More about Asset-Based Community Development

While I am no expert in the science of Asset-Based Community Development,the ideas ring true to me. I like the concept of leading from our strengths, both individually and in community. All of us have gifts, areas where we are strong. Surely within the disability community, we all can bring those gifts to the work at hand. Our purpose includes equal access in our communities, for example. What gifts do community members bring to achieving change in access?

Of course, to recognize strengths or assets in ourselves or others we need to think about them and share our gifts with each other. One tool is to ask people about their gifts, in three difference categories. First, what are your gifts of the hand? What things can you make, do, fix or create with your hands? Secondly, what are the gifts of the head? What do you know about, or what are you interested in learning. Finally, what are the gifts of your heart? What are your passions, cares and concerns?

Apply these to the work at hand. If you are targeting a specific neighborhood for improving access, the people in that neighborhood very likely already know what some of the local assets are. They know what organizations are already present n that neighborhood. They know their strengths, what streets and buildings and services are physically accessible. Neighbors may know the individuals and associations of their community. They know what cultural concerns are present.

In the ABCD model you:

  • Focus on ASSETS
  • Build from OPPORTUNITIES
  • Emphasize ASSOCITATIONS
  • Focus on COMMUNITY with a goal of EMPOWERMENT
  • Remember power comes from RELATIONSHIPS
  • PEOPLE are the answer.

As you plan, ask these questions:

  • As neighbors, what can we achieve by using our own assets?
  • What can we achieve (leverage) with our own assets if we get some outside help?
  • What can’t we do with our assets that must be done by outsiders?

Most goals can be achieve with the community’s own assets.

“Helping people displaces their power.”

If you like to study social dynamics from interesting sources, you may want to check out Asset Based Community Development. The Center in my home town, Fresno, CA, invited me to a community wide conference on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD for short). This is a well established program taught around the country to all kinds of communities organizing to create change. It isn’t Independent Living, but I found some interesting parallels, and some great quotes, like the title above, used by Ron Dwyer-Voss during the presentation.

I was especially interested in something called the Citizen Power Progression.  This is a ladder or hierarchy, with the labels “victim” and “client” at the bottom. In my mind these correlated with people who receive services, but aren’t involved in the life of the disability community. These are people we might be “helping” – and if they remain those who are “helped”, they may not exercise their voice, their power. Change may happen here, but on a more limited scale than the next levels.

The next rung is “Advisor”. This made me think of the different models for peer support around the country. People with disabilities sharing with each other, mentoring as people come into their own confidence and power. It is on the right track, but doesn’t really acknowledge full power.

“Advocate” is the next, essential level. We must speak out for the things needed in our community, against injustice. As we all know, advocacy can be powerful — but it is not always successful, and not always at the level true consumer control.  If you think about the community you serve, and about the staff and board makeup, don’t look just at the numbers. Look at whether or not people from the disability community are in control or are only clients (consumers), advisors or advocates.

Because real power is in the hands of those who produce the vision, who make the change happen, are the ones with community power.  Real change happens when our people are in positions of power — not just testifying to the Transportation Committee, but serving on the committee. Not only advising but acting.

Another quote – “Institutions (Organizations) can lead by stepping back.”  I challenge you to take a long look at your center and whether your board has become insulated from those you serve. Can the center itself lead by stepping back and urging more people to do what needs to happen? Your center as an organization can convene groups, facilitate action, provide resources for change, partner with others…but if the desired action is something the citizens (consumers) can do for themselves, don’t displace their power.

More next week as we talk about asset mapping.

Do you have a place for volunteers in your organization?

