and sustainable unless those initiators have in turn been influenced by...yes you guessed it...people living with disability and the families and friends of those who need more assistance to give voice.

If helpful sustainable change ultimately comes from such grassroots, then one's attention is inevitably drawn to what helps and hinders such voice.  As I discovered from the Loop conference called Why Is It So Hard To Speak Up And Be Heard, there are many reasons why people feel they cannot, or choose not to, give voice in pursuit of helpful change.  These are well-documented, and contact if you want a copy of the Loop proceedings.  For the purpose of this blog posting, one particular reason comes to mind - "lack of a collective voice".  For me, this is less about formal advocacy and more about the power of numbers.  The more people who together passionately and actively give voice in pursuit of a common interest, the more likely it is that the interest will be fulfilled.  History has shown this again and again and again.

So for example, if you feel strongly that people living with disability should have genuine access to personalised support arrangements so that they can get on with a life of choice and citizenship, then connect with others who feel the same way and speak in concert. 

It seems the case that the voices within the disabilty community can often get preoccupied with the perceived differences between them.  At the very least this leads to a lost opportunity and, at worst, acrimony, bitterness and hurt, and with the common interest dismally unfulfilled.  Given the common barriers facing many people living with disability, and therefore a shared interest in helpful change, it seems a better idea for folk to focus on what they share in common rather than on what sets them apart.

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