The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. In order to build anything that one can expect to last for a time, a solid foundation must be put in place. In order for the Community Broker to successfully co-navigate the moving of persons with disabilities into more inclusive opportunities, ample time must be spent in getting to really know the individual. When asked what I do for a living I often reply, “I get paid to hang out with people, get to know them and their circles and find out what they want to really be doing during the course of their day.” It doesn't even feel like work. But work it is and it is also considered one of the first and very major steps towards establishing trust and authentic communication between the participant and their Community Broker.
It’s not unusual for participants to perceive us as just another person providing conversations about empty promises. However, very quickly on in the process, the participants learn that “it’s all about their voice, their desires, their ideas.” It often takes a few encounters before they even get in true touch with expressing themselves, some for the first time ever. The care that goes into the conversations over coffee, across the kitchen tables, inside the vehicles while driving to and from a site are part of the crucial ingredients that go into establishing relationships.
Our pace, must align with their pace. Our thoughts must remain open to their perspectives. Our posture must be approachable to their comfort zones. Our attention and focus must be felt by them and about them.
Each encounter with each participant is unique and challenges us to make certain that we leave assumptions at the door. The value goes beyond the participant simply becoming comfortable, to the Community Broker being able to become effective during those crunch times of choppy waters. Tough love is easier felt when the foundation of trust and investment is apparent. Getting to know them also means that they get to know us as well. Our participants often transform us along the way as we work hard to keep the playing field of exchange on level ground between us.
Each Community Broker has different levels of comfort zones and boundaries that are unique to them but I venture to say that regardless of the Community Broker, each one of us understand the importance of laying a strong, relational foundation up front for the journey that lies ahead.