Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011


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The following slides and notes were the basis for the lead presentation of Agenda Item 7 “Staff Reports” at the LiveWorkPlay Annual General Meeting of 2011.

The presentation is called “Being The Change” and the speaker is Keenan Wellar, co-leader of the organization, and also the cofounder
(with Julie Kingstone) in 1995. For biographical information see

If you are viewing this presentation on please note that video of the live presentation (also available on Youtube at follows the slides. The notes to the slides are not a transcript of the live
presentation which includes a number of variations.

The LiveWorkPlay organization has made a number of dramatic changes in their short history. This has to do with keeping in step with social shifts in the community, as well as leadership in seeking a more welcoming world for people with intellectual disabilities.

There are consequences to change, and it is important to understand and acknolwedge the challenges and pains, even when changes are made for all the right reasons.

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Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011

  1. 1. The following slides and notes were the basis for the lead presentation of Agenda Item 7 “Staff Reports” at the LiveWorkPlay Annual General Meeting of 2011. The presentation is called “Being The Change” and the speaker is Keenan Wellar, co-leader of the organization, and also the co- founder (with Julie Kingstone) in 1995. For biographical information see Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 1
  2. 2. A bit of humour to start us off! [Text of cartoon is read aloud] You will be hearing next from the Board of Directors who will discuss in detail the process that has been followed this year in arriving at the proposals they will showcase. I will not speak to those specifics, but rather I would like to speak more generally about leadership and a certain six letter world that has the power to excite, the power to paralyze, and the power to overwhelm, sometimes all at the same time.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 2
  3. 3. There is a certain six letter word that has the power to both inspire and frighten. Sometimes it does both at the same time. Yes, C-H-A-N-GE. Change! It is important to recognize that change poses both opportunities and challenges, both of which are stressful. If we go back to 1995 when the roots of LiveWorkPlay were first planted, it was all about “being the change we need to be” in order to help people with intellectual disabilities have a better life. That is our passion. And we have not waivered. What has changed and continues to evolve is our collective understanding of how to achieve this goal. That comes from what we have learned as a micro-community of LiveWorkPlay constituents, and also by listening and learning about developments at other organizations and in other communities.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 3
  4. 4. I’m going to start things off with a quote from Dr. Michael Kendrick, a researcher, author, and speaker that is perhaps best known for his views on systems change and people-centred planning. He made this comment to our good friends at the Spectrum Society for Community Living in British Columbia: “Agencies trying to create and sustain person-centred services are spectacularly more successful at it than those agencies who believe it is impossible and refuse to try. Its a small point but I like to state it outright." - Dr Michael Kendrick Now that quote may resonate with some of you and the point will be made. But I also offer you a quote from a social commentator that might be more familiar to you.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 4
  5. 5. Yes, Yoda! We all remember when Luke was trying to lift his fighter from the swamp and he says “I’m trying” to which Yoda responds: “There is do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda is communicating something very similar to Dr. Kendrick. If we have made the decision that people with intellectual disabilities should have person-centred services, then that’s what we DO. We don’t try, we do it. It’s not perfect. We’ll get better. But there’s more to be done than making our services person-centred, so for LiveWorkPlay purposes I’ve extended Michael Kendrick’s quote as follows:Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 5
  6. 6. This is the change we need to be right now. And here is why. The reality is that we cannot claim to have person-centred services for people with intellectual disabilities if we aren’t actually treating them like persons. When we separate and segregate and limit life for people with intellectual disabilities we are not offering them the same access to the community as other citizens. Why must LiveWorkPlay be a leader in providing community-based services? Because there are already endless offerings of segregated and congregated programs and activities in this community. They are well established and well funded. These have been available and in many cases are largely unchanged since the 1970s, at a time when an appreciation for people with intellectual disabilities as fully valued citizens was still being questioned. And in many ways, through the continuation of practices that separate and segregate, the right to full citizenship is still being debated, through decisions about how resources are allocated and how they impact on people’s lives. LiveWorkPlay has always worked hard to develop the sense of community that we share here in this room tonight, while at the same time recognizing that our role is not to create dependencies that keep people from the community. Our role is to give them strength, skills, encouragement, and support to be successful with an authentic life in the community.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 6
  7. 7. So, as Yoda and Michael Kendrick are both saying in their own way, there is no try, there is only DO or DO NOT. But LiveWorkPlay is facing many challenges that can make it difficult “to do.” We have regulatory issues like Quality Assurance Measures and other requirements of the Province of Ontario Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act which came into effect in 2011. We have systems management requirements like vacancy management protocols that must work with the new Developmental Services Ontario Eastern Regional office. We will meet these external expectations and at the same time set standards for ourselves that will continue to push us to be the best we can be. So, some of the changes we’ve been making are about improving how we support people to live in the community, but some of them are also responses to regulatory issues and other requirements of our partners and funders. And we are also responding to issues of sustainability. It is all about staying balanced as we continue to move forward.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 7
  8. 8. This graphic comes from a movie only a few of you might recall, Spinal Tap. In a nutshell, the guitarist explains that he has speakers that go to 11, which of course is “one better” than everyone else. Over the years the LiveWorkPlay dial has often been turned to 11, which some people might value as a healthy work ethic, and we have received many compliments to that effect. But the problem with that is that life is full of surprises, so when we are so often already at overcapacity, it doesn’t leave us much room to respond to the unexpected. We want to make sure that we have the resources in place to deliver all that we promise to deliver. So we need to dial it back a bit. But deciding what to dial back on has not been easy. Change is difficult. But how difficult is it?Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 8
  9. 9. Last year I had the opportunity to hear Dan Heath speak at a United Way Ottawa event. He’s one of the authors of the popular book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. When Dan and his brother Chip started their research on change, the two comments they heard from people most often were: "Change is hard.“ "People hate change." What they found was that even when the logical side of people’s brains recognize the need for change, that doesn’t mean the emotional side is ready to come along. But when both line up, then people perceive change as positive.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 9
  10. 10. Examples: If you are offered a new job with more money and work that you are really excited to do, then probably your logical brain and emotional brain line up nicely and you are pretty excited to start work the next day. If your doctor tells you that you need to go on a new diet to make a certain illness go away - but you don’t like the foods he wants you to eat – even though logically should be happy that you know what to do to be healthy, you are going to miss eating poutine, and that’s a change that’s going to make you grumpy.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 10
  11. 11. Our logical brain knows that services should be focused on individual needs. Our logical brain knows that people with intellectual disabilities should not be separated, segregated, or otherwise excluded from life in the community. But the emotional brain has a lot of concerns. Because the lives of individuals are complicated. The dynamics of real workplaces, real homes, and real relationships are complicated. So this is the struggle we all share. It affects us in different ways, but we are all affected. The individual with a disability is expected to be a trailbreaker every day they go out in the community, where they are continuously exposed to a percentage of people who are hostile to people with intellectual disabilities and would prefer that they remain in segregated environments and stay out of their schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, and community centres. Parents and families are dealing with the randomness of life in the community and all the challenges that it brings. That when their son or daughter has a real job, the company could downsize and their child could be fired. That there are people out there who don’t know their child but they’ve already decided they don’t like them, because they are different. Every parent in this room knows the pain of their child trying to understand why a stranger would have reason to hate them. And as a staff team, person-centred services in the community means a tremendous loss of control over the daily experience of our work. If we have program- oriented services we know the program starts at 8 and finished at 4 and we have our two coffee breaks and hour lunch and we go home on time every day. Supporting a real life in the community is different. We cannot control whether or not employers decide to hire one of our members. We cannot control whether or not a random stranger on a bus makes a mean comment. We cannot control whether or not someone’s neighbour in a condo building turns out to be a bigot.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 11
  12. 12. So as LiveWorkPlay has transitioned away from contributing to the segregation of people with intellectual disabilities by phasing out our day programs to promoting a life in the community with the same options for homes, work, and social activities that other citizens enjoy, it has not been easy on any segment of the LiveWorkPlay community. Change is hard. And sometimes we all hate it.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 12
  13. 13. BUT…we are DOING IT. There is Melissa, who yesterday morning spoke publicly about the importance of having a job to an audience of more than 1000 people at the United Way Ottawa campaign launch. There’s Paul, laughing his ass off at a Fat Cats baseball game. Peter is enjoying some tennis with Monique. There’s the whole LiveWorkPlay Ottawa Race Weekend team. Ryan proud to have cooked a delicious meal. Chris hosting a social gathering at his new home. There’s Mike, who trusts his friend Lucas enough to go out on the ocean with him in a kayak. There’s Kyle, entering his new apartment. Caroline talking about affordable housing with Justin Trudeau. Robin and Rachel laughing so hard they’re crying. Linda and Moira standing up against bus route changes that would have reduced their quality of life. And there’s Emily, with her first paycheque. I hope that from the brief insights that will soon be offered to you by the staff team you will agree that we aren’t just trying: people’s lives are changing in amazing ways. I wish we kept statistics on the number of times an individual we support said “I never thought I could do that” or a family member, or a volunteer, or a staff member said “I never thought they could do that.” Every single person in this room has goals they haven’t realized or fully realized. The same is true for our members. But look at the successes of people in homes of their own, in paid jobs, new friendships, courses, sports, and hobbies – that is all because THEY have done it! It is our privilege to be along for the ride. I would ask that our youth and adult members remain seated, and that everyone else (family members, volunteers, staff, and others) applaud the achievements of our members as they pursue their hopes in dreams for a good life in the community. Let us recognize that for people with intellectual disabilities, having an ordinary life in the community means being a trailblazer every day they walk out that door.Keenan Wellar "Being The Change" LiveWorkPlay AGM 09/23/2011 13