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Community Inclusion: Promising Practices in Systems Change. National Partners Meeting Ottawa April 25 th , 2008. Today’s Presentation – Some Context. Don and Michael caught me off guard and asked me to present about 36 hours ago. But they’re really neat guys, so I said okay.

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Community Inclusion:

Promising Practices in Systems Change

National Partners Meeting Ottawa

April 25th, 2008

today s presentation some context
Today’s Presentation – Some Context
  • Don and Michael caught me off guard and asked me to present about 36 hours ago. But they’re really neat guys, so I said okay.
  • We recently wrote and submitted a report on “sector level” learnings on the Community Inclusion initiative.
  • Last time we met in November, we discussed our overall learnings about systems change – things we learned that seemed to apply across all your work.
  • Today I will talk about what we found that was unique to the priority sectors in terms of systems change.
  • There will be no clever metaphors regarding my wedding.
overall learnings
Overall Learnings

We were able to pull out many promising practices and lessons learned in reference to…

  • Policy Development & Engagement
  • Community Capacity Building
    • Strategic Partnerships
    • Family Workshops, Information Sessions, and Networking
    • Organizational Training
  • Public Awareness & Dialogue
  • Knowledge Networking
  • Research to support all these efforts

These are the main mechanisms of systems change that roughly capture all your work across all the priority sectors.

unique learnings by sector
Unique Learnings by Sector

Are there unique lessons within the work related to….?

  • Inclusive Education
  • Income and Employment
  • Family & Disability Supports (incl. Housing)
  • Deinstitutionalization
  • Community Life & Capacity

Short answer:

  • Yes, sometimes. But I got the sense that our most important learnings were usually relevant to all the sectors.
  • However, there were some important sector-level ideas that should be discussed.
inclusive education
Inclusive Education

Translating values to practice

  • There has been a great shift from advocating for inclusion against schools (teachers, boards, government) to advocating for inclusion with schools, as full partners.
  • The shift is linked to what ACLs can bring to the partnership – the skills, strategies, training that teachers need to have inclusive classrooms.
  • These partnerships also seem to be leading to opportunities for “demonstration schools”, where inclusive practices can be showcased.
inclusive education1
Inclusive Education

A Focus on the Organizational Cultures of Schools:

  • A lot of inclusion initiatives and training are going on. ACLs need to make decisions:
    • Do we try to reach as many teachers in the district as we can?
    • Or do we try to ensure that as many teachers within individual schools are reached?
  • You might think the first, the “widest reach”, is the best b/c it “feels more systemic”. It may also be a preference of board or district partners.
  • A lesson learned is that schools are more likely to become inclusive if the school culture shifts. That shift is unlikely to happen unless many teachers of a school are involved.
  • It also means that training should be “in context”.
inclusive education2
Inclusive Education

Diversity as a lens, not disability

  • Initiatives that promote and support diversity, which includes disabilities, are more politically attractive than disability focused initiatives. Otherwise, you can be dismissed as “special interest”.
  • Requires a balancing act. Staff must be knowledgeable about multiple issues of diversity and how to translate them, while ensuring disability issues are not lost.
inclusive education3
Inclusive Education

Inclusive education in high schools is a gap

  • This is an example where an ACLs can trailblaze for other provinces (e.g., New Brunswick).
  • A different context:
    • In elementary years, you teach kids; in high school years, you teach courses.
    • A greater shift towards individual graded performances.
    • Course focus means inconsistent classroom contexts (teachers, students, environment).
    • Based on how high schools are structured, much greater threat of systematic exclusion.
  • Much to learn about system change, but perhaps the greatest source of support is the youth themselves. In fact, it may be that the youth have demonstrate to teachers that exclusion is unacceptable.
income employment
Income & Employment

Two main areas to change:

  • Policy re: Disability Income Support
  • Employment Access and Opportunities
  • #1 is closer to what we call a system – policies & legislation determine the nature of benefits and support.
  • #2 is not really a system at all. It is a massive collection of private interests. Difficult to change.
  • This means that systems change should target government policies, including in ways that put pressure on private organizations.
income employment1
Income & Employment
  • Poverty is a shared issue by many many groups, so coalitions and partnerships are central to success.
  • Collaboration on research and policy positions about removing disability income support from welfare support.
  • Link income support policy to removing disincentives to work. Employment can actually put people at financial risk.
  • Developing policies that create incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities.
  • This focus does not remove the need to continue the great work on direct support to individuals to develop employment skills, opportunities, collectives, etc.
family and disability supports
Family and Disability Supports

Very few unique learnings to the “Family and Disability Supports Sector” because…

…Family and Disability Supports isn’t really a “sector”.

ACLs are working in this area if they are supporting supporting and organizing families directly, or working with other organizations to impact policies, practices, and structures (systems) that ultimately will be supportive of families.

family and disability supports1
Family and Disability Supports
  • The actual sectors are quite wide ranging. ACLs are pursuing family and disability support in areas such as:
  • Family respite supports
  • Family and children services for immigrant & refugee families
  • Early childhood learning and care
  • Supported living options
  • Legislation regarding inclusive education and dispute resolution
  • Personal support networks
  • Health and dental care
  • The judicial system
  • A wide range of parenting skills and strategies (e.g., in reference to children with FASD).

So, lots of unique and interesting stuff, but the promising practices do not hang together as a sector.

family and disability supports2
Family and Disability Supports

In complex areas of work, cross-sectoral partnerships are crucial.

The level of strategic partnerships was impressive

This goes back to our general findings about what makes partnerships effectve.

  • Of all the sectors, this is most clearly a rights-based sector…systems should change on the basis of observing human rights and dignity.
  • Many gains have been made over the years, many institutions have closed. Some setbacks have occurred in some places
  • A complex sector because closures demand intensive community development (e.g., housing).
  • A unique sector because it demands the removal of a system. Promising practices in partnerships are already questionable – you can’t partner with the institutions that you hope to close.
  • System changes relies heavily on telling the stories and experiences of the institionalized and the success of community living.
  • Phased approached seemed common – setting shorter-term policy benchmarks:
    • no new institutions
    • no new admissions
    • predetermined number of people transitioning out over time.
  • In a much better position to push for change because of the “regional comparisons” factor. Institutions have closed elsewhere and information is available, or can be collected, on:
    • successful community living
    • quality of life
    • cost-benefits
  • A huge role for ACLs is being part of action planning for community supports
  • An ongoing threat is the replacement of large institutions with smaller “quasi-institutions”.
community life capacity
Community Life & Capacity

In this sector, we only worked with the Yukon, who have focused on inclusion in the Arts and Sports & Recreation; and also addressing both of those in the schools.


  • Sports, Recreation, and the Arts provide much greater opportunities to model inclusion, to really show it first hand and often to a large cross-section of people; without having to make big system changes to begin with!
  • Many public organizations have an inclusion mandate, but don’t know how to proceed. A small ACL can have a huge impact on multiple organizations in a sustainable way.
  • This is systems change from the “bottom up”, by conecting with champions and showing what can be done – inclusion is directly observed, rather than “read about”.
next steps in community inclusion
Next Steps in Community Inclusion

A three pronged approach is being suggested for the long term future:

  • Continue and expand the existing work on systems change. Capitalize on what has been done on the past to provide a rationale for future initiatives.
  • Get back into community contexts of past initiatives. If there are places where influence has waned, it needs to be rekindled.
  • Begin to move towards more “demonstration projects” – examples of policy in practice as a way to “show inclusion”
next steps in evaluation support
Next Steps in Evaluation Support

We will be continuing our support to March 2009 to the P/Ts.

Within our general proposal, some ideas include:

  • Expansion of existing models; creation of new ones.
  • More emphasis this year on collecting key data on systems change (tracking what you did and the key outcomes expected to follow).
  • Custom support for evaluation design and implementation. Together coming up with some innovative ways to measure 2 or 3 things really well.
  • Support in the context of what is happening nationally – would like to keep the P/Ts connected in their evaluation work in some capacity.