Download and read a Griffin-Hammis Associates field-based article on Staff Development and Retention approaches for Employment Specialists Download Staff recruitment GHA Retention 2015Final
Download and read a Griffin-Hammis Associates field-based article on Staff Development and Retention approaches for Employment Specialists Download Staff recruitment GHA Retention 2015Final
This year more than 40 folks implementing Customized Employment took time to join together in the mountains of Idaho for conversations about emerging practices, promising policy adaptations, staff support strategies, economic and social capital development, and to relax and simply enjoy the opportunity to meet and mingle. They came from twenty states and two other countries representing the Northeast Kingdom states of Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire (https://linkabilities.org/), down through the middle Atlantic including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia, to the deepest South including Florida and Alabama (https://www.fulllifeahead.org/) back up through the Midwestern states of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana, stretching through the Rockies to the Pacific region including California, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska (https://www.hss.state.ak.us/gcdse/projects/startup.htm) and across the globe to Australia (https://www.workfocus.com/ ) .
This Rendezvous began with a casual showcasing of best practices, including discussions of rural outreach for self-employment, resource ownership, and CE by West Virginia’s Job Squad (https://jobsquadinc.blogspot.com/). VIA of the Lehigh Valley (PA) talked about their expansion with school transition and emerging relationships with Vocational Rehabilitation (https://griffinhammis.typepad.com/employmentreformproject/). Both programs noted that their vocational budgets and rates have gone skyward as they’ve adopted customized methods, and while states look for create and effective approaches to employment. British Columbia representatives updated their Province-wide Employment First initiative, and the U.S. and Australia leaders shared their efforts as well. See these sites for more information: https://www.communitylivingbc.ca/individuals-families/employment-initiative/; https://www.bcacl.org/our-priority-areas/employment; https://www.langleyacl.com/index.php?page_id=1
While not universal, evidence from participants indicates that early adopters of quality CE methods are increasing referrals, outcomes, and reimbursement rates, while leveraging new partners in their communities. Incomes reportedly jumping from 100% to 400% over the past few years are credible. The message again was, break down the silos and partner with others in the community who are looking to crack the employment barriers faced by so many people these days. This outreach was demonstrated in real time by participants Andrea O’Brien joining us from the SBDC in New Hampshire (https://www.nhsbdc.org/), and through Brian Wormer’s detailing of how the SBDCs are working with his agency (the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission) on self-employment expansion (https://www.enterpriseworks.biz/disabilities/disabilities.asp)
Self-employment again this year prompted questions of policy, reimbursement, and process refinement. We heard in casual conversations how the Iowa Medicaid Infrastructure Grant is using peer business mentors to assist people in their business, and discussed the wealth of small business resources in states such as Minnesota where GHA has prepared a report regarding sustainability options for vocational rehabilitation. Vicki Vining and Sherry Beamer, who are working with on-line training leaders Essential Learning, detailed some of their work with GHA. We now have a 5-session course on CE available at https://essentiallearning.com; the final touches are being added to the self-study course on self-employment; and a new course on Discovering Personal Genius is being designed for a Spring 2011 release. We further discussed the Certified Business Technical Assistance and Consultation (CBTAC) training program begun with Florida VR and now expanded to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services, Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, et al. And, we highlighted the synchronous on-line course on self-employment GHA and Virginia Commonwealth University stage in 5-week blocks. Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators (ACRE) CE certification requirements were further detailed as GHA rolls this opportunity out to our many customers, including sites in Harrisburg, PA, across Illinois, and throughout Ohio. These on-line courses resulted directly from requests at earlier Rendezvous sessions and are proving to be an efficient and affordable staff training, and professionalization, option.
On the lighter side, folks spent a few hours experiencing something that used another part of their brains, and challenged them to learn skills just a little difficult to master. Musician Phil Hamilton, who plays blues harp in three local bands, joined us to conduct a group harmonica lesson. The results were ear pleasing, yet challenging, and we’re sure the folks who got the music bug will practice and return next year to serenade us by the campfire!
The hit of the Rendezvous this year was Dr. Ashley Preston who joined us from the University of Montana’s College of Technology. Ashley is known for her grasp of technical writing and taught a short seminar concentrating on observing and reporting without speculation. The session was scheduled after last year’s Rendezvous conversations included comments regarding high amounts of speculation and attribution by staff conducting Discovery or behavioral observations. Discovering Personal Genius (DPG) requires that team members conducting interviews and activities record findings without bias. Ashley introduced several exercises that helped the group clarify their recording of events, and that can be used with their teams back home. Of course, many people also realized the role that clear, precise writing plays in policy development, business planning, and grant writing as well. Don’t be surprised to see a return engagement by Dr. Preston next year!
The closing session was a review and discussion of Employment First efforts that are underway across the country and in Canada. We learned that several strong Employment First initiatives exist in Indiana, Minnesota and Iowa. And, Employment First initiatives are springing up in states including Maine, Rhode Island (https://griffinhammis.typepad.com/ripathways/) and California (https://southerncal.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=CALA_WorkFirst). Employment First is about raising expectations regarding the employment and the economic advancement of people with disabilities whether through wage employment or micro-enterprise. GHA has a strong presence in many of the states where Employment First movements are in full swing having participated in EF events in over 10 states from Rhode Island to Arkansas (check out https://employmentfirst.net/). There is much excitement about Employment First throughout the land and GHA is proud to play a key role in supporting Employment First efforts through training, consultation and by hosting the Employment First blog. We can’t wait to see how many more states and provinces join in the Employment First movement when we get together next year.
All in all, 2010 was another great event, with good friends joining together in a safe environment to problem-solve, enjoy the wilderness, catch a fish or two, ride a horse, and clear the fog of the daily routine. For the Griffin-Hammis/Center for Social Capital team, it is an honor and a privilege to host this annual event. We hope to see you again next year from August 28 through August 31, 2011, when once again, The Best Go West!
Perhaps the thing we enjoy most about the Rendezvous is that it is a meeting of the minds of people who actually produce outcomes. At a time when folks know a lot about the “what’s” of an issue (or if they don’t, they can use Google to become instant experts), those attending the Rendezvous know the “how” of modern employment. This, we think, sets the Rendezvous apart from other events. It is rare, for instance, to hear anyone at this gathering in the rugged Bitterroot chain of the Rockies utter the ubiquitous “what about funding?” question that stops the rest of the rehabilitation system in its tracks. It is rare to hear folks ask about policy changes; they know that employment is an outcome, not a service. They know that to ask for policy means they must live with what they’ll get. These are not Philosopher Kings, nor Sanctimonious Hammerheads. What this group represents is the antidote to passive leadership. They are charismatic yes, but beyond that, they are substantive; they abhor dependence and they each seek adventure.
In M.B. Crawford’s new book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, the author discusses the merits of actually producing a product or service, taking pride in “manual” labor, figuring out complex problems that actually take deep thought and skills, and not hiding within the anonymity of “the team” or dysfunctional “corporate culture” when outcomes must be achieved. The Best Go West is exactly that, from the standpoint that this group of folks does the hard work without searching for the elusive shortcuts that always reduce quality.
The Rendezvous began with a morning lesson in drawing led by local Montana artist Bob Phinney (www.bobphinney.net). This icebreaker was designed to get the group thinking with parts of our brains that sometimes get rusty. The session challenged folks to see common objects with newfound perspective, and to learn new skills, attempting to do something that many of us feel we cannot. The introduction to sketching provided metaphors that ran throughout the Rendezvous, including:
Start with a simple design and add complexity;
Get some perspective;
Practice your skills in order to improve;
Plan your project;
Understand that the end product will likely be different than the original vision.
Even though some of us can’t draw a circle with a compass, no one sat out; everyone participated, leaving egos and frustrations behind. Again, illustrating (no pun intended) that this is a gathering of folks who know how to learn; how to be secure with one another; how to ask for help and offer support. In short, this is a group that knows learning worthwhile skills is often difficult and challenging.
This year’s participants bonded quickly, especially considering there were several newcomers. Approximately 20 states were represented, and several leaders from the Customized Employment movement in Canada attended as well.