We have some training regarding volunteers on our website.  Ability360 in Phoenix has some good structure to their Peer to Peer volunteers that would work with any volunteer project. We haven’t addressed the larger issue of volunteers, though, so it is time. If you are a center that has organized a volunteer program, please tell us about it in the comments below. For all of us, here are some elements to consider, whether you are looking at the Ability 360 training or elsewhere:
  • You have to decide how careful you want to be about who you recruit/accept, for example, so you will need a policy and practice around vetting the volunteer, and whether or not you will do criminal background checks or reference checks or both. For your own risk management, even if the volunteer works in the center and not in a person’s home, you want to decide about this.
  • Who matches the volunteer to a task? Do they get to choose from open positions, or do you make up a position to match their interests?
  • Make sure that the volunteer isn’t doing something that would typically be a paid position. That would violate some Department of Labor regulations. A Non-profit risk group says, “Federal law, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) defines individuals that provide services without any expectation of compensation, and without any coercion or intimidation, as “volunteers” (non-employees).” They also provide some nuances related to the question of when a person is a volunteer and when they must be an employee.
  • You also need to decide whether you will use youth as volunteers and what restrictions you might have because they are under age. (You probably would not want them to volunteer off site without supervision.)
  • Orientation is the next element you want to examine.  What does the person understand about Independent Living philosophy? You don’t want a proponent of sheltered sub-minimum work to be preaching that to a consumer, so you need to make sure the person’s beliefs are consistent with your philosophy. Often centers provide volunteers with the same orientation as staff members.
  • How will the volunteer track their time and activity? There are some states that have a match arrangement for donations, and that may allow you to count volunteer hours. If having volunteers is an important goal, you want to identify a way to report it to your board, staff and volunteers on the number of people and hours. If the volunteer works directly with a consumer, how will you record this in their Consumer Service Record?
  • You might find some useful tips in this Volunteer Management Guide on line. This site is a rich resource for orientation, training and management ideas related to volunteers.

What are some ways to use volunteers? Volunteers can work on your landscape, build a ramp for a consumer, sew a quilt for a fundraiser, teach your classes in an area of expertise. Done right, they can extend your resources to provide services to more people.

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Designated State Entity Assurances

Whether you are with the Designated State Entity or the SILC or a Center that receives Part B money, these new (and not yet implemented) assurances will be of interest to you. One of the most common difficulties reported between the DSE and Centers and SILCs has to do with timely payment, for example, and these assurances state that the DSE MUST make timely and prompt payment to Centers and SILCs. This requirement creates a platform fora conversation and the development of a process that will result in these timely payment. Most of these address potential areas of tension between the DSE and those funded through the SPIL. The areas specifically are:

  • The DSE acknowledges its role as the fiscal intermediary to receive, account for, and disburse funds received by the State to support Independent Living Services in the State;
  • The DSE must make timely and prompt payments to Part B funded SILCs and CILs:
  • When the reimbursement method is used, the DSE must make a payment within 30 calendar days after receipt of the billing, unless the agency or pass-through entity reasonably believes the request to be improper;
  • When necessary, the DSE will advance payments to Part B funded SILCs and CILs to cover its estimated disbursement needs for an initial period generally geared to the mutually agreed upon disbursing cycle;
  • The DSE will accept requests for advance payments and reimbursements at least monthly when electronic fund transfers are not used, and as often as necessary when electronic transfers are used, in accordance with the provisions of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (15 U.S.C. 1693-1693r);
  • The DSE will abide by SILC determination of whether the SILC want to utilize DSE staff;
  • If the SILC informs the DSE that the SILC wants to utilize DSE staff, the DSE assures that management of such staff with regard to activities and functions performed for the SILC is the sole responsibility of the SILC in accordance with Sec. 705(e)(3) of the Act(Sec. 705(e)(3), 29 U.S.C. 796(e)(3));
  • The DSE will assure that the agency keeps appropriate records, in accordance with federal and State law, and provides access to records by the federal funding agency upon request;
  • The DSE assures that the SILC is established as an autonomous entity within the State as required in Sec 1329.14 of the WIOA regulations;
  • The DSE will not interfere with the business or operations of the SILC that include but are not limited to:
    1. Expenditure of federal funds,
    2. Meeting schedules and agendas,
    3. SILC board business,
    4. Voting actions of the SILC Board,
    5. Personnel actions,
    6. Allowable travel,
    7. Trainings and;
  • The DSE will fully cooperate with the SILC in the nomination and appointment process for the SILC in the State.

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at http://www.ilru.org/federal-guidance-il-program, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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State Independent Living Council Assurances

When your SILC accepts funds you agree to a set of assurances. You make a promise that you will do some specific things. We suggest that, whenever it fits, these promises be worked into your written policies and procedures. Sometimes you will tailor that policy to say more about your actual practice. For example, the first of the assurances is that you will meet regularly with the appointing authority in your state with recommendations for actual nominees to the council. How do you approach this? Do you assist people with getting and completing the application to serve on the SILC? Do you meet with the authority annually or quarterly? Do you keep a checklist or grid to indicate term limits and positions filled (like areas of the state)?

We suggest you expand your written policies and procedures further, and address these new assurances:

  • The SILC regularly (not less than annually) provides the appointing authority recommendations for eligible appointments;
  • The SILC is composed of the requisite members set forth in the Act (Sec. 705(b)(2), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 796 (b)(2));
  • The SILC terms of appointment adhere to the Act (Sec. 705(b)(6), 29 U.S.C Sec 796(b)(6));
  • The SILC is not established as an entity within a State agency in accordance with 45 CFR Sec. 1329.14(b);
  • The SILC will make the determination of whether it wants to utilize DSE staff to carry out the functions of the SILC;
    1. The SILC must inform the DSE if it chooses to utilize DSE staff;
    2. The SILC assumes management and responsibility of such staff with regard to activities and functions performed for the SILC in accordance with the Act (Sec. 705(e)(3), 29 U.S.C. 796(e)(3)).
  • The SILC shall ensure all program activities are accessible to people with disabilities;
  • The State Plan shall provide assurances that the designated State entity, any other agency, office, or entity of the State will not interfere with operations of the SILC, except as provided by law and regulation and;
  • The SILC actively consults with unserved and underserved populations in urban and rural areas that include, indigenous populations as appropriate for State Plan development as described in Sec. 713 (b)(7) the Act regarding Authorized Uses of Funds (29 U.S.C. Sec. 796e-2(b)(7)).

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at http://www.ilru.org/federal-guidance-il-program, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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What do the new indicators say about open meetings for SILC?

Because the Statewide Independent Living Council is crafted out of the Rehabilitation Act’s Purpose, let’s look at those words:

45 CFR 1329.2 Purpose. The purpose of title VII of the Act is to promote a philosophy of independent living (IL), including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society…

One of the elements of consumer control is found in the makeup of the SILC itself, which must have more than 50% people with disabilities who don’t work for either the State or a Center. That is the majority which approves the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) on behalf of the SILC, as well as the SILC’s policies, procedures, staff and operations.

But no council can represent all of the people in the state who have disabilities. The SILC must allow for public comment at its meetings, hold open meetings accessible to people across the state, and invite feedback into the development of the SPIL from a broad range of consumers throughout the state.

In last week’s post we looked at the policies and procedures that are required in the new SILC Indicators, and a lot of them —  items c. through g. specifically — apply to the public nature of the SILC. This is an area where you have both state and federal requirements to consider as you develop your policies.  You will want to refer to your state’s Sunshine Act or Open Meetings laws and regulations. Often there is someone in the governor’s office that would be willing to train your board on this, or review your proposed policies, or both.That portion is very specific to the state and these vary widely from state to state.

The federal expectations are included in the Indicators*. Additional federal requirements are outlined in item 4. of the indicators. These are requirements from the federal level that may require more than your state does, so be sure to consider both. Here is what you need to do:

4. The SILC receives public input into the development of the State Plan for Independent Living in accordance with 45 CFR 1329.17(f) ensuring:

  • Adequate documentation of the State Plan development process, including but not limited to, a written process setting forth how input will be gathered from the state’s centers for independent living and individuals with disabilities throughout the state, and the process for how the information collected is considered.
  • All meetings regarding State Plan development and review are open to the public and provides advance notice of such meetings in accordance with existing State and federal laws and 45 CFR 1329.17(f)(2)(i)-(ii);
  • Meetings seeking public input regarding the State Plan provides advance notice of such meetings in accordance with existing State and federal laws, and 45 CFR 1329.17(f)(2)(i);
  • Public meeting locations, where public input is being taken, are accessible to all people with disabilities, including, but not limited to:
    • proximity to public transportation,
    • physical accessibility, and
    • effective communication and accommodations that include auxiliary aids and services, necessary to make the meeting accessible to all people with disabilities.
    • Materials available electronically must be 508 compliant and, upon request, available in alternative and accessible format including other commonly spoken languages

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at http://www.ilru.org/federal-guidance-il-program, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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The SILC Indicators are here…let’s talk SILC policies and procedures

Whether or not your SILC is a 501(c)(3) entity, you need written policies and procedures to guide how you do business.

Let’s take a moment to highlight the first of the Statewide Independent Living Council Indicators*, which is all about policies. (We will review the rest of the indicators, along with SILC and DSE Assurances, in later posts.)

These are indicators of minimum compliance for SILCs, and are an expansion of the content of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act and regulations. Indicator #1 is that the SILC have written policies and procedures in a number of areas. Here is a list:

a. A method for recruiting members, reviewing applications, and regularly providing recommendations for eligible appointments to the appointing authority.

b. A method for identifying and resolving actual or potential disputes and conflicts of interest that are in compliance with State and federal law;

c. A process to hold public meetings and meet regularly as prescribed in 45 CFR 1329.15(a)(3)

d. A process and timelines for advance notice to the public of SILC meetings in compliance with State and federal law and 45 CFR 1329.15(3);

e. A process and timeline for advance notice to the public for SILC “Executive Session” meetings, that are closed to the public, that follow applicable federal and State laws;

i. “Executive Session” meetings should be rare and only take place to discuss confidential SILC issues such as but not limited to staffing.

ii. Agendas for “Executive Session” meetings must be made available to the public, although personal identifiable information regarding SILC staff shall not be included;

f. A process and timelines for the public to request reasonable accommodations to participate during a public Council meeting;

g. A method for developing, seeking and incorporating public input into, monitoring, reviewing and evaluating implementation of the State Plan as required in 45 CFR 1329.17; and

h. A process to verify centers for independent living are eligible to sign the State Plan in compliance with 45 CFR 1329.17(d)(2)(iii).

If you don’t have all these policies, you need to develop them or borrow them from a SILC that has them. Typically the Council approves all the policies and procedures. These areas are in addition to our recommended financial policies and procedures.

Join us next week for a discussion of the open meetings portion of this specifically.

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — for both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs. While the effective date has not yet been determined, ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at http://www.ilru.org/federal-guidance-il-program, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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More links to Training Bites

Here are some more short (under 30 minutes) training segments for orientation for SILC and Center board orientation:

Suggested links for orientation for SILC Council members:

These seven (7) links — a total of about 10 hours of on demand training in several formats — will be helpful to new SILC members as they begin to understand the principles and responsibilities around  serving on a SILC.

Suggested orientation for CIL Board members:

Suggested links for on-going Center Board training:

The following are topics that could be viewed at a CIL board meeting. Some CILs build a short training into every meeting so that the SILC members receive on-going training as required.

Functions of a Non-profit board.  http://www.ilru.org/training/leaders-without-limits-community-leadership-academy-train-trainer This multi day training was a train the trainer model for assisting in board and council training. It has several sections that you will find useful. You can easily divide this section into 20 to 30 minute segments by noting where the part you want to do begins and ends. You will want to watch the captioned videos first and decide if they are helpful to your board and what you want to do regarding dividing the section, or use my suggestions here:

  • Module 3: Board Responsibilities, 2:50 through 25:34 — Board legal and ethical responsibilities and conflicts of interest.
  • Module 5: Corporation — establishing, types of corporations, other corporate responsibilities. 9:07 through 29:30.
  • Module 5: How Boards Operate — 29:35 through 44:09 regarding officers.  44:10 through 1:20:59 Parliamentary Procedures.

Even more topics are available on this training page, but the handouts are proprietary and not available on our website. You can find contact information for these at http://www.nationalcla.org/contact.html.

Internal controls are discussed at http://www.ilru.org/training/internal-controls-for-centers-for-independent-living  and click on “View the Training”.  For a streamlined view, show 5:29 through 33:44. Remember that all training on our site either includes captioning or, as is the case with this training, have a transcript available as an accommodation.

On-going training for boards and councils

One challenge we all face is that of keeping our boards and councils well trained and up to date. There are several approaches to this.

Probably the most common is to prepare a notebook or manual and give it to the new member as they come on board. Typically this has dividers and includes things like the bylaws, articles of incorporation, staff names and titles, a board contact list, policies and procedures, and maybe some history about your organization or independent living. Most include the most recent brochures and annual report, and maybe any recent news articles. This notebook absolutely has value. It gives the new member a reference point. (It is even more effective if an experienced board member goes over it with them, or sits next to them during meetings to assist with finding references.)

It is also a useful practice to make sure that you give background when you ask the board or council for action. By providing a one-page brief or subject page in the board or council meeting information packet for every anticipated motion, you can address the obvious questions and provide some of the information needed for sound decision making. You can also give the various options and the pros and cons of each for consideration. If you board packet is provided to the members in advance, this gives them an opportunity to be better prepared for the motion, discussion and vote.

Having a board or council retreat or training day (often combining training with planning), can provide another opportunity to provide training support outside the tighter time constraints of a regular meeting.

There is one more training option that I’d like to suggest. If you take a short period of time at each meeting — not more than 30 minutes, and often 15 or 20 minutes — you can cover a number of topics through the year. While it takes a little time to sort out the topics you want, you can find many resources on our website. If you board meets monthly, that is the equivalent of a full day of training, but is much more easily digested and applied. Here is a sample for SILCs of the kinds of things you can use from our website.  In future posts I will give a similar list of links for board and council member orientation and CIL Board training in a future post.

Suggested links  SILC Council member trainings:

The following are topics that could be viewed at a SILC meeting. Some SILCs build a short training into every meeting so that the SILC members receive on-going training as required.

 

Rebranding – Transforming your Image

  1. Know why you want to change your name, image and logo. What is the new image you want to portray? Youth? Movement? Freedom? Are there any negative perceptions that you want to  overcome? How do you dispel the perceptions that your CIL is a caregiver  or residential program? Take time to thoroughly explore your reasons so that you can know if you are successful.
  2. Take time to be curious, to image new possibilities. Beth Comstock, on her blog “How I Unlearn”, said this: “Sometimes, setting aside your emotions and direct impressions is a crucial skill. When we have a tight deadline, we can’t indulge every stray thought. But selectively listening to stray thoughts can be productive. If you find yourself dreading a project or consistently annoyed by it, it’s worth taking ten or fifteen minutes to think back to the moments when you felt that way and why. It might help you see the outlines of a problem that’s just below the surface. The same goes for sudden bursts of curiosity. At first blush, curiosity can actually look like distraction. But if something about your project is causing you and your team to ask a series of questions or go off on tangents, take a moment and ask yourselves why. Is there a potential opportunity lurking behind this curiosity, an assumption that could turn your work on its head? When curiosity crops up, don’t always ignore it. It might point out where your assumptions are holding you back.”
  3. As a non-profit you have a public that is interested in what you do. In an article on rebranding, in Non-Profit Quarterly, Carlo Cuesto said “In order to tell our own story, we need to listen to and embrace the stories of those we wish to reach. A story is a gift, not a donor-acquisition strategy. Stories bind us together by allowing us to glimpse the other. And when we glimpse the other, we seek to understand it in all its nuanced glory. It overtakes and ripples across our consciousness, forcing us to reconcile what we are experiencing with what we think we already know.” If your center is effective, your consumers have stories that will connect with what you do in ways that mere descriptions cannot.
  4. Engage your whole community in the discussion. We are community controlled entities, and our consumers should be involved in the exploration of a your center’s role and identity. When you step into your new “skin” it should be a good fit for your best moments.
  5. Make sure the image you want to portray is what you project. What is the story about disability that you want to tell to the community? Some organizations focus on ability — so you see the new brand of Ability 360 in Phoenix (formerly called Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL). “Ability360 puts the focus on the word ‘ability’ and not ‘disability’,” said Ability360 President and CEO Phil Pangrazio. “The all-encompassing 360-concept demonstrates more inclusiveness of people with all types of disabilities and the new name helps clear up confusion that has existed for many years about who we are and what we do.”The new logo, designed by Phoenix-based graphic design firm P.S. Studios depicts the word “Ability” in gray, sans-serif capital letters and “360” in light blue with the “0” designed as an arrow pointing upward. “The new logo with the upward-pointing arrow, is more modern than our previous logo, promotes positive and forward-moving energy in a very simple design that, most importantly, replaces the previous logo that conveyed a stereotypical image of disability with a wheelchair at its core,” Pangrazio said. “We’re thrilled to be moving forward under a new, streamlined and highly effective name and brand.”
  6. Don’t get caught between your past and your future. Make a plan and roll out your new brand with fun and fanfare. At that point all the old signage, logos, brochures and business cards should be gone and the new ones in their place. Don’t drag your transformation out over time. Don’t allow drawers of old stuff filed away because someone likes it. Other than a copy or two for your archives, the old will inform but cannot speak for the new image/brand. You will use the power of “new” to connect even more people to your center and your work.
  7. You have some “unlearning” to do as part of this change. If you and your stakeholders — board, staff, consumers — hold on to the old name or other old thinking, how do you expect the community at large to perceive you differently.

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