The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Follow Alongs-The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

In order for us Community Brokers at The Arcadia Institute to “make it possible for people to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community” our participants must also learn how to welcome, support and respect themselves as well. “Follow Alongs” are another important tool that is part of the Future Planning process. At these sessions we help participants wade through some of the good, the bad and the ugly of finding your voice and learning to exercise it. What is discovered, explored and adjusted at these sessions often becomes the difference between attempts versus sustainable success.

Jennifer reminded us last week “we invite their community circle to come alongside them”. Since the premise of the Futures Planning process is strength-based, so are the “Follow Alongs”. We together, as a circle take a closer look at the “Action Steps” and ask the questions: 1. What’s working? 2. What’s not working? 3. What needs adjusting? Adjustments are not considered failures. Oftentimes, new truths surface or we run into an unknown dead end or the participant discovers that they need to go deeper in order to reach that particular goal.

The Futures Planning Process unearths a baseline garden to begin to plant new seeds. Whereas, the “Follow Alongs” pay closer attention to how can the soil be maintained as healthy for sustainable growth. It’s not unusual to navigate through a serious of emotions during these sessions. We laugh, we cry, we press and sometimes push our way to new and next best steps.

I’ll close with an example of one of the most difficult “Follow Alongs”. One of my participants made several strides towards interdependence including moving into his own apartment and landing a job with our assistance. However, over time, due to the culture that he was born in, when the road began to get rocky regarding the push towards him developing deeper daily independent living skills, the parent began to make it easier for him to revert back to her for support. In her culture a mother reopens her arms and embraces the son and “Follows Along” back inside the familiarity of her own home.

The win-win was that the Future Planning process grew both the son the mother and me, regardless of the end result. It was my duty to welcome, support and respect their choice to return back to a space that felt safest.

Action Steps

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

Often times the hardest part about working on a goal is just getting started. I’m sure that many of us can relate to this challenge. Why is it so hard to get started? I think it’s because the goals or dreams we imagine for our future, as wonderful as they are, can seem daunting and overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to imagine how we are going to get from where we are today, to where we hope to be in the future. Even if we know some of the steps we need to take to get to where we want to be, it can feel scary and intimidating to think about all of the work that needs to be done to accomplish our goals.

In Community Brokering, we understand that these fears and hesitations exist. Built into the Future Planning Process is an important piece that we call “Action Steps.” As we walk alongside an individual in the MAP(making action plan) process, we take time to hear about their dream for the future and their story of where they are today. We listen to their worries. We invite the guests participating in the future planning process to share about the gifts and strengths they see in the person. Using all of this knowledge that we have gathered, we work together to explore places in the community where an individual may be able to use their gifts to accomplish their goals. The final step of the MAP is to identify specific action steps we willget started on within 48 hours to help the individual start progressing toward their dream.

We acknowledge that the path from where an individual is today to where they want to be may be a long journey. As Community Brokers, we help them to get started. We break down their big goals into small steps that will get them moving forward immediately. We invite their community circle to come alongside them and provide support as needed. As Community Brokers we walk with them, too, helping to facilitate their community to support them and to provide the hands on assistance they need. The journey may not always be easy, but through Community Brokering, the individual discovers their community is honored to walk with them along the way.

Creating the MAP (Making Action Plans)

The blog this week was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director at The Arcadia Institute.

Each of us can do something big or small to help the Focus Person of the MAP create their dreams and make our community better.

Community Brokering is a process, really a journey, not a program. Through Community Brokering we help people with disabilities to identify their communities, discover their dreams, understand their life story and plan for a futures planning meeting. We have discussed a few of these steps in the past few Blogs.

During the futures planning meeting, there are two tools that we use: MAP (Making Action Plans) or PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). Whatever tool is used there are always a Facilitator who guides the meeting and a Recorder who draws the MAP or PATH.

The following is what happens during a MAP Meeting:

Welcome and Introductions
People say their names and why it is important for them to be at the meeting for the Focus Person.

Each name is recorded in the lower left corner of the MAP in a color of their choice
MAP 1

The Dream for the Future
A graphic depiction of the Focus Person’s dreams is drawn in the upper right corner of
the MAP.

During this part of the MAP, the Facilitator guides the Focus Person to share what she wants for the future. This is not the time when the group starts to make a “laundry list” of things to do. Opportunity to list possible actions comes later. It is important during this time that the Facilitator keeps Focus Person’s dreams for the future the central topic. Too often, the person has experienced others telling them what they should do or want based on assumptions about the Focus Person’s capabilities and disabilities.
MAP 2

The Story
The story is drawn in the upper left corner of the MAP.

The person is asked to tell 2 stories from the past that illustrate how the person has
gotten to today. Then the Focus Person shares 1 story from the present that relates to the situation today.

Many times this part of the MAP process is eye-opening to the others present. People in the Focus Person’s life many know parts of the person’s story and situation, but when we let the Focus Person share the story, others see the whole person and learn about gifts or challenges they didn’t really know. There are often many “aha” moments during this part of the MAP.
MAP 3

The Worries
The worries are drawn just under the Dream and take up very little space.

