TIIDL Leadership Knowledge Exchange and Conference - Reflections from Sue Robertson, Manager for the Family Strategy and Senior Partners Advisor
The 2017 International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) Leadership Knowledge Exchange and Conference was held in Sydney 27 Feb – 3 March. Two members from ImagineBetter - Sue Robertson and Tony Blackett – were in attendance. The theme of the IIDL Leadership Exchange was “Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities”.
The IIDL is an initiative that aims to help disabled persons, families, policy-makers, funders and providers from across the world work together towards finding innovative ways to help disabled people live meaningful and socially valued lives. At the heart of the initiative, is a drive to build sustainable leadership and capacity within the wider sector. Knowledge sharing through a range of mechanisms, like resources, demonstration, and mentoring, is used to help grow emerging leaders.
The IIDL Leadership Exchange is an opportunity for building international collaborative networks and sharing knowledge with colleagues. From around the globe, leaders are ‘matched’ with an organisation, and spend two days engaging and learning from colleagues. Following the match, leaders attend a two day meeting for key presentations and discussions around the theme of the exchange. The leadership exchange is designed to encourage conversations and develop new thinking, so that leaders can apply this knowledge to their own organisation.
“CRU was established to support grassroots change in Queensland, Australia and has state-wide, national and international responsibilities. Social Role Valorisation (SRV) principles are foundational to their work. CRU are not an advocacy service and they are not involved in direct service provision. They are funded to provide information. Following the last IIDL Conference and Exchange, CRU formed an alliance of five agencies in Australia and they are currently working towards securing funding that will enable them all to respond to the needs of disabled people and their families.
You may know CRU from their publications including CRUcial Times
and they also hold a collection of resources and publications for sale. The range of workshops they offer provides opportunities to identify, nurture and grow leaders. Their work is familiar to us at ImagineBetter and what CRU offers continues to inspire my own personal and professional practice.
We talked about the need for system change and how to bring leaders together so that there’s a collaborative effort for change. We reflected upon some of the challenges that hinder our progress and we explored what it is that we most urgently need to do in our current context. This prompted a discussion about how to move from the ‘why’ we need unified system transformation and leadership, to ‘how’ we go about getting it. We agreed:
- Change needs to happen. We need leaders for change. Leaders can be grown.
- Families/whānau include parents, siblings and disabled family members, and key people in a person’s closest personal network. The natural authority of families means families set the direction and lead the change. It’s important that families aren’t side-lined in the conversation about service transformation. Leadership is about ‘leading the change at our place.’
- Inclusion is about people with disability feeling socially and economically embedded in the fabric of community. This will look and feel different for each person, but may include having the right to vote, marry and start a family, have a mortgage and own a house, work and contribute to superannuation schemes.
On day two of the knowledge exchange a small group of family leaders met with June. We sat outside her house under a tree, ate fresh pineapple and mango, and heard how she would like to chop the tree down as she’s offended by the leaves it drops in her backyard.
June is 70. Her name is on the ownership papers for her new car. She’s learning to read. June spent the first 50 years of her life living with nuns, surviving in institutions and boarding houses, and working a lifetime for minimal pay in a laundry. Her stories are not for easy listening.
One of the things I took away from June’s story is a deep appreciation of the length of time it can take to support someone to connect and grow deep and long lasting relationships in community. For June, it took 20 years.
While we were at the IIDL Leadership Exchange, the New Zealand government announced new policy that supports ‘Transformational Change.’ I hope and trust that whatever evaluateon measures we’re expected to fit within, take into account short, medium and long term outcomes. And as part of this, there would need to be an acknowledgement of the length of time it might potentially take to support someone, who may have previously been denied ordinary life opportunities, to enjoy full citizenship with all the joys and responsibilities this status brings.
A small group of family leaders from Canada, Ireland and New Zealand are progressing the conversation on-line. We’ll be starting with a literature search for family leadership and from key issues that emerge, we will be seeking funding for research that progresses an international strategy. We will be bringing this information for discussion to the next IIDL Exchange.
If you have comments or questions you would like considered and which may inform the direction of this research, please contact Carey-Ann Morrison on firstname.lastname@example.org. Carey is the Research Advisor for ImagineBetter.