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Part 1 what is strategy

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An Introduction to Using real strategy in social change

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Part 1 what is strategy

  1. 1. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Making Our Lives Larger Creating Effective Social Justice Change Strategy Over the decades of effort by our change communities, we have become more professional in our approach to creating change. Primarily, this has been through improving our implementation of change tactics, and by mapping change plans to operational frameworks like logic models. While these changes in our approach have improved achievement of outcomes, they have also reduced the scope of the outcomes for which we aim: ● Tactics require very specific and detailed planning to be effective ● Operational planning requires a specific framework and coordination of the threads of the plan to be effective ● While we tend to think that outcome focus and detailed development of the plan and tactics are the only things we are doing to improve our results, we are also reducing the impact of our change plans in order to make these plans and change tactics easier to detail and coordinate. The traditional way to avoid this reduction in scope and impact
  2. 2. through more professional implementation is to build a strategy within which our operational plans and tactics make sense. But the concept of strategy in social change has been watered down and misused, resulting in strategy becoming a useless generic concept.
  3. 3. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Part 1: What is Strategy Today, we use the word strategy to describe any planned action to achieve outcomes. But historically strategy served a different purpose than simply describing an action plan. This presentation is focused on expanding the scope and depth of your understanding of strategy and its uses.
  4. 4. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Why Should I Care About Strategy? The diagram in the slide is not a strategy. But if you talked to the author or the people who presented it, they would almost certainly describe it as a strategy map. The biggest problem with social justice advocacy is the narrowing of our focus to operational plans with measurable outcomes-the kinds of models that funders require before change proposals will be considered. I’ll go into greater detail on this problem later, but for now, just remember how you draw back your expectations for change in order to create measurable outcomes that you believe you can reach, and that you believe are fundable. The mere act of planning for change funding reduces our ability to make change. A strategy is a change framework designed to deal with two realities: ● The uncertainty of the future ● The scarcity of available resources (including funding, staff, skill sets, networking, values, etc.).
  5. 5. An operational plan, on the other hand, by its nature is supposed to draw boundaries to eliminate uncertainty by detailing outcomes before the project starts, and by applying a budgetary limit on the achievement of those outcomes. Planners often talk about risk as a component of operational plans. In fact, they often talk about risk and uncertainty as though they were the same thing. Uncertainty is not the same as risk. I’ll talk about that in the next slide.
  6. 6. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Risk vs. Uncertainty Risk and Uncertainty are not the same, though we tend to think that they are synonyms. Risk is statistically calculable-which is to say, we can assign a probability to the risk because we have some source of data that allows us to estimate how likely something is. The proper response to this risk probability is to mitigate risk-to take steps that will allow us to react quickly to reduce the impact of the event that we are worried about. We can’t assign a probability to real uncertainty; however, it is common for organizations to define uncertainty as risk, so it will be seen as manageable and requiring no particular change of behavior. If we confuse uncertainty with risk, we will end up creating events (since we are uncertain as to what will actually happen), assigning them a fictitious probability, and developing fictitious mitigation strategies. The perfect example of this was the recent Fukushima nuclear
  7. 7. plant meltdown. In the planning for building the plant, there were discussions of how to quantify the likelihood of an earthquake that would threaten the integrity of the plant operation. These discussions were only incidentally about the actual risk. They were mostly negotiations about the initial costs of building the plant to mitigate the results of an earthquake, since that mitigation would dramatically affect the cost of building. You can imagine ongoing arguments between engineers and financial planners about the right investment in earthquake mitigation. What they settled on was a model that made the construction of the plant able to withstand an earthquake that was 10 times stronger than any earthquake in Japan’s history (that is, experiential history, written history, narrative history, since there was no way to access history back beyond these sources of data). Of course, the actual earthquake was several orders of magnitude greater than any earthquake in that historical record, and resulted in the complete loss of plant integrity, and an ongoing destruction of the area of the plant that will continue at some level for longer than anyone currently alive will be around to see it. Obviously, the planners for this plant had no idea what the actual risk of this event was. They concocted a model of the “risk” that would allow them to build the plant, satisfy state regulators and provide predictable financial projections to the organization and its investors. The model was entirely fictitious. While nuclear meltdown is seldom a possibility in our change efforts, we often follow exactly the same line of reasoning that the engineers and financial planners did for the Fukushima plant. The answer to uncertainty is not an operational approach to a mitigating fictitious risk, but the development of a real strategy.
