Thursday, September 23, 2010

A hundred leaders

In Control International is an international community of interest on the topic of self-direction in disability support. I’ve just attended the latest meeting, an opportunity to share ideas and experiences that can assist the momentum for helpful change in people’s lives. The meeting covers ideas ranging from the personal to the national.

Participants in these conversations (not limited to these face-to-face meetings) include Australia, Scotland, Czech Republic, England, Japan, Wales, Finland, Ireland, and the US. Some connection has also been established with NZ where there is a very interesting momentum towards self-directed support.

A set of principles guide these connections, one of which is the notion of ‘open source’ sharing. This is a bit like Wikipedia, in that everyone is recognised as having something to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about what it takes to support vulnerable people into good lives. This is very exciting because it means that In Control Australia has access to a rich seam of useful resources from both within Australia and overseas.

It is clear to me that helpful change is often initiated by people sharing their stories and then taking action together. As part of Julia Farr Association’s support to In Control Australia we will shortly be re-developing the In Control Australia website to assist people to access useful information. Within the new website we would like to build a collection of people’s stories, of how individualised (self-directed) funding has helped the person to build the life they want, and also stories from people who don’t yet have a personalised budget but who can describe how they imagine their life would be different if they did.

So I would like to ask all Australian readers of this blog to think about who you know (if not yourself) who might like to tell their story. It’s as easy as talking into a voice recorder, or talking to a computer webcam, or writing the story in a Word document, or telling the story through something like PowerPoint. That recording/file can then be sent to us and we’ll take care of things from there. At all times we will have careful regard to honour the degree of privacy that people ask for.

Given the national enquiry that is taking place about disability insurance, and the various state/territory activities in relation to individualised (self-directed) funding, now is the time for people to tell their stories, so that the focus of a national disability insurance scheme, and the direction of local arrangements, is on how people can be supported into lives of choice and citizenhood.

Someone mentioned to me the other day that, "...I like hearing people's stories but enough already!  I get it, so now tell me how to make change happen".  I can understand that view, and at my agency we have plenty of information that we can connect people with on the 'how'.  I will say this though.  Story-telling remains important, for at least three reasons i can think of.  First, people's stories often contain great wisdom about the 'how', and we just need to tune into that wisdom and grab it.  Second, we need to keep being reminded about why all this is important, and people's stories provide the best kind of reminder.  Third, one of the most potent sources of influence on the design and shape of future disability support arrangements will be the stories that people tell about how their lives change for the better because of a highly personalised approach. 

Imagine having the stories of a hundred vulnerable Australians who have taken control and built a much richer life through personalised funding and assistance.  That would be a very powerful anthology of personal authority and citizenhood, one that could help achieve critical change in the way our governments, service agencies and communities think and feel about disability.

So let's get it done; let's get a hundred stories of a hundred people who have taken leadership in their own lives.  A hundred leaders. 


  1. Hi Robbi

    I will circulate around NCID members and friends.

    A great idea - lets find those 100 leaders/innovators.



  2. Receiving individualised funding, gave me independence and choices. One of my choices was to manage my own Queensland government funding package myself. I can negotiate rosters with my staff to suit my lifestyle. I actually have a life outside my disability. I socialise with different groups of friends and I'm not restricted to just contact with a service provider's supply of staff and other people with disabilities.
    There is a lot of paperwork and recruiting staff is not easy but I would not go back to relinquishing the management of my funding to a third party ever. My support workers work for ME and make much more effort than they would/did when employed by a service provider organisation.
    It is wonderful to be able to choose my staff. It is wonderful to have a sense of control over the direction of my life.
    Vicki Humphries

  3. Thank you so much for your wonderful post.

    You will probably be surprised by the reason that I was interested in it ... I am a psychology student and currently studying critical psychology which is all about looking at power structures in society and assessing how social constructions place people into 'subject positions' limiting how they operate.

    As a third year psychology student I (and others in my course) have consistently been taught that the answer to many problems lies in the individual - individual therapy/medication as an example of the 'solution' to depression. However, this topic has challenged that assumption and asked us to look at the broader picture and at fixing the underlying constructions in society that cause the problems in the first place. Critical psychology looks to stories and qualitative analysis as a method of deconstructing and understanding how society operates and how it can be improved in the future.

    I know that I and many of my fellow students have struggled with this as a concept as it challenges the assumptions upon which we began our psychology course (that at the end of it we could - quite patronisingly - help people) and the empowerment of people experiencing difficulties seems like a very difficult thing to enable, making us (or me at least) feel like the potential for positive change through my own actions was limited. However, your blog post was an inspiration because it shows that critical psychology's approach not only has potential in an academic setting but also has applications in the real world.

    I for one certainly hope that people who have had the opportunity to self-direct funding and have achieved positive outcomes will be inspired to share their stories and hopefully enable others to achieve similar change.