Being with Friends in Georgia

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. At our 2011 Forum we were able to introduce our Community Participation Initiative and our Community Partners to John and Connie O’Brien. John and Connie talked about what we are doing when they returned to Georgia.

Several months later Dottie Adams, who works with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities brought a group of people from Georgia to Kalamazoo to see firsthand what we are doing. From that visit we were asked to bring a group to Georgia to present to a wider office. So in late June, Allison Hammond, Jill Angell, Josh Stephens and I traveled to Georgia to make presentations on two separate days.

Dottie’s organization is funding some exciting work in six Georgia communities which they call Real Communities. They have paid part time staff in these communities whose job is to build community support and involvement for people with disabilities in all areas of community life. They were interested in learning from us, and we in turn learned much from them.

Speaking to two separate audiences we shared what we are doing, told stories about our work, and explained some of our thinking behind our Initiative. In one of the sessions, I talked about my views on what Community Coaching is and is not:

It is creating Community Pathways. It is not continuing Clinical Pathways.

It is Clearing Space for the Community to be involved. It is not being the expert about people with disabilities.

It is about what Individuals and the Community do. It is not about focusing on Systems Change.

It is about Examining your own Assumptions. It is not about following a Script.

It is about Reinventing the Wheel in each Community. It is not about Developing a Model.

On the second day their local Community Builders presented on what they had learned from us. Key Points were:

• They like our assumption that the community will respond positively to people we support. • They affirm our idea that we are learning as we go. • It is good that we give ownership to others and we are there to assist. • They like our intentional/thoughtful/strategic approach • They wanted to ‘clone’ Allison, keep Josh as an ambassador, and have agency people like Jill.

They also fed us well and showed us great sites around Atlanta and Macon!