  8. 8. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame More on Strategy Traditionally, strategy is about ways, means, and ends. In operational planning mode, this means detailing the paths, tools, and outcomes, as in a logic model. A real strategy provides a framework, not just for describing, but also dynamically coordinating ways, means, and ends, and providing guidance when the context of your effort changes-not dictating ways, means, and ends as a result of being somehow able to predict the future. After all, the larger world is always changing, and when it does, if we are faithful to our values and our hopes, we should support our change goals by shifting the relationship between ways, means, and ends. Dynamic coordination means that you can change anything arising from your strategy at any time if the context changes-which it always will. Operational plans only allow you to tweak a way, a means, or an end, not fundamentally alter their relationships.
  9. 9. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame 3 Real Strategies I’m going to take you through 3 genuine strategies. These three strategies were actually used in the real world, and they have all the complexity and depth that we should expect from our change strategies, even if the scope of our strategy will probably be much narrower than these.
  10. 10. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Allied Strategy in WWII The Allied Strategy in World War II: You may have heard the phrase “unconditional surrender” as a description of the Allied strategy against the Axis in WWII. This was not just a slogan to mobilize citizen support. It was a strategy that grew out of the failure of the “negotiated settlement” strategy that had ended WWI. In fact, the belief was that the settlement had led directly to the rise of fascism in Germany, and contributed to the rise of fascism in Japan and Italy. Unconditional Surrender had profound consequences for both the prosecution of the war, and its impact on participants. A reasonable guess would be that twice as many people died as would have if negotiation short of unconditional surrender had been a possibility. Ditto for infrastructure destruction, number of people who acquired life long disabilities, and the dramatic shrinking of social capacity that occurred in the Axis states. It is unclear whether the Holocaust would have been less humanly destructive, or even more so, had a settlement been allowed in, say, 1943. The industrialization of the
  11. 11. US and the Soviet Union were dramatically accelerated by this strategy of Unconditional Surrender, leading directly to the Cold War. The race for nuclear weapons would have been slowed had the war ended in 1943. At the same time, it is possible that Germany and Japan would have acquired nuclear weapon technology had the war been foreshortened by a settlement. My point is that this choice of a strategy has had real, concrete consequences down through post war history to this day.
  12. 12. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame National Strategy for Special Education National Strategy for the Provision of Special Education in the US: I was working with children who had brain injury, including learning disabilities, in the early 1970’s, when there was active discussion of what model to use in the federal legislation that would require the provision of education to all students, including those with disabilities. There were two alternatives being discussed : ● The use of a model that today would be called “wrap around”. The idea was that local resources would collaborate to provide services to children that included traditional education, family support, vocational and social skills support, etc. ● The second was the model that was implemented-the focusing of all responsibility for the educational support of students with disabilities on the local, intermediate, and state school systems.
  13. 13. In the parent community, this alternative was a no-brainer, since the apparent lesson of the civil rights era of the immediately preceding decade (the 60’s) was that civil rights laws had to be focused on a responsible party for litigation purposes, in order to enforce the civil rights framework of special education law. This notion was accurate as far as it went. With the 40th anniversary of the law, it is clear that litigation framed and clarified the meaning of the law to this day. At the same time, it is also so clear that the current state of special education is a rigid, very partial realization of what advocates and parents had hoped for when the law was passed. Absent momentum for change like that which built and energized the parent movement in the early 70’s, the current law will be, as it is now, only the subject of tweaking and puttering in the future. Of the values that supported the original, the only one that has expanded up to this day is the idea of universal access to education, albeit to a weak and inadequate continuum of supports, and active resistance by educational systems to that value’s implementation. It isn’t clear that the other alternative would have, on balance, produced a better outcome, but there is no question that it would have produced a very different education system-which is the point of this strategic discussion.
  14. 14. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Organizational Strategy Change Organizational Strategy Change: I worked for a Protection and Advocacy (PA) organization in the 80’ s and early 90’s. Increasing demand and constraints on funding required a strategic shift in the mid 80’s and the process of making that shift is illustrative of the dynamic impact of strategy over both the short and the long term on social justice organizations. I’ll use the experience of advocates at the time with special education issues to show the larger process, though all advocacy issues were affected. When I first began advocating on behalf of students and families, it was very easy to win the negotiations with schools. Mostly, this was because the school districts considered special education a small part of their overall responsibilities, whereas we saw special education advocacy as a core of what we did as advocates. We knew the laws and rules better, we had more practice at things like special education complaints, and we were expected to be well
  15. 15. prepared when we went into the education planning meetings on behalf of a specific student. So, we won most of the negotiations, even if they went to formal hearing. Also, the families we represented were very grateful, and we liked that. Finally, it was easy and quick for us to solve the problem ourselves without taking the time to teach the families how to advocate on their own behalf in future. This worked well for the first few years. But at first slowly and then much more quickly, a number of things began to happen. The first was that local school districts and ISDs began to hire attorneys for specific cases, and eventually, keep the attorneys on retainer. Especially when districts had attorneys on retainer, they used them in lots of situations, since they were paying them anyway. This meant that schools stopped making simple rules errors, and the cases themselves became more complex. In turn, this meant that advocacy required more research, more time, more layers of appeal, more meetings, and fewer victories. The second thing that happened was that families told their friends in the special education community and we had a sizeable uptick in the number of requests for advocacy support. Also, since we had inadvertently encouraged dependence, we got the same families back year after year for representation in their education planning meetings. This produced a sharp spike each year in such requests, and, after a few years, we no longer had the time or resources to respond well to all the requests. Which is to say, we ran into a resource limit. This limit was not just some lack of funding. A great deal of skill is required to properly negotiate such cases successfully, and there simply weren’t enough experienced special education advocates to handle the demand. In fact, the Michigan DOE estimated that 10% of the special education planning meetings each year were contentious (i. e., required an advocate), and that amounted to ~20,000 or so meetings needing advocates. Since a single advocate could only
  16. 16. handle about 100 cases a year, that meant we need 200 full time advocates. That was never going to happen. The organization had to respond to this demand from the environment, and there were basically 3 alternatives. These 3 alternatives are roughly the same for any change organization that faces a resource limit to implementing their mission.
  17. 17. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Some Strategy Alternatives It is very common in new change organizations to discover a resource limit precisely because they have had several years of success. This resource limit, which often was unexpected because there really was no strategy developed in the first place, triggers the first serious strategy discussion in the organization. There are 3 general patterns of response in this kind of a discussion of limits: Keep Current Practice: Most organizations struggle to maintain what they see as the most important parts of their change advocacy, and to try to alter the forces in the environment that are requiring this strategic reconsideration. This approach almost never works. Even when it does, it is typically for a relatively short period. Instead, the organization becomes less capable over time, bureaucratizing its workflows in order to gain control over the demand, One of the telltale signs of this is a sharp rise in what the British refer to as “failure demand”-calls, letters and other contacts from clients asking for updates or responses where the response is that nothing has changed. Failure
  18. 18. demand sucks up time that the organization already doesn’t have because of the resource squeeze. Prioritizing, especially if that means ignoring some types of demands, is another sign of a gradual contraction of the organization’s mission. Modify the Current Model: Various versions of constraining the actual response are made across mission related demand by the organization. In the case I experienced, the core responses of individual advocacy and legal responses were kept more or less intact, but the percentage of cases considered for these two responses was dramatically reduced through the use of an issue priority system that was updated each year. The rest of the contacts were responded to by an organized Information and Referral process. I&R became the primary response for roughly 80-90% of the contacts, and the number of demand contacts has plateaued at many thousands. New Way of Doing Business: The one discussed during the transition I experienced was to move to a community organizing model, in which organization staff would work as organizers training and providing technical assistance to families in local school districts, building up a more or less permanent cadre of special education advocates around the state. As you can see, there are many potential variations of these three canonical responses to resource scarcity. The point here, again, is not that one strategy is obviously right and the others wrong, but that the choice of strategy has real consequences that last for years or decades. Another way of saying this is that strategies are neither right or wrong, but are choices about how to use available resources in a context of uncertainty. The choice of a strategy affects how the mission actually plays out. The strategy frames the actual impact of the change envisioned by the organization.
