Over the past five years, The Arcadia Institute has facilitated the Connect Kalamazoo Network of organizations committed to bettering our community through including people with disabilities in all aspect of life. While Connect Kalamazoo is a Network in the sense of a being “something,” I have come to realize that the only way that we move the community is thinking of the word network as a verb. Connect Kalamazoo has monthly meetings and plans an annual Forum, but the real work is done in the spaces between these sessions. As the facilitator, I have had to learn how to manage an active Network. Not everyone can attend the meetings or even the Forum; however, there are people and organizations that make the efforts of Connect Kalamazoo come to life everyday. I have to be aware of these efforts and support them on a regular basis – not just at a meeting.
Some people I connect to via text message, Facebook, phone calls and emails. I am continually getting input and ideas from our partners and supporters. I know that Connect Kalamazoo participants talk to each other and support each other in their efforts to include people with disabilities and not just at monthly meetings. Particularly, I know that people in Connect Kalamazoo organizations contact each other to learn how to better make accommodations that improve opportunities for people with disabilities to be welcomed and supported.
On March 26, 2015, Connect Kalamazoo will host the annual Building A Community of Belonging: Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners. This will be a specific day of learning and interacting with each other. We will celebrate our accomplishments as well as plan ongoing ways that the community can continue to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion - specifically for people with disabilities.
Look for more information to come soon!