Common Threads [PDF]

Reflections on Common Threads 

A conference on Independent Facilitation sponsored by The Ontario Independent Facilitation Network through the Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services

Reflections by John O’Brien

John O’Brien

Nov, 16-17, 2016

For more than 20 years family groups in Ontario have created and benefited from a variety of effective approaches to Independent Facilitation.

In 2014 The Ontario Independent Facilitation Network (OIFN), with funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), initiated an Independent Facilitation Demonstra- tion Project to discover how this grass roots social innovation can develop and contribute to the transformation initiative which implements the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 (SIPDDA).

As the initial demonstration project moves toward its end in March 2017, this conference drew people with disabilities and family members, Independent Facilitators and organization leaders together to reflect on stories of change supported by Independent Facilitators. This compound question framed their thinking together, What difference do Independent Facilitators make and how do they do it?” Most of the exploration focused on change for people and families as they relate to their communities and supports.

These reflections are what one person learned about the practice of Independent Facilitation by participating in the conference. By design the conference offered large group presentations, dispersed the large group to hear and consider the meaning of stories of change, and brought people back together to share their thoughts in the large group. No two people had the same experience of the conference, so my reflections don’t represent a consensus or a declaration of best practice in Independent Facilitation. This is just my way of making sense of what I heard and read. They do not represent the views of OIFN or any of its members, though I hope Inde- pendent Facilitators will recognize themselves here.

Though we were a large group in a crowded room, the conference I experienced expressed a positive spirit. Gerima Harvey’s drumming drew physical attention to the common rhythm of our hearts and gifts of music and break dancing embodied the deep purpose of Independent facil- itation: to weave opportunities for people’s gifts to make a difference to community life. In this context, participants showed up as respectful, inquiring, thoughtful, passionate and resolved to remain on course.