  19. 19. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Consequences “We can control our choices, but we can’t control the consequences of those choices”-Many authors in many contexts Because strategies are often chosen in crisis, then frozen in policy, mission related stories, governance, and other organizational infrastructure after the crisis has passed, the consequences of any strategic choice eventually become a day to day reality. That current reality becomes the focus of the organization, and how it got to be that way or what might have been if a different choice had been made is viewed as inconsequential. After enough time has passed, it is common for members of an organization, even the senior managers, to have no idea what their strategy “is” or how it actually developed. After the fact justification imposes a much more rational and planned notion of how the strategy came to be than was actually the case. Many times the How is not transmitted at all, and it is presented to the current organization as a “fait accompli”.” This is how we do business.” This lack of reflection is reinforced by the use of operational plans and tactical responses rather than strategic conversation, as the guide for action by the members of
  20. 20. the organization. Those operational plans always assume the current configuration of the organization, or relatively small changes. Because of this lack of strategic conversation and reflection, organizations tend to try to repeat their tactics and operational frameworks over and over again. After all, isn’t repetition the way to get good at something? All else being equal, however, in the world of change advocacy, any repetition of a tactic or operational framework will be less effective than the previous one. Some examples: ● Public Protest ● Petitions ● Shaming Over the last half century, each of these tactics has become less effective. In the future they will continue to become less effective, all else being equal. In the big picture of social justice change, the major operational framework that social justice communities have pursued is some kind of legislative change, with community organizing as a close second. Today, we find most of our legislative work is to stop the undermining of previous social justice gains. Where we are working for positive change, it tends to be either in communities who are trying to get basic civil rights for the first time, or small tweaks that certainly improve people’s lives, but don’t break new ground. This is not to say there are no new ways of approaching social justice advocacy. It is only to say that the traditional approaches are losing their impact over time, and that this normal and expectable. It is also inevitable.
  21. 21. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The Aging Process Advocacy Organizations and Groups, and their change strategies, tend to age through similar phases (so do people, actually): Phase 1: In the early days, they are driven by passion for change, some level of general resources without many constraints, and the ability to create effective tactics faster and better than their target. Because of their target’s difficulty in responding well, they experience early success. Phase 2: At some point, they hit a resource wall which is difficult to change. It can be funding, skills set, a more competent target, etc. This limit requires a strategic choice, whether anyone thinks of it as a strategic issue or just a crisis. In turn, this typically leads to internal conflict over governance, what to use available resources for, contradictions between public values and actual group or organization behavior, and a host of other issues with which I suspect all of you are familiar. Phase 3: Out of this struggle, a consensus is built or forced, and
  22. 22. those who don’t subscribe to the consensus leave, one way or another. The consensus is usually framed around the competency of the group’s operational skills, not strategy, and it tends to focus on reliable and expanding sources of funding and a complementary public face of success. There is, of course, a strategy in there somewhere. But it is implicit. Phase 4: The group or organization stabilizes around the operational consensus, and continues. Because the new consensus could not possibly reflect the original vision of change, the organization begins a long path in which the necessity of keeping the doors open undermines the stated mission. I think of this process as leading to a state of operational stagnation, in which the quality of outcomes are judged by the degree that they support reliable funding and reputation. This process of zombification can go on for decades and span the entire replacement of staff, funding sources, changes in skill sets, and governance philosophies. It’s stability is very hard to shift, and tends to change only with a high level of corruption arising through the use of funds. As a former boss of mine said, “They never get you for not doing your mission. They only get you for misusing the money.” The image in the slide is a useful model of how complex systems adapt over time, and how they are replaced in the natural world. There are important lessons in the diagram for advocacy organizations and groups, as well as targets. and we will go into those lessons in other presentations.
