MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
Beyond Individual Empowerment
Collaboration is about working with people, not just as professionals and consumers but, more importantly, as colleagues and partners. Despite all the rhetoric about collaboration, however, leaders in our field often take conflicting views. At the same time that our service systems promote empowerment, independence and self-determination, they are structured in a way to deal with people as resources and assets to be moved around, bought and sold, and combined. In the end, what matters to them is what can be measured. This is not true collaboration. True collaboration means getting beyond individuals: we must allow the people who know best what work must be done to do that work with the blessings of their service providers and professionals. True collaboration means a commitment to move towards a more engaging style of action with others in order to accomplish what is necessary. In true collaboration, human values, many of which cannot be measured, matter most.
In 2002, the CT Council called for a unified disability movement. By 2003, the CT Council was doing its part to support collaboration and partnerships. During 2003, the CT Council funded three coalitions, co-funded three initiatives, supported three initiatives empowering people to influence policy and formed a disability network.
In order to accomplish effective change in 2004, we in the disability rights movement will need to be interdependent rather than independent from each other. We will need to be clear about what we mean when we promote self-advocacy and self-determination, and we will need to take into account the values underlying such choices. While it may seem contradictory, the achievement of self-advocacy and self-determination may not rely solely upon a declaration of independence of the individual. Rather, true empowerment -- of individuals and of the movement -- must be based upon a willingness and determination to collaborate and an admission that we need each otherís strengths in order to prevail.
Eve Kessler, Chair