Community Brokering: The PATH Approach

This is a continuation of a series of blogs describing the Community Broker Process. For a little background, in the spring of 2011, The Arcadia Institute in partnership with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services decided to move forward to work with individuals with developmental disabilities through Community Brokering. Allison Hammond, The Arcadia Institute Program Director, traveled to Toronto, Canada to participate in the PATH and MAPS training with Jack Pearpoint and Linda Kahn. These techniques have been developed over 30 years by Jack and Linda as well as Marsha Forest, John O’Brien, Beth Mount and others.

The focus of this blog will be the PATH approach.

What can happen because of you and your allies that will make your life better and build community? The above question is what is addressed through the PATH approach. But what is a PATH?

Following a period of time building a relationship with a person who has agreed to participate in Community Brokering (described in previous blogs), a decision is made whether the person’s futures planning meeting will use the PATH or MAP approach. (In the next blog the MAP approach will be described.) The PATH approach is more relevant if the person has something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. The PATH approach is described simply by “don’t just sit there, do something!” (The PATH and MAPS Handbook, 2010). By that we mean get to work on problems that must be addressed right away

Leading up to the PATH meeting, with support of the Community Broker the focus person identifies who is in his community circle. The person’s dream is explored in preparation for the PATH meeting. The Community Broker spends whatever time is necessary to get to the know person well. The Community Brokers does this through a variety of activities. Some examples are:

• Spending time with the person in various places • Taking the person to visit possible places to spend time in meaningful activity • Learning how to communicate with the person • Understanding the person’s gifts • Finding out what activities a person prefers

When the time is ripe, the Community Broker invites the people in the person’s community circle to the PATH meeting. This is important because the Community Broker is responsible for coordinating and facilitating the meeting. The idea is not to place another activity to be coordinated by the person or the person’s community circle. We need people to attend and be ready to participate – not to worry about the details.

The place for the PATH meeting should be in a place where people are comfortable, but must have space for the large paper graphic of the PATH that will be created. We have held meetings in churches, libraries, neighborhood associations, and homes.

There are always two facilitators for the PATH meeting. One is the process facilitator and the other is the graphic facilitator. These facilitators play two distinct roles. The process facilitator asks questions and generates input from all of the people present. The graphic facilitator captures what is being said during the process by drawing on the large piece of paper. It usually takes two hours to complete the seven steps in the process:

1. Describe the persons “North Star” – what guides the person in life, what values do they have the guide their choices and actions 2. Generate a Vision of a Positive Possible Future and by when the person aspires to reach it 3. Describe what is happening in the person’s life now 4. Invite people in the community circle to enroll in helping the person move toward the Vision of a Positive Possible Future 5. Share how the person can get stronger by using her gifts in the community 6. Identify Bold Steps that will lead to the Positive Possible Future 7. Create an Action Plan that leads to the Bold Steps that include what, who and when

During this process, the process facilitator helps to keep the focus on the person and the dream. We have yet to have a PATH meeting and not have amazing surprises arise. Sometimes tension is experienced when the person’s dream does not match what people in the community want for the person’s future. Always, we find that everyone learns more about the person, each other and the possibilities for the person’s future. Having the graphic facilitator creates a common picture that everyone can see that paints a whole picture of the person’s current reality, gifts and dreams. It helps everyone see the significances of each step in the Action Plan to the Positive Possible Future.


When these steps are done well, the person and his community circle will be animated by possibilities, focused on positive steps, sustained by shared learning, capable of implementing the Action Plan. Steps in the Action Plan are things that can start in the next 24 to 48 hours. In a future blog, the Follow Along process will be described; But it is the Community Broker’s responsibility to follow up frequently and consistently after the PATH meeting. Only if we hold the person and the community accountable for the Action Plan will real movement toward the Positive Possible Future be possible.

For more information about PATH and MAPS you can visit