The Arcadia Institute

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

Equity as a Principle of Organizational Life

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.

In its leadership role within our community the Kalamazoo Community Foundation has affirmed three primary principles that can serve to bind us together as a community: Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

In the work of The Arcadia Institute we have made the inclusion of people with disabilities our highest value and an integral part of our mission. We evaluate our work in terms of the extent to which we have contributed toward that end.

We affirm diversity as an explicit aspect of what we consider a good community to be. We appeal to a common affirmation of diversity in our efforts to persuade the broader community to value and support people with disabilities. We also affirm a community in which a wide variety of people with different characteristics and conditions take part.

I think that our colleagues and friends who work within other nonprofit organizations not only support diversity and inclusion, however they may define them, as a matter of course in their work.

It’s that third one, ‘equity’, that I see as the tough one. I think that the reason we may hesitate to affirm equity is that it is confused with ‘equality’. So let us examine these two terms. Equality is not so hard to define. Equal means the same, in both qualitative and quantitative ways, such as the right to happiness or the same share of the family inheritance.

Equity, however, is not so clear cut an idea, in part because it includes equality as part of its meaning. Getting an equitable share does not mean getting the same measure. It means getting what is fair, and in order to determine what is fair we have to dig a little deeper. Equity includes having your basic needs met, like what you need to eat and your health care needs met. It even carries the connotation of a right, or entitlement, to have those basic needs met. It also includes the idea of equal treatment under the law and equal access to the goods and services of the community.

People among us, like some people with disabilities, will not have access to a decent share of our community’s goods unless there is support for the principle of equity. Many of them will not be able to participate, much less compete, on the same terms as people without disabilities. Some will need both support and accommodations to take their rightful place among us. Other groups of people face similar difficulties. All both need and deserve equity.

When it comes to supporting rights and entitlements some folks back away from the idea of equity, or even say supporting equal treatment in our court systems. So it appears to me that the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is really stepping forward as a leader in adding equity to its core priorities or values. They are offering support and a challenge to organizations who seek their financial backing. Those of us leading nonprofit organizations are blessed with both the challenge and the promise of support. We are being urged to embody one of the toughest core values in American life. And when we meet the challenge, and especially when we enter into covenants to work together to achieve equity, we amount to a powerful force for good.

Count Down to Building a Community of Belonging Forum

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Five years ago, people came together to create the first Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners. In September 2014, many of these same people plus several more attended a luncheon at the YMCA Sherman Lake Center to celebrate the fifth birthday of Connect Kalamazoo. People who attended the luncheon are part of the following organizations:

YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo
Media Arts Academy
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Portage District Library
Boy Scouts Southern Shore Council
Pretty Lake Vacation Camp
Parent to Parent of Southwest Michigan
Just Move Fitness
Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Disability Network
People’s Food Co-Op
Southwest Michigan Second Wave
Interns from Project Search
Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run
Junior League of Kalamazoo

All of these organizations are committed to making Kalamazoo a community that welcomes, supports and respect everyone – specifically people with disabilities.

Now we are looking forward to the 6th Annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum on March 26, 2015. This Forum will celebrate the successes of Connect Kalamazoo in a way that builds on the theme of Kalamazoo: Where Everybody Belongs. The features of the 2015 Forum will be:

  • Using various media to promote Connect Kalamazoo leading up to and following the Forum
  • Promoting the use of the Connect Kalamazoo Commitment to Inclusion Checklist throughout all organizations in Kalamazoo
  • Using the Community Awareness through displaying the Connect Kalamazoo logo in organizations
  • Creating a community art piece that celebrates inclusion and can travel throughout the community
  • Guest facilitators for the 2015 Forum are:
    Kathy Jennings, Editor, Southwest Michigan Secondwave – Promotions
    Simon Borst, Front End Manager, People’s Food Co-Op – Artist
    Deborah Warfield, Founder, Media Arts Academy, Video

    Look for more information about the Building a Community of Belonging Forum 2015 beginning in November of 2014!

    AND – plan to be there!!!

    For information about how you or your organization can be involved in planning, funding or supporting the Forum contact Allison Hammond, Program Director, The Arcadia Institute at:

    269-217-2205 or

    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