The new Institute for Economic Empowerment generously underwrote this year’s Rendezvous, thanks especially to Martin Gerry, Brian DeAtley, and Therese Stein. As such, participants paid back their tuition discounts by serving for a day as the Institute’s focus group on making informed employment choices. Various discussion groups assembled to sketch out key ingredients the Institute should consider when designing research and demonstration projects focused on informed employment choices. Thanks to the group moderated by Vickie Vining (thanks!) overarching guiding principles were established:
Principles we feel will help keep you moving toward this purpose:
System should support integration and inclusion: no segregation
Should be available to kids coming out of school
Federal money should only be used for real jobs in the community
Process of exploring choices should be specific to the individual, not “canned” experiences that everyone goes through whether they are relevant to them or not
Whatever is done should not result in “patterns” of employment; you should not see large numbers of people all doing the same job or making assumptions that a certain population is best suited for certain types of employment
Any system should support the power and control of the individual over the process; self determination at all junctures
To get more people interested in working, the system will need to find ways to address the other purposes that sheltered workshops and day programs serve—respite to families, social opportunities, etc.
Should be a set of strategies instead of a fixed model
Any project selected is designed for different populations and geographic areas.
Among the most hotly debated issues and strongest recommendations:
Focus on economic development, not labor market theories of employment (reactive vs. pro-active; creativity vs. chasing smokestacks),
Encourage microenterprise and self-employment,
Use functional assessment processes such as Discovery instead of psychometrics and testing, focus on assistance and not assessment,
Move away from comparative approaches to hiring and truly individualize career planning and job development,
Focus on customized employment as a process and not as a service category,
Encourage the adoption of Employment as the First Choice instead of readiness models and work activity programs,
Encourage schools to use individualized paid work to replace traditional unpaid work experience,
Abolish the use of sub-minimum wage (14c),
More reliance on natural community settings for learning, such as Community Colleges,
Use On-the-Job (OJT) funds to underwrite salaries, but increase the expectation of enhanced employer training/supervision in return for this incentive, and reduce rehabilitation agency job coaching,
Develop and deploy Peer Mentoring,
Fund numerous small on-the-ground projects rather than massive systems change efforts,
Encourage organizational development activities that focus on developing an Employment First mission and goals for the program, including work with the Board and administrative staff to strengthen commitment to this vision,
Support staff reorganization and staff development that positions agencies to expand capacity for sustaining high quality employment services.
Finally, some discussion centered on the Institute’s possible funding of demonstration projects and a bit on their selection. The discussion focused on the four types of organizations:
1. Those that “get it” and are doing customized employment because it’s the right thing to do so they organize themselves to make it happen,
2. Those that know that change is coming and they better get with it before they are left behind,
3. Those who believe that change is being forced upon them so they respond albeit without enthusiasm, and
4. Those that won’t change and believe they can wait it out.
The recommendation to the Institute is that effort should be focused on the Tier 1 and 2 organizations.
Day three recapped the Informed Choice discussions and led to showcasing a few projects that are gathering steam and innovating in the employment realm. Among these was a discussion by the Job Squad of West Virginia, which has two DD Council grants, the first focused on using Resource Ownership, PASS Plans, and CE methods to create new jobs and businesses. And with the second, Job Squad is developing an Active Employer Council based on the Griffin-Hammis model (see the Job Developer’s Handbook). Check out their blog for the latest innovations at https://jobsquadinc.blogspot.com/2009/07/178808000-thats-178-million-avaible.html
We also heard from the Iowa Medicaid Infrastructure Grant staff concerning their use of Peer Mentors as self-employment advisors (through Griffin-Hammis Associates) and their push statewide from CE and microenterprise expansion. Followed by a discussion of the Florida Vocational Rehabilitation initiative called the Certified Business and Technical Assistance Consultation (CBTAC) that creates local self-employment vendors for VR through comprehensive classroom and field study developed and delivered by GHA.
Last but not least, Corey Smith, from Via of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania discussed his latest projects, including a DD Council project teaming his staff with GHA, his outreach to individuals with autism, and Via’s efforts to engage local large businesses in Customized Employment efforts.
It was noted that these last few hours were especially helpful and that the showcasing should come first on the agenda next year to enhance participants’ networking efforts. A point well taken!
Next year’s Rendezvous is tentatively scheduled for the last week of August. Feel free to contact us to sign up now.
From all of us at GHA, we are so thankful to all those who participate. The Rendezvous is an event we look forward to all year, and we know how difficult it is to find time and money these days to travel. We hope the Rendezvous is as informative and useful to you as it is to us, and that having a comfortable, safe, and easy-going environment allows for both reflection and growth. We know that for us, the Rendezvous represents a good time with friends and colleagues!
Thanks again to the Institute for their continued support and encouragement!
This is a blog, so friends, please add your comments, observations, corrections, pictures, etc.