While it is important to recognize challenges or worries that may arise for the Focus Person, the Facilitator needs to keep this part of the MAP real, but not dwell on challenges.
MAP 4

The Gifts
Gifts are drawn and listed in the lower middle of the MAP.

This is the most fun, rewarding and empowering part of the MAP process.

During the time of listing gifts, the Focus Person is asked to listen as people who are very important to him name gifts and talents. This is where the MAP begins to lead toward possible actions in the community based on the Focus Person’s gifts, not on disabilities. Again, during this part of the MAP, people begin to learn more about the Focus Person from the others present. They may be surprised to know some of the things the Focus Person can do well. Often assumptions they held are disassembled.
MAP 5

Sharing the Gifts in the Community
This part of the map is drawn just above the gifts.

Now, this is where the people from the Focus Person’s community can start to make suggestions for places, activities and people that would benefit from the Focus Person’s gifts. Usually there are typical suggestions about programs specifically for people with disabilities. This is where the Facilitator needs to guide the group to think more broadly. The Facilitator needs to remind the group that access to special programs is easy. Now, we are looking toward the whole community for opportunities for the person to reach for dreams and to make the community better.
MAP 6

Action Steps
Action Steps are listed just about the Sharing the Gifts part of the MAP

Action Steps are created LAST. After the group has gotten to know the Focus Person’s dreams, story, gifts and opportunities. The steps may be very small and only need a phone call to be made to gather information. Sometimes the steps are bold and will take the person to a completely new place or activity. As actions are listed, a person who will take responsibility to make the action happen and a deadline are noted. People are often surprised by how much they can support the Focus Person. They don’t have to be a teacher, therapist, social worker, etc. They each can do something big or small to help the Focus Person create the life in the community of their dreams.
MAP 7

The Agenda and Ground Rules

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Insitute.

For the last few weeks, we have been discussing some different components of Community Brokering. One piece of Community Brokering that may at first may seem minor and insignificant, does in fact have a valuable role. I’m referring to the agenda and ground rules for a Future Planning Meeting.

There is much that is done upfront to prepare for a Future Planning meeting. It is at this meeting that we will create a MAP, Making Action Plan, detailing an individual’s path to a full life in the community. In preparation for the MAP, we spend time getting to know an individual, we learn about the people in their community circles, and we explore the individual’s dreams for the future. Another important step is to make sure that we set the tone and outline for the Future Planning meeting. At every meeting, or MAP gathering, we post the agenda and the ground rules so they are visible to everyone in the room, and we take time to read them out load. We believe this is an important part of the MAP process because it prepares everyone for the steps that we will go through in creating the MAP. Some times, people who are invited to attend a MAP, are not entirely sure they understand what is going to be accomplished at a MAP and they may not know what role they are going to play in the process. The agenda helps to shape the structure of the meeting, and lets everyone know that we have steps we will walk through together. Additionally, the ground rules help to establish the MAP gathering as a safe place where we will listen to the individual, respect each other’s ideas, and take our time to work through the parts that are challenging.

The items that are typically included in the agenda are a welcome and introductions, sharing the story, honoring the dream, acknowledging the worries, naming the individual’s gifts and strengths, identifying places in the community, listing action steps, and then sharing closing thoughts. Likewise, the ground rules state that we will listen to the individual, we will take time to think, we will give everyone an opportunity to contribute, we will respect each other’s ideas, and we will take it slow through any parts that are challenging. When we are preparing for the MAP gathering, we talk to the individual about the agenda and ground rules. We ask them if there are steps we should adjust or rules we should add. By creating the agenda and ground rules, we keep the focus on the individual. We give the individual a voice and ownership of their meeting. The agenda and ground rules are a small piece of the whole MAP process, but they have a powerful message.

Turning the Lights Back On

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

How can anyone expect to see clearly in a dark room until someone turns a light on? That is what we imagine it may feel like for a person who has struggled with disabilities over time. Often the formerly inflated balloons of hope need to be returned to our participants as we invite them to dream of where they may see themselves in the not so distant future. The dream development phase of community brokering guides individuals through pre-MAP conversations, with an intent to have them get in touch with a life without barriers or limitations. (Community Brokers are careful to keep ideas realistic without bursting any of their bubbles)

These series of spoken aspirations are also drawn in the form of colorful, picture symbols, which serve to help participants begin to visual a reality that matters to them. Dreams described also assist with the process of participants finding and expressing their voice. It is extremely important for participants to be able to have had ample time to think about their dream well ahead of the MAP session. Otherwise, when asked to describe components of their dream at the MAP session, in front of their community circle, they may feel like a deer caught in the headlights.

The beauty of taking time to visualize and having their dreams scribed pictorially whets their whistle towards clarifying their dream even deeper, along with their community circle members, on the actual day of the MAP session. It’s not unlikely for the dream to change a bit from their original thoughts when it comes to completing the actual MAP. If a participant chooses to change or adjust components of the dream during the MAP session, it is not only acceptable, it is more than welcomed.

Inevitably, at the end of each one of these dream-describing sessions our participant’s shoulders roll back a bit and they display an elevated aura of worth and renewed anticipation. Insights gained during this dreaming also help inform us in how to continue to best support them through these next steps.