The first critical issue in any change effort is the awareness that we need to change. It is clear that providers of services to people with disabilities still do not have a solid understanding of social capital as a rehabilitation concept and outcome. Perhaps it is too simple, or maybe too “touchy-feely” – certainly, rehabilitation success with people who have significant disabilities can not be as simple as “more friends?” Yet, when we look at social capital from a broader perspective, or think about it in our own lives, the impact is clear. Friends are fundamental to our health and to having more opportunity in our lives.
Everyone associated with the organization must begin to critically re-think the purpose behind their work by asking the two questions ‘how is what I am doing helping a person that I work with to become more connected to their community’ and ‘what can our agency do with our existing resources to help people build more relationships and connections to the community?’
IN member CLASS led this visioning exercise by organizing the agency’s leadership, board of directors and folks being served to conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis of the agency as it related to Interdependence. A S.W.O.T. analysis looks at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to a particular initiative, in this case it was focused on helping people to develop community connections and building social capital. Everything the agency did or said was examined, including the agency’s mission and vision statements, the types of programs being offered, and how staff were being trained.
This process was the ultimate product because it infused into the fabric of the organizational culture the principle that relationships, and the resulting social capital were important. This was the first step in creating an agency culture in which relationships are the most important outcome. It is this simple change in perspective that sets the Interdependence approach off from the typical medical approach to services.