This year The Center for Social Capital, the new non-profit arm of Griffin-Hammis Associates, LLC welcomed several dozen folks to our by-invitation-only conclave of customers, critical thinkers, and stakeholders to discuss issues of implementation and sustainability regarding Customized and Self-Employment for individuals with significant disabilities. This year these leaders were joined by representatives from British Columbia who are implementing a new Work First policy, and by folks from twenty states.
Each year it seems we struggle to bring meaning to the meeting and leave with a To-Do List for changing our parts of the world. What has become evident is that we spend a good deal of our waking professional lives on To-Do Lists and that this Rendezvous really represents an opportunity to meet others facing similar challenges and simply share ideas and situations without fear of judgment; to offer helpful advice without seeming condescending; and to simply be who we are. Peter Block has been exploring leadership for many years, and he recommends creating similar environments and "communities."
He writes: "This is not an argument against leaders or leadership, only a desire to change the nature of our thinking. Communal transformation requires a certain kind of leadership, one that creates conditions where context shifts:
From a place of fear and fault to one of gifts, generosity, and abundance
From a belief in more laws and oversight to a belief in social fabric and chosen accountability
From the corporation and systems as central, to associational life as central
From a focus on leaders to a focus on citizens
From problems to possibility
For this shift in context to occur, we need leadership that supports a restorative path. Restoration calls for us to deglamorize leadership and consider it a quality that exists in all human beings. We need to simplify leadership and construct it so that it is infinitely and universally available.
He goes on to say:
"...we hold leadership to three tasks:
Create a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment.
Initiate and convene conversations that shift people's experience, which occurs through the way people are brought together and the nature of the questions used to engage them.
Listen and pay attention." (Peter Block, Community:The Structure of Belonging).
Judging from the great comments we've received, it sounds as if we created, together, an atmosphere where possibilities are openly explored!! Thank you all for that!!
Author Doug Crandell (dougcrandell.com), Georgia writer of the year, fresh from signing a movie deal for his first novel, The Flawless Skin of Ugly People, opened our Open-Space discussions, with a review of media & literary images of people with disabilities, and readings from numerous sources, including his new novel, Hairdos of the Mildly Depressed. Doug led participants in a descriptive writing exercise aimed at polishing our skills when relating stories concerning the successes of people with disabilities, while minimizing stereotypes. (The writing exercise was a good warm-up to critical thinking and descriptive writing needed when answering the Discovery question, "who is this person?" as related later in the Rendezvous by Ellen Condon). A discussion about mitigating prejudice and building social capital that facilitates employment immediately followed.
Open-Space small group discussions focused on issues of Organizational Changes necesseary to augment Social Capital; Using our organizational economic and political power to increase Social Capital; Social Capital and Natural Supports facilitation; Staff recruitment and retention; Amalgamated funding; Increasing and measuring Quality of Customized Employment, et al.
Day Two began with a discussion about tightening up the Discovery process, which can sometimes be implemented in a fashion too casual to accumulate helpful information and without the sense of urgency needed to foster proper employment development. Ellen, who directs the Transition Projects for the Rural Institute at the University of Montana (https://ruralinstitute.umt.edu/transition) used rich examples from the field to move the discussion along, and to help participants revise their approaches upon returning to their agencies. Some additional materials useful in guiding Discovery will be sent to all attending.
On the final day, Corey Smith challenged us with a discussion about changing large, established organizations or starting small, largely single-purpose CE agencies brought powerful statements from many in attendance. The systems change struggles most of us have weathered lead us to consider that perhaps "small is indeed beautiful" or at least manageable! The move towards more flexible funding, the willingness of funders to reach out for what works instead of more years of Day Wasting programs, and the self-determination movement present us with opportunities for invention that didn't exist even 5 years ago.
Throughout the Rendezvous, discussions of next steps, best-practices, roadblocks, and opportunities were discussed in both large and small gatherings. And while most people shared that they had concrete steps to implement upon their return to civilization, they were also charged with adding to this blog, something they would quit doing that was not promoting CE or success, or that was simply wasting time and resources.
A special note of thanks to Tammara for all her hard logistical work, and to Meg Hammis for her guiding hand as well! Thanks again to Debbie Gilmer for introducing us to Jesse and Jane Bell, and for the great pictures. Kudos to Debbie Ball for some great shots too! Thanks to Doug Crandell for stepping in at the last minute!