Pathways to Inclusion: Building a New Story with People and Communities

by John Lord and Peggy Hutchison
Captus Press, ISBN 978-1-55322-165-4 (2007)
Approx. 270 pages, 500 g, 6 X 9, $29.50 (US$26.75)

Review by J. Edward McCartney, who is concerned with autism and mental health issues, and is a board member and volunteer with Guelph Services for the Autistic  

Pathways to Inclusion: Building a New Story with People and Communities on the one hand offers readers a brief historical overview of how vulnerable persons became invisible within their communities over many years, through intentionally constructed social policies and indifference.  What is of greater significance, however, is that John Lord and Peggy Hutchison present readers not only with a synthesis of the many innovative approaches developed by more than thirty different groups in the past twenty years, but also with a comprehensive examination of the processes necessary to undertake and sustain the new initiatives studied in their new book. 

    The authors' background as founders of the Centre for Research and Education in Human Services has provided them with the opportunity to witness and evaluate the effectiveness of a multiplicity and range of new approaches. The goal of the diverse changes is to embrace an ever increasing number of vulnerable people more completely in the life of their community. Thus the "New Story" can be considered as the authors' metaphor to explain how the old or traditional ways of serving or thinking about vulnerable persons are being changed by new approaches or "pathways" to social inclusion. 

    According to the authors, the traditional or "old story" way of thinking about and behaving towards vulnerable people was to segregate them from their families and communities and to minimize their right to be treated equitably and humanely. Consequently, vulnerable persons over time developed an attitude of compliance and became clients in a system which did not respect their individuality or recognize their particular strengths and gifts.  What is happening more frequently now is a move away from exclusion and compliance to a model or paradigm in which the old attitudes, values, practices and policies are being replaced by new thinking and approaches.  Based on their extensive research and evaluation of numerous innovations over many years, the authors, are able to outline a framework and a guide to leaders on how to initiate and structure change.

    The authors emphasize that the innovations being advanced by individuals, families, community associations and self-help organizations are not for the purpose of making those programmes already existing more efficient, effective and better funded.  Instead the changes are fundamental, and they are intentionally constructed to replace traditional attitudes and approaches in present programmes, policies and procedures.  In the New Story, innovations are value and principle-driven so that the integrity of any initiative offered cannot be circumvented or diluted.  To serve the purpose of social inclusion, the key values in the New Story are human rights and social justice, diversity and person-centredness, participation and empowerment, and hospitality and community.  The leaders or innovators in the New Story embody these values and take inspiration from them for their ideas.  In their analysis the authors then reveal how significant each of the values is in effecting change.

    As the authors are careful to point out, the initiators of new approaches can be individuals who have a vision and the skills to base it on New Story values.  Moreover, the leaders are able to develop relationships and to collaborate effectively with others to persuade them to embrace the ideas, and are confident enough the revise and improve them with input from others. Lord and Hutchison even provide evidence of "old story” service agencies being transformed through the influence of New Story advocates within their own organization.  What is evident in the new paradigms being developed by leaders is that they are being intentionally constructed to remove barriers and to effect meaningful change so that vulnerable persons can be completely included in their communities.

    Two examples of new ideas and innovations being pursued with vigour by vulnerable persons, families, agencies and organizations are facilitation and individualized funding. Although these two new approaches could be viewed separately, in actual fact they reveal the interconnectedness of ideas leading to the creation of new "pathways".  An examination by the authors of these two initiatives reveals clearly the dynamics involved in New Story innovations to empower vulnerable persons to make their own choices on how they will live in a community.  Chosen by a person with a disability or his family, a facilitator works independently of service agencies and in the interests of the vulnerable person, to make connections based on the person's vision, strengths and gifts for inclusion into the community.  The facilitator is able to assist the vulnerable person because of his or her extensive knowledge of the community, and relationships with other people and places to locate additional information. By listening carefully, communicating clearly and establishing social networks, a facilitator can effect the inclusion of the vulnerable person into his community as a full-fledged citizen.

     One important aspect of gaining independence is to have the funding available to ensure the goal of personal self-determination.  Once again the role of the facilitator is to establish a process and eventually an infrastructure whereby the person's right to the funding necessary to carry out his/her vision is flexible, personal and, more recently, portable.  With governments and service agencies becoming more comfortable with this policy of individualized funding, the facilitator is also assuming the role of a broker.  The facilitator's knowledge base, plus his skill in developing and using a variety of social networks, permits him to offer a vulnerable person a series of options to secure his rights in the community.  Brokerage serves as an excellent illustration of how one vision is either an extension of other pathways or a catalyst for future innovations in the New Story saga to implement social inclusion. 

    Several unique features of book emphasize the authors’ message about the New Story. Interspersed in the narrative are anecdotes and quotations from leaders of new initiatives and from persons with disabilities who are benefiting from the new approaches.  In addition to short, separate precis of new models, such as the Windsor Brokerage Service, there are concise summaries of key arguments in chart form to reiterate the ideas being delivered.  In the appendix, the authors include complete contact information for agencies and New Story models mentioned in the text as well as reference to related, personal publications by the authors on them.  The footnotes to chapters include excellent bibliographic material to support the ideas and topics developed in the narrative and expand new thinking on the issues. One minor quibble is that the index does not indicate specifically the names of individuals, organizations and groups mentioned in the body of the book, with the appropriate pagination for quick reference.  Nevertheless, Pathways to Inclusion: Building a New Story with People and Communities is an important addition to the literature on social inclusion for professionals in the service field and for vulnerable persons and their families and friends.

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