Creative Community Ways to Make It Work

The bog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. in•no•va•tion noun 1.the action or process of innovating. synonyms: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough; new measures, new methods, modernization, novelty, newness; creativity, originality, ingenuity, inspiration, inventiveness; informal shake up

"No appliance (community) manufacturer can survive without an ongoing commitment to innovation." Webster Dictionary

We all know that there is really nothing new under the sun. Just new ways of rearranging and utilizing what currently exists.

The Community Brokers of The Arcadia Institute are charged with becoming intentional about helping community members find new ways to rearrange and utilize what currently exists. We also help to integrate persons with disabilities specifically into the realm of employment.

Each individual community member represents a myriad of gifts to be most optimized when shared. Not only do we limit ourselves by not opening up to innovation, it cost us something.

We lose money. We lose stamina. We lose in areas of productivity. We get left behind. People, who rely upon us to assist them, lose hope.

This year, the 5th Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of the Arcadia Institute and it’s partners invited community members to participate in “think circles” that explored a few successes in connecting organizations with people in ways that became a win-win for everyone.

Community members shared innovative ways to approach some identified community challenges in the area of employment matches.

Here are a few examples of innovations that made it possible for persons with disabilities to find value, worth and a sense of belonging.

Boys and Girls Club A community member with a disability had put in several years of loyal and fruitful volunteering. That organization is so committed to embracing his skills that they are brainstorming about ways in which they can create a job and schedule that matches his particular gifts and talents while serving up a win-win for that organization.

Humphrey Products An organic coffee table conversation about job searches yielded an opportunity for a person with a disability to become incorporated into a position. The only adjustment made by the organization was to be blessed to identify an individual who was willing to build a trusting, respectful relationship. That person made a commitment to orient them and be the go-to person for whatever he may have need of as he was learning the ropes. He is now become “part of the woodwork” with minimal supervisory needs.

Media Arts Academy As a member of the production crew, a person with disabilities was contracted independently to expand his hands-on learning opportunity. Literacy challenges did not prevent him from gaining skills that make it possible for him to remain on the list for future media contracts. His interest in exploring Media Arts gives him a chance to test the waters and be exposed to a trade that could improve his chances of always being able to find personal jobs along his entry into the world of employment.

Project Search Employment Training/Bronson Hospital Doors of staff, administrators, employees and department after department, during the 10-week rotations, swing wide open for a select group of young adults with disabilities to be able to apply their employment training practices on a daily basis. Service providers, instructors, parents and job coaches, meet monthly to celebrate what’s working and address the areas that may become challenges. Every year, an increasing percentage of students end up impressing enough supervisors and fellow employees to land part and full-time jobs within the organization. Commits follow to assist the remaining trainees in seeking employment elsewhere in the community as a result of this year long, employment training partnership.

Sherman Lake YMCA Engaging campers and staff in stretching themselves summer after summer has permitted Sherman Lake YMCA to move from reviewing a checklist of adjustments to incorporating inclusion training as part of overall staff development. Safe and trusting atmospheres work for everyone. Campers experience opportunities to find ways to embrace differences associated with persons with disability. An individual was able to transition from camper with a disability to go on and become a paid staff person over time. Always room for growth but inclusion matters around their campfires.

Ryskes Restaurant Persons with disabilities have a voice. One day this individual, after finishing his meal, simply asked if there were any jobs available. Within weeks, he found himself being trained to assist with setups and breakdowns. It wasn’t too long before he needed little to no coaching and instruction than any other employee facing the adjustments associated with the ebb and flow of restaurateurs. The owner had been exposed in his childhood to the blessing of what happens when inclusion works and was willing to take a risk on this young and motivated person who just happened to have a disability.

People’s Food Co-Op Embracing the strengths of the person with a disability allowed this organization to tailor her duties in such a way that a new and improved policy emerged that became a win-win for all. Reducing overall losses at the checkout across the board and held every employee in that position more tightly accountable for best practices.

Inclusion improves our community and it’s members all around as we continue to remain open to Creative Community Ways to Make It Work.