Monthly Archives: January 2014

Workshop Videos Part 1

These are videos we often refer to or use in our workshops; feel free to use them too!  We believe they are about ideas not often talked about 🙂

Want to talk more about our work – books, facilitation, dialogues, strategic planning, person centred planning, community mapping and engagement, or…?   contact us or

What our PATH and MAPs workshops on person centred planning are like; 5 minutes.

Our Community Mapping Project – Victoria. 1 1/2 minutes.

The Power of a Plan – Inclusion B.C.’s transition project; 5 minutes.

PATH: ; 5 minutes.

Cheryl’s PATH; 9 minutes.

Aaron – Connections Matter; 10 minutes.

BC People First – Nothing About Us Without Us; 5 minutes.

BCACL (Inclusion BC) Story Telling Workshop – 6 minutes.

Beth Gallagher: Custom Lives: Practical, Realistic, and Attainable; 1 hr 26 minutes.

Peter Bourne tells jokes; 3 minutes.

how systems support new ideas 🙂

how people really make friends…  if we had…  

Sheldon discovers the secret to making friends

reciprocity: an equal exchange

5 minutes

3 minutes

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breakfast with the enemy #rhizo14

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 9.56.27 PMEmbrace Uncertainty is the call to arms of this week’s conversation in the Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum P2P course.

I have been thinking a lot about interdependence, which, really, I do think about a lot.  So then I started thinking about the uncertainty of identity, and how identity is shaped by interdependence.   Our culture’s focus on independence has taken us in some strange directions, which haven’t worked for many people, and yet are not often questioned.  Surely independence is a good thing?   It is perceived to be the opposite of dependency, but the negative connotation of that is in itself a social construction of capitalism.

Today I was trying to think of an example of something I do alone.  Laundry: the nice people at Sears helped us choose our machines, and their nice tradespeople come out if anything goes wrong, and the people at the environmentally friendly detergent company are working hard to make things as green as possible.  Not to mention the clothes we wash and all the places they come from and all the people involved in making them.  I remember when we adopted our son and the realization a few months in that we were trying to do everything alone, and that we weren’t doing him any favours – in fact, we were decreasing the safeguards around him and increasing the risks.   Although we had intended a closed adoption his foster mom and all her assorted rainbow of children made it clear that they were coming too – we suddenly were part of the most amazing family of choice.  And we had someone to call at 3:00 a.m. when we weren’t sure what to do.   12 years later we are still calling her.  And both our birth families jumped in as well, not even questioning whether or not they, too, had adopted another nephew, grandson, cousin.   Grandparents flew across continents to buy ice cream and play ball; cousins showed up in their Barbie cars to take him for a spin; Aunts came by asking what his favourite place to go was and took him there (the Vancouver courthouse).  Welcome, welcome, welcome.   So at the end of a one hour drive in rush hour traffic I hadn’t been able to come up with a single thing I do without others.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 9.57.04 PMAnd yet I am one of those people who is said to be very independent.  I have been, in essence, my own boss for 20+ years; I organize my time; I take on projects; I attend classes outside work; people say I am a self-starter and self-directed.  I do a lot of things in what seems are really independent ways but which are, really, interdependent.  I was thinking of some of the classes I’ve taken – where I show up someplace not knowing anyone, to study something new, and how in many of those places I’ve met some of my favourite people.   Perhaps this is part of embracing uncertainty?  Who might be there?  But it’s a bit of guided tour – there will be others who love to do what you love to do, and we will be doing it at the same time, in the same places – a great way to make friends and find colleagues.

The learning I do almost always turns on these relationships.  It goes places I didn’t expect, and I’m sure those I’m learning with do as well, because there is a synergy happening – we are more together than the sum of our parts.

I read a definition of disability recently that said something like a person with a disability requires assistance.  What’s unwritten in there is the assumption that the rest of us do not and theoretically this is why systems of support are created – because the idea that people will be supported by those who care about them is uncertain and undependable.   What if no one shows up?  The implications of this kind of statement privileges those of us who do not seem to need assistance, as Simi Linton has said, using language in ