Strategic Planning vs Wishing on a Star

Since the last time I posted to this blog (which was far too long ago…sorry), I have been eyeball deep in strategic planning around a variety of Youth Transition issues. In particular, I have spent much of my time during the last few months drafting and refining a strategic plan designed to increase the number of opportunities that students with intellectual disabilities have to participate in fully inclusive college experiences in Utah. This has been a fascinating process, meeting with all of the different stakeholders, trying to get a sense of what is already available and what people and agencies are already doing in this area, figuring out what barriers exist and coming up with strategic goals that will help all of the stakeholders take the next step forward so that we can see measurable change.

Strategic Planning can be a messy and time consuming process, as those of you who have done it before can attest too. However, what is the alternative to going through a thoughtful and detailed strategic planning process? Perhaps wishful thinking on a magic star that things will change for the better would be an easier way to plan for the future, but as those of us who have taken that approach at times can confirm, it is not always the most effective or reliable planning method. Sometimes you wish on the wrong star and other times someone beats you to the star you are wishing on and all of the wishes have been used up.

Thinking about all of this reminds me of the well-known saying: “If you fail to plan…you plan to fail”. Thankfully, I had access to some remarkable planning tools and resources to help me with the strategic planning I have been doing around postsecondary issues here in Utah. First, I had a team of other deeply committed stakeholders helping me gather and process information about what was happening across the state and where we should go next. Second, I had access to peers across the country through the Think College Project, an initiative of the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The folks at Think College have been working to increase opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to participate in college experiences for over a decade. They have developed amazing resources for students, families, and professionals. The resources at Think College helped us here in Utah connect with peers in other states that are further down this road, so that we could learn from their planning efforts. Learning from their successes and failures has helped us avoid reinventing the wheel of postsecondary inclusion.

This makes me curious about how the rest of you approach strategic planning, especially around how to work with young adults and transition efforts.

Are there things you have learned that could help the rest of us avoid costly mistakes or succeed more quickly in our youth transition efforts?

What are the best resources you have found to help you plan your program’s goals more effectively?

What questions would you like to ask your peers at other CILs, about what has or hasn’t worked for them in this area?

Are any of your centers involved in your state’s effort to improve postsecondary inclusion for students with intellectual disabilities? If so, what is your role?

One of the things we hope to do with this blog is connect peers to each other so that we can all maximize and our time and energy in supporting successful transitions to adulthood. Please take a moment and share your thoughts on this or any other topics of interest.… Read more

The Future of Advocacy

With the National Forum on Disability Issues ( coming up this Friday I have been helping to plan a viewing party for the staff where I work. Between this and all of the other political happenings going on at every level I have been thinking a lot about policy and advocacy. Some very important laws and policies that improve civil rights and services for people with disabilities, and their families, have been passed in the past 40 years. Many of these improvements were put in place largely due to the tireless advocacy efforts of individuals with disabilities and their allies, who joined together to advocate for change. As we look forward to the next 40 years of change, who are the advocates that will continue to carry the torch of inclusion and civil rights? What is your center doing to be involved in training this next generation of disability advocates?

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the new “Advocacy Specialist” at my local CIL. I and a few other folks that have been involved in advocacy and policy work for the past few years were there to help the new person get a sense of where to start. Our discussion made me think that we all have to start somewhere as advocates and that start can be made much more effective and smooth when we have a mentor and good resources to rely on.

As you work with the youth in your center to become more effective self-advocates, and advocates for disability rights, how do you approach the task? Do you use a curriculum or other standardized approach, or do you play it by ear? What has worked well for you and what resources do you recommend to help get people involved in the issues (local, state, federal)? I would love to hear what others are doing in this area. Please take a few minutes and share your thoughts.

I’ll start: here is a resource that I think is worth recommending “The Capitol Insider” put out by the ARC. This is an excellent site with a lot of information about current policy issues at the federal level and all kinds of basic advocacy information that address a wide variety of disability issues. This site has something for the seasoned policy advocate and first timers too. I particularly like the “Public Policy” link under the What We Do tab. Here is a quote from that page to give you a taste of what the site is all about:

“Effective advocacy requires knowledge of existing law, pending legislation, and the political players and processes as well as the unmet needs of constituents. Here you’ll find the information you’ll need to advocate on all issues that are critical to the intellectual and developmental disability community at the national level. Use this page as your first stop in keeping yourself informed on federal disability policy.”Read more