Friday, September 14, 2007

The Speed of ...

I'm pleased. Very, very pleased. For the past year and a half, I've been working with Vita Community Living Services on trying out ideas which have the outcome of creating an agency where abuse is less likely to occur. Statistics show that people with disabilities are often victimized while in care, Vita has made it a mission to try new ideas and approaches with the eye to offering every single person in care safe harbour.

One of the ideas was to look at how to make a large agency which sprawls over a large geographic area into an agency that feels intimate and close. Where distance is reduced between staff and the level of the heirarchy between frontline staff and upper management is made less daunting. Open communication between the levels of heirarchy in an agency creates an atmosphere where people are less afraid to report concerns, talk about real issues and face up to practices that are less than perfect. We decided to start a book club within the agency wherein staff would sign on to read a book that has a disability theme and then we'd get together an talk about it. Learn from the book and learn from each other.

We started by giving a selection of books to be voted on, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, Dissolution by C. J. Sansom and Too Big Too Miss by an author whose name escapes me. The Speed of Dark won and then 15 staff signed on to read on their time, meet on Vita's. Over the weeks that the book was being read, a buzz started about the book. People chatted about where they were in the book and all held off telling the ending. Every single person who read the book felt that they were challenged by the text to rethink disability and rethink service.

Today we held the first of two meetings. A front line residential staff, the art therapist, a director, the executive director were all part of the group. We all were equals as we discussed the book and then moved into a really passionate discussion about service and about Vita and about what kind of agency we all wanted. Two hours later we all sat back like we'd had a fine meal and said, "That was good."

What intended to happen, did happen. The agency felt a little closer - the heirarchy a little smaller, we all were a little wiser, and a growing sense of corporate community has begun.

I'm proud to be part of an organization that wants to serve well, wants to examine how we offer service, wants to try new ideas. There was a moment when I just sat back in the meeting and everyone was talking all at once excitedly about ideas, about ideals and about service.

It can't get better than this.


Bev said...

This is great to hear! The Speed of Dark is a very important book; I wish every person with an autistic family member or acquaintance would read it. Thank you for sharing this.

Belinda said...

It's a great idea--and knowing that you want to create an interagency network of readers to build networking opportunities, spreading the "buzz," I think there will be some "next wave" joiners from our agency.

Let us know the next book's title! We'll be in.

Casdok said...

Very encouraging.

lina said...

I could swear that the meeting also served to bring down stress levels, and have a 'meeting' that was actually a wonderful two hours of my time. Really, I left that meeting feeling refreshed, like I had learned and left with a great feeling all day! Couldn't say enough good things about this - thank you Dave - as always!

Elizabeth McClung said...

I honestly thought I was the only person in the world to read The Speed of Dark who I gave to my PT who has an autistic teenager. Excellent choice! Yah!