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An Update from the Interdependence Network

By Jeff Fromknecht

The Interdependence Network (IN) is a collaborative, membership-based advocacy group created by disability-based human service organizations from around the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Our purpose is to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the community.

We do this by:

  1. Fostering the development of new approaches to human service programs that focus on facilitating community engagement and the building of social capital for people with disabilities as a primary outcome.
  2. Providing professional development opportunities to human service agencies focused on helping them implement an organizational culture that values and supports meaningful community inclusion.
  3. Developing a program evaluation protocol to track social capital related outcomes.
  4. Disseminating information, research findings, and resources to the greater rehabilitation community, including people with disabilities and their families.
  5. Educating the business and nonhuman service related community on how to be welcoming of people with disabilities.

The Interdependence Networking's founding organizations include:

  1. Community Living and Support Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  2. Community Living Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  3. communityworks inc., Ontario, Canada
  4. CONNECT Communities, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  5. Hope Services, San Jose, California
  6. John F. Murphy Homes, Auburn, Maine
  7. Mamre Association, Brisbane, Australia

Our tips and strategies have been developed for those adults and children with disabilities who have made a choice that they want to be more engaged in the community. A number of our tools are available for free download on the buildingsocialcapital.org website (http://buildingsocialcapital.org/toolbox/). Including:

  1. Community Engagement Planning Tool: This tool is designed for parents, self-advocates, and director support staff. It is used to create a community engagement plan for a person with disabilities.
  2. Tips on Getting Involved in the Community: This fact sheet provides an overview of the important steps involved in helping a person or child get involved in community-based activities. It reviews the 4-step process of community engagement.
  3. Evaluating Community Venues: Supporting people to connect with others in the community begins with finding the right venue. This tip sheet offers suggestions on how to find places in the community that offer the best opportunity to build social capital.
  4. The Connector, The Researcher, The Maintainer: There are many different roles that staff, family and friends can play in the community building process. These fact sheets focus on describing three of the most important roles. These roles include the CONNECTOR, RESEARCHER, and MAINTAINER.
  5. Community Membership Scale: This tool helps staff and family identify inclusive opportunities in the community.

These tools have been developed and used at our member agencies. All of the strategies promote our commonality, not our differences. They are grounded in the values of person-centred planning and individual choice in decision making. Our approach does not concentrate on trying to fix or change the person with the disability. Instead, the focus is on helping individuals gain independence by developing and maintaining social relationships and social capital, based on the person's interests and passions. Indeed, relationship-building is a central tenant of this approach and is just as important for well-being as traditional rehabilitation. Not sure why social capital is important? Click here to read more about social capital and why it is a key ingredient in meaningful community inclusion: http://buildingsocialcapital.org/about-social-capital/.

Our buildingsocialcapital.org website also has a variety of additional free resources to help you and your organization, including:

  1. Videos featuring IN founder and lead organizer Al Condeluci discussing the importance of social capital.
  2. White Papers on community inclusion and civic engagement from leaders in the rehabilitation community.
  3. The View From the Field Blog, a forum for discussion and dialogue on strategies to help people with disabilities get more engaged in the community and to begin building more social capital.
  4. A Speaker's Bureau with information on speakers who can provide professional development training for your organization's staff, management and board of directors.

The IN has been hosting a series of regional symposiums on social capital and civic engagement. Following Ancient Greek tradition, the IN symposiums are unlike other conferences. They gather like-minded people who come to debate, plot, boast, and discuss the actions and directions we can take to help people with disabilities enhance their engagement in the community and to build social capital. Participants walk away from the symposium with a personal blueprint for action in their community. In 2014 we held symposiums in:

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Kansas City, Kansas
  • San Jose, California
  • Brisbane, Australia

In 2015 and 2016, symposiums are being planned for:

  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Please check our websites for upcoming dates and locations in your area (http://buildingsocialcapital.org/symposiums/).

Interested in community inclusion and want to get involved in our effort? We are building a catalogue of tools and resources developed by and for human service agencies that support a person-centred, function-based approach to community engagement. Please contact us today, at info@buildingsocialcapital.org if you are interested in sharing your community inclusion success stories and strategies with us.