The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. In my two years of working as a Community Broker, I have learned the value of trusting in the process, while at the same time moving ahead without necessarily knowing where the next steps are going to take us. One of the highlights of Community Brokering is that our work is very individualized. Our work does not have a regimented set of steps that we must follow in order to move ahead. Rather, we use the principles and values of community brokering to guide our work. The purpose of community brokering is to connect people with disabilities to live a full life in the community as they choose. We value taking the time to get to know an individual and their interests. We believe in focusing on an individual’s strengths and gifts. We know that every person has gifts to contribute to our community and that our community is made stronger when every person participates.
As a perfect compliment to this individualized approach, we have tools that we use to shape our work that provide a framework for Community Brokering that allows for continuity, consistency, and quality. For instance, we talk to people about their community circles. We discuss their weekly routines. We learn about their preferences, what is working in their lives and what they wish to change. We talk about their future dreams and goals. We work with individuals to create MAPs, Making Action Plan, to help them move toward their desirable future.
But the way in which we go about our work with individuals on a daily basis, doesn’t necessarily look the same for any two people. With one person we may start by joining them in places where they regularly spend time. We go out into the community with them and meet people who are a part of their lives. For one man, we were planning to create a MAP for him and when we talked about his community circles and who he wanted to invite, he mentioned people like Mike the bus driver, and the man he sees every morning at the gas station when he buys a snack, and Tom who manages a grocery store. He didn’t have last names or addresses. So, we went around town and met these individuals.
In another instance, an individual was looking for employment. She had work experience and had gotten to know many people as she moved about the community. However, she wasn’t able to give the specific details, dates and names of supervisors that were requested on employment applications. So, we went around the community together. She introduced me to people, she showed me where she had previously worked and we visited places where she wanted to apply for jobs.
Organizing Future Planning meetings and creating MAPS is an important part of the work we do. It allows us to really focus on an individual and what they want to share about their story and their interests for the future. It brings together the important people in their life who are able to talk about the gifts and strengths of the individual and be a part of supporting the person to move toward their goals. We have a process that we use to gather this information that looks the same for each person. However, the dynamics of the meetings are always different. The feel and flow of the Future Planning process is influenced by the priorities of the individual, the personalities of the people in the room, and the relationships that exist between everyone attending. We trust in the process of creating the MAP and know that the steps we follow will draw out the information we need to support the individual. But we don’t know what the final action steps will be, or what underlying issues will come to the surface that we will spend time working through. The result is a sweet and meaningful combination of having a framework that is proven to bring about positive outcomes, mixed with the flexibility and openness needed to allow us to move in the direction of real progress toward a person’s future dreams.