  23. 23. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The Core of Effective Strategy The core of an effective social justice strategy in dealing with a change target is to impact the processes that the target uses to keep itself going, changing these reproductive processes to make them more equitable, supportive, and productive of greater freedom and personal autonomy for de-valued communities. Whew! A mouthful….. Unpacking: ● Most of the time, we try to impact the surface of an organization by advocating about a specific structural issue (policy, political position, practice). But the core of what any target does is keep itself as it is now. There is nothing passive about this maintenance of the status quo. Targets must actively expend resources, capabilities, energy, etc. to actually do this. Though we tend to think of the status quo as not requiring maintenance effort (it is simply there), this is not true. While maintaining the status quo becomes more
  24. 24. ● automatic over time, it still requires a significant proportion of all the time and resources the target has available. This is largely because all targets are beset by a variety of disturbances to their self-reproduction from both inside and outside. But, all this effort is often not obvious, and we don’t focus on it. We focus on public positions and individual decision makers. This is a strategic error. ● Put more bluntly, if you change the core of a target’s self- reproduction to promote better outcomes for your community, the organization is more likely to continue to do that. There are some caveats to this assertion. ● You can’t engage these core processes by taking public advocacy positions, which is a typical technique. The battle over positions is a surface battle. However that battle turns out, neither the advocacy group nor the target is changed at their core. ● Remember that the main tactic used in individual advocacy effort is to threaten systemic change in the target if they don’t go along with the individual advocacy goal. This approach is effective precisely because the target doesn’t want to change anything at the core. ● Reproductive processes include governance, communication strategy, customer relation policies, bureaucratic workflow, target/outside world interface, and so on. Most of these are designed to reduce engagement with the outside world, to foster internal control over acquisition and use of resources, and to manage the political relationships both inside and outside of the target by minimizing the possibility of change. At the base of all this effort to manage the ongoing reproduction of the target is anxiety about loss of control. We will explore how important anxiety is in the perpetuation of resistance to change in other presentations, and how understanding this anxiety provides a tool to change organizations.
  25. 25. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Summary Slide So, here is where we are: 1. Advocacy Strategy is a framework to coordinate the ways, means, and ends of change in the face of uncertainty and resource scarcity. 2. We often fall into an implicit strategy because of a resource crisis, without purposefully choosing one. 3. If we don’t have an explicit strategy, but instead focus solely on operational plans, we weaken our change impact. The next presentation will look at strategy frameworks to deepen our ability to choose a powerful one.
  26. 26. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Resources Strategy: A History: http://goo.gl/MJXIID; a remarkable book, covering millenia. Art of War by Sun Tzu: http://goo.gl/nOhIrw; Various translations and commentary A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict: http: //goo.gl/tSR8YC; The publisher (http://www.aforcemorepowerful. org/index.php) also has many more resources, and even a video game.
  27. 27. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Last Thoughts “Strategy is a pattern in a stream of decisions” — Henry Mintzberg “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tzu “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out” —Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles in 1962 “Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things” — Miyamoto Musashi, legendary Japanese swordsman
  28. 28. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Your Presenter I am Norm DeLisle, Executive Director of Michigan Disability Rights Coalition: Short Bio: hubby2jill, dog, advocatefor45yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin Email: ndelisle@mymdrc.org Twitter: https://twitter.com/mdrcngd Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/disability.norm Blogs: Recovery Michigan: http://recoverymi.posthaven.com/ Disability Futures: http://normdelisle.posthaven.com/ Health and Disability: http://ltcreform.posthaven.com/ Economic Justice: http://economic-justice.posthaven.com/
  29. 29. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Thank You! I Appreciate Your Time and Attention! Thank You! I appreciate your time and attention.
  30. 30. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Further Along The Road... The slides that follow will show you information that goes beyond the presentation but will expand your understanding if you want to review them. The focus of the following slides is on deepening your understanding of what Strategy is and how it changes during your efforts to implement it, so that you can more effectively build and execute a real strategy for social justice based change.
