Draft – June 2, 2015
Many agencies were once small alternatives, trying out something new, but through various processes were amalgamated into “big box” organizations. Spectrum Society was created at the request of some families who wanted more personalized services for their children who were becoming adults, when the only other community living options were group homes and congregate day programs. We embarked on a series of “what if” adventures that have continued to compel our work. “What if” we didn’t have a centre for our day program? “What if” we supported the leadership of people with disabilities who told us how they wanted to live? “What if” they said they didn’t want to live in group homes and we listened? “What if” we made our interactions transparent to families? “What if” we priorised the kinds of community building gifts and contributions in our interviews with potential new staff that we hope will further the inclusion of the folks we support? “What if” the quality we priorize above all others is listening?
Within our thirty year history we have offered mentorship for new organizations that want to create something different, but we realize that it has become quite hard. Unfortunately, the delusion that bigger is better has made diversity, the key component of the community living movement, far more difficult.
For the last several years we have been following some advice from Michael Kendrick and creating small experimental projects to test alternatives. The latest of these is the Kaleidoscope Project which hopes to take all of the learning of Spectrum Consulting Collaborative, which has facilitated workshops and dialogues around the province, and create a model built on those dialogues.
This is not our first small project – we have tried a few times before to do different things, and right now the “Supports Facilitators” project is very successful.
We worked on developing and templating this idea with a group of colleagues and friends as a project of the MIT course Theory U, with Otto Scharmer. In this we dreamed, drafted, created templates and then a model to try out. We will change the model as necessary as we go, but it looks kind of like this:
Everyone is their network. As Kenneth Gergen says,
. . . virtually all intelligible action is born, sustained, and/or extinguished within the ongoing process of relationship. From this standpoint there is no isolated self or fully private experience. Rather, we exist in a world of co-constitution. We are always already emerging from relationship; we cannot step out of relationship; even in our most private moments we are never alone. Kenneth Gergen Relational Being
So, we will assume that people have networks, respect these, and support them to become deeper and wider until we feel certain that people have woven a web of supportive, safeguarding friends and family who will expand their opportunities and be there in times of celebration and crisis. We hope to be part of these networks but our role is to facilitate them.
- Multiplicity and mutuality are key. We do not need to take any “position” on anything – everyone can be right, everyone can be included and through appreciative inquiry we can find a way forward together.
- We are not interested in scaling, but hope to find an equilibrium and then stay there. We don’t believe bigger is better or that something good works for everyone. If Kaleidoscope is wildly successful we don’t expect to start up three more like it… we will use what we’ve learned to create the next thing, not the same thing.
- We will be amazing listeners, able to differentiate different kinds of listening and able to perceive ways that listening can help us move forward.
- We will be direct with each other and help each other be direct.
- We will foster individualised funding and ways to have an individualised budget within a global contract, so that what people have is transparent to them and portable.
- Adult education principles will be foundational to our work together and everyone will teach everyone in a co-learning model.
- We will be the place that mission-driven staff want to land. We will support their growing leadership and innovation.
- We will negotiate risks together in informed ways, planning for vulnerability.
A circle of co-leaders will be formed of the people who are supported and their networks and will have the opportunity to meet monthly in whatever way works best for everyone. These meetings will be a generative place to problem solve, laugh, share information and learn.
- This circle will be based on principles of family and self advocate leadership and self determination.
- An advisory circle will be invited to form that will help us move forward when we are stuck, so that instead of reacting and merely getting something “done,” we can turn to others for advice and move forward in more strategic ways.
- Our support people will be respected, learning, expanding leaders who priorise what John Lord has called “the new story” and values based supports.
- We will use all kinds of communication in everything we do, so that everyone is able to stay on the same page. We will experiment with social media as a way of supporting 24 hour lives that mix the personal and professional in good, not draining, ways.
Kaleidoscope events will be listed on the Spectrum Consulting projects blog: www.101friends.com
On Twitter @101friendsbc
On Facebook, Spectrum’s Kaleidoscope Project: https://www.facebook.com/SpectrumKaleidoscope?fref=ts
Sometimes people ask, how is this different from “Spectrum,” which they find already uses many of these principles and, in some places, uses them in exemplary ways.
- While Spectrum has a board of directors which works at a strategic level, we think people are looking for opportunities to be more involved and co-lead projects of mutual interest. The advisory council makes a place for community members who might or might not have specific disability related roles – disability is a belonging issue, and we want out of the silo. We think it is easier to get out of the silo through smaller projects that have some distance from the necessary systems that arise in organizations.
- It is hard to priorise co-leadership and relational models when juggling “everything else” – in Kaleidoscope “everything else” flows out of co-leadership and relational practices.
- Spectrum is “least hierarchical” – Kaleidoscope is “rhizomatic” and based on principles of mutuality and relational leadership (what we think of as acts of leadership happen in the connections we make, rather than leadership as an individualised act). We don’t have “managers,” for example, but a Kaleidoscope Project Facilitator. Staff, families and folks we support all have equal access to both Shelley and I and we work collaboratively with Kim.
- Spectrum is an agency; Kaleidoscope is a project. We hope what this means is that we can create project management plans that allows us to develop goals, meaningful milestones and to switch routes if we find ourselves mistaken. It also means that if this is not a good course to take, we will change or be folded back into “Spectrum.”
- Kaleidoscope is based on principles for adult lifelong learning, experiential and theoretical. We will priorise reflection on what we’ve learned. We have built in a somewhat larger budget for training per staff and per person supported and we assume growing mastery of each person’s learning goals.
- There is a planning requirement. People must have person centered plans that communicate their goals to us. We are exemplary planners.
- There are monthly events which we hope will be compelling enough that families, supported folks, staff and network members will want to come to. These will involve a bit of learning, a bit of socializing, and a bit of planning and feedback.
Think you’d like to work with us as part of our team? Email email@example.com with your resume and let them know to direct it to Eilidh or fill out the online application and direct it to Kaleidoscope. We look forward to talking more about our shared mission of authentic inclusion and belonging.