Creating a Strong SelfAdvocacy Group By Cindy Bentley, Tia Nelis, and Jason Endres Why Do People Join Groups? • • • • • • To meet people They have common interests To learn There is strength in numbers To use their skills and talents To change things Starting a Self-Advocacy Group • A group needs: – A mission or purpose, a common understanding – Leadership, officers – Responsibilities and rules – Goals – Membership – Support and assistance Being a Self-Advocate Means… • Knowing and speaking up for your rights and the rights of others • Supporting one another to build self-confidence • Being actively involved in decisions that affect your life and the lives of other people with disabilities • Providing community education regarding issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities • Working with others to solve problems • Advocating for positive change Reasons Why People Join SelfAdvocacy Groups There may be different reasons why people join a self-advocacy group. As people learn more, they may find they are interested in all different parts of self-advocacy. 1) Self –advocates are always learning and educating others on important issues they may be facing, such as: a) b) c) d) Housing Transportation Education Employment Important Skills for Self-Advocates • Help yourself and others • Learn to be a strong self-advocate • Speak up • Speak out • Solve problems as a group • Make decisions together • Learn about your rights and responsibilities • Learn how to vote and how your government works • Learn how to help in your community Self-Advocates Work for Human Rights and Equality • To get better services and programs • To live in the community -- NOT in institutions, nursing homes, or other segregated places • To improve human rights and to have dignity • To teach others to stop discriminating • To have real jobs in the community with real wages • To have community integration • To make better laws • To be involved in decisions which effect our lives Steps for Starting a Self-Advocacy Group • Find a meeting place and time that is accessible and easy for as many members to get to as possible • Make sure that all group members understand what selfadvocacy is and why you are meeting • Have members choose at least one personal goal that is in line with ideas about selfadvocacy • Develop goals that people can work on as a team • Choose goals that are manageable for the group More Steps for Starting a Self-Advocacy Group • Create rules and responsibilities that members should learn and understand – These may include: • Officers, Dues • Voting, Advisors • Ways to treat one another • Be sure to develop friendships, connections, and a supportive environment between group members • Be sure that every member can participate to the best of their ability Even More Steps for starting a SelfAdvocacy Group • Develop connections within your community • Evaluate your progress and decide what things are working well and what things could be changed Vision, Mission & Goals • Spend time developing: – Vision statement – Mission statement – Plan for the future with goals and objectives Developing a Mission Statement • Mission/purpose statement – What is it? – Why is it needed? • Elements of a mission statement: – Who are we? – What do we believe? – What will we do? – Where will this occur? – What do we want to accomplish? Mission Statement Example We are People First Wisconsin, a statewide self-advocacy organization for people with disabilities. We are dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to have our voices heard. In addition to this, the mission of People First Wisconsin is to: Educate people with disabilities, including children & youth with disabilities, about their rights. Assist people with disabilities to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and how to make these dreams come true. Educate the public about the rights and strengths of people with disabilities, and what they need from the public to be successful. Help local self-advocacy groups to get started and get stronger. Help individuals and local self-advocacy groups get to know each other, learn from each other and work together. Work toward closing all institutions and making life in the community a human right for people with disabilities. Goals • What are goals? • Why are goals important? • Elements of a goal – Concrete Statement – Objective – Achievable – Time-frames – People Responsible – Action needed to work on goal Setting Your Goals • It is important for selfadvocates to set realistic goals which they can achieve individually and as a group. • Here is a process that groups can use to come up with goals. Evaluate needs and interests: 1. Identify needs: What needs you and other group member have 2. Identify interests: Brainstorm what things you are interested in accomplishing as a selfadvocacy group More Setting Your Goals • Discuss what goals can be accomplished early in the group development, and which may take more time – Circle and number, in order, which goals the group wants to work on first • Write under each goal ways that these items can fit into the personal needs and interests of the group members • Outline steps you will have to take to reach these goals and identify what kinds of supports you will need to these accomplish goals Sample Goals • Learning our rights & to speak up for ourselves • Educating others about self-advocacy and disability issues • Raising money for our group to attend conferences • Real homes and real jobs • Making places accessible • Closing institutions • Stop funding cuts Members • What can you do to make members feel welcome? – Meet with them before the meeting to share the history & relevant information, and clearly share the purpose of the group – Accurate information about date/time & place of meeting – Do introductions and let them share their story – Address their support needs – Encourage their options & comments and involve them in the discussion Responsibilities of Members • • • • • • Attend & participate in meetings Communicate with members & advisor Promote group in positive way Be respectful of all members Practice confidentiality Bring concerns to the officers attention Leaders • What is leadership? • How do you know someone is a good Leader? • What are the qualities and characteristics of a leader? • What responsibilities do leaders have? Responsibility of Officers • • • • Provide leadership for the group Be a role model for all members Attend meetings and be an active participant Fulfill duties and responsibilities of the office you represent • Assist the group in problem solving • Bring new ideas to the group • Complete all necessary work on time Meetings • Agenda - distribute ahead of time with extra copies at meeting • Handouts, including previous meeting minutes • Introductions • Conversation & discussion • Ground rules • Sign-in sheets Meeting Agendas • Topics to be discussed at meeting and may want to identify who will be responsible for each topic • May include meeting schedule with timeframes • End with confirmation of next meeting Advisors Role and Responsibilities of Advisors • What is the role of an advisor? – Help with meetings, which can include: scheduling, writing agendas, keeping minutes, and transportation – Assist with record keeping – Share information – Encouraging all member to participate – Be respectful, organized, trustworthy, and committed to the group – Does not make decisions for the group – Is not a voting member Recruiting & Hiring an Advisor • Who does the advisor work for? • Clearly define the job tasks and the job responsibilities • Discuss expectations: – Drive own car? Transport People? – Schedule: hours availability after work hours? – Assist with personal care? • Discuss salary and benefits (If any) • Documentation • Commitment statement Evaluating an Advisor • Job Performance – Advocacy, independence – Administrative and organization duties • Time management, including schedules and flexibility – Keeping to a budget • Is the advisor meeting the group’s expectations? Dealing With Conflict of an Advisor • What to do when you have conflicts with your advisor? – Talk with the advisor and clearly state the concern or problem – Discuss impact of problem – Discuss possible solutions • Include a time frame for solution – Document discussion • Use job description and evaluation process • Get advice from an outside source Tips for Keeping a Self-Advocacy Group Together Over Time • Make sure that all members know when and where the meetings are – This can include calling people, sending out letters and calendars, and hanging up notices • Have self-advocates make contact with their advisors so everyone knows what their job is • Have officer meetings – This is a good time to practice, get ready for meetings , and to discuss issues • Find ways to get everyone involved in the group – Give everyone a job and a chance to communicate • Use accessible materials in meetings – This could include pictures, writing notes, and videotapes -- This will help everyone to be on the same page • Make sure that things people are discussing are important to their lives – This will help motivate members • For the first few years: – Evaluate the progress of the group and update goals every three months • If any problems arise, face them head on • Part of self-advocacy is solving problems • Most importantly: – Make sure meetings are fun – Self-Advocacy can include both business and fun What keeps a group active? • • • • • Leadership Staying focused, and keeping with the mission Working together on activities and goals Holding officer meetings Convenience & accessibility – Location, time, reading out loud, using pictures etc. • Working through conflicts and problems as they come up Dealing With Conflict in the Group • Define the problem or conflict – Acknowledge differing opinions & ideas • Determine who is involved • Hold a meeting and consider using an outside facilitator • Listen to all sides and stick to the facts • Identify where there is agreement • Identify compromise and make solutions Most Importantly HAVE FUN!!!