  31. 31. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The Idea of Deep Strategy Many of the social changes that advocacy organizations wish to pursue are for the long term, say two full generations if all goes well. A core complication of thinking in such time frames is that there will be a change in the actual meaning of a strategy at its depth over the course of the strategy's execution. This change is unavoidable. No matter how well crafted a strategy is, the implementation will make everyone involved (including those who resist the implementation) impose the actual success of the implementation on the meaning of the strategy. I know that seems very abstract, but it isn’t. We have all experienced this loss of depth in our change strategies in the course of our advocacy. I am going to use the strategy of inclusion of people with disabilities inside the larger social environment since the 60’s to illustrate how this process of succeeding in making our strategy real undermines the depth and full potential of a successful strategy. This loss of depth arises out of the reality that we can’t move from
  32. 32. where we are to where we want to be in a single step through a single plan. Whatever we succeed in accomplishing will not reflect any ideal outcome, but only a partial realization of our hopes and dreams (conditioned by where we are when we start our change initiative). The success becomes the meaning of the strategy, and must be defended against the inevitable counter attack from those who view the success as a loss of power, money, or social status. This very predictable process stabilizes the struggle for change, and the defense of the partial success degrades the depth of the strategy.
  33. 33. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Inclusion: The Early Struggle I started my work inside the disability community in 1970 helping in a medical clinic to support families with children who had very severe or very rare disabilities, but who weren’t institutionalized (the standard practice of the time). Since there were no support services for families that didn’t institutionalize, we tended to try to mimic the supports that were available to families who didn’t have children with severe disabilities. These included baby-sitting, volunteers, local medical supports, family food choices, access to neighborhood and community resources, and so on. Although I had no framework like inclusion for thinking about the relevance of these typical community resources, it was natural to try to “normalize” the relationship between the family, the child, and the surrounding community. Of course, there was no easy way to actually normalize (truly include) the child’s and the family’s experience of their local community. It was possible to build social support for the family and the child, albeit temporarily. The community as a whole was not changed. The social isolation that families with disabled children experience, the lack of contact
  34. 34. between the child and other children, the lack of inclusive school experiences, the surprising unwillingness of medical providers to treat children with severe disabilities, none of these realities were impacted by even very successful efforts to build social support for individual families. I did see what the asylum system did to individuals however. We had a significant number of children who came to the medical clinic because they had been sent home from one or another of the existing asylums in Michigan. My best guess at the time about why was that deinstitutionalization and the pressure for higher quality had begun, and the asylums sent home anyone they thought would die shortly, avoiding an increase in the number of deaths that occurred in the facility. If the child died at home, that was the family’ s problem. It wasn’t until I began to work for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service at the State Hospital in Caro, Michigan that I came to see the larger civil rights issues of institutionalization, and the social change strategy of deinstitutionalization more clearly. The first operational plan for the inclusion strategy was the creation and use of group homes as vehicles for eliminating the use of large institutions. This approach worked to downsize and eventually eliminate institutions as the service industry for people with developmental disabilities. (However, asylums still exist in Michigan for people with severe mental illness.) But there were unforeseen (unintended) consequences to the use of group homes that only became apparent to me over time as a result of advocacy on behalf of persons with DD who lived in those group homes.
  35. 35. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Consequences of Group Homes Group homes weren’t just sitting around during the deinstitutionalization era.They had to be built, staffed, funded, and managed. Also, while everyone I ever met who had lived in a state institution was happy to get out, that didn’t mean that group homes were paradise. The first problem with group homes was that families who had wrongly assumed their children were safe in the state asylums had to be convinced that group homes were genuinely safe. This had the effect of convincing many people (families, some state employees, many local providers, and, of course, the people who owned the group homes) that group homes were the final best outcome for people with developmental disabilities. The continuing loss of personal autonomy and direct control over one’s life was lost in the reality that these homes were physically far better than the conditions in asylums, and there was more freedom, albeit not at a level any one without a developmental disability would have accepted as appropriate.
  36. 36. There was also, as is the case for all publically funded institution- like facilities, physical and sexual abuse. It never ceases to amaze me that people who universally hate being in a hospital for medical treatment because of their loss of autonomy and their vulnerability during their stay can delude themselves into believing that a state run facility with no natural support systems could ever be safe. I have so many stories of mistreatment, exploitation, bullying, and rape in group homes from my time as a field advocate that I would have to do an all day presentation solely on those stories to do them justice. Then there were the financial arrangements that allowed group homes to be built. Development projects were required that were more expensive than equivalent family homes. Also, these financial arrangements and the long term financial commitments of community mental health programs to the services, staff, and to the owners of the projects meant that, good or bad, the facilities were going to be used for the duration of their financing. Some public housing financial support was also used to build them, tying Michigan’s public housing system to the creation, maintenance, and defense of group homes. Group homes became mini-institutions. For a while when I was living in Lansing, I went to supper at Moore Living Center (at the time, a 32 bed congregate facility-hardly a home) every Wednesday to talk to a small group of guys who lived there. Their most common complaint was that no one would drive them to a local bar that was too far to travel to by walking or wheelchair. This refusal to support their preferences was a perfect example of destroying autonomy because of liability fears and is a structural problem with institutional models of all kinds including group homes. The needs of the facility dominate the needs of the people who live there. To summarize, group homes became the meaning of the strategy of social inclusion because, although they were clearly only a step in the historic fight of people with disabilities for full autonomy and
  37. 37. self-direction, the financial, social, political, and personal resources invested in their creation and maintenance and defending them against those who wanted people with significant disabilities in institutions out in the country made them the centerpiece of the struggle for real inclusion. The time, energy, and political capital required to defend groups homes undermined the framing of more comprehensive steps to social freedom. A similar thing happened with school busing for integration. Though busing was never more than a partial implementation of full social integration, it became the emblematic meaning of the struggle for full integration, and is defended as such to this day.
  38. 38. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The New Wave of Inclusion Strategy Soon after it was clear that institutions were on the way out, albeit with great resistance, and that group homes were on the ascendant as the vehicle for the provision of supports to persons with developmental disabilities, the disabled community and various allies began to redefine what real inclusion meant. What should a new strategy of inclusion should look like? It would take several decades for this new strategy to begin to dominate the prevailing notion that group homes were the final limit of social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. The new strategy was exemplified by the idea of “Home of Your Own”. People with significant disabilities should be able to rent and own housing on their own, with significant others, and with roommates that were actually chosen instead of being forced. “Home of Your Own” along with other policy initiatives were used to alter and build an infrastructure for this next step. Interestingly, the same arguments that were used to justify institutions were used for exactly the same reasons to justify group
  39. 39. homes in resisting the idea of people with disabilities living in the community, renting and owning homes just like everyone else. It was just as difficult to overcome the defense of property rights (in which people with disabilities were like inventory in a supermarket), the supposed safety of group homes, and the underlying notion that the freedom of people who were devalued was a meaningless value, as it had been during the era leading up to the beginning of deinstitutionalization. Breaking down the dominance of mini-institutions has been a long process. The Federal Home and Community Based Services rule implementation over the next few years will undermine the sabotage of autonomy that has characterized the resistance to expanding the freedom of people with significant disabilities to live, work, and thrive in the mainstream of our society. But, the mischaracterization of HCBS by those who have an investment in the current system has already begun. The struggle continues.
  40. 40. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Summary: Strategic Meaning .A social change strategy that reflects our deepest values and that maximizes the freedom of those we cherish is only the beginning of any social change effort. In the course of making the strategy real, we will have to settle for partial realizations, and we will have to struggle with the undermining of our vision as the meaning of our strategy changes through the impact of partial success. This struggle is inevitable, and it imposes on us the effort required to re-engage with the depth and hope of our original vision regularly over the course of the change initiative. This rekindling of what was best in our original perception,and the expansion of that original vision with the lessons we have learned from our struggle to make the strategy real, will deepen the strategy that we thought was complete when it was originally conceived into a framework to guide our next phase in the expansion of human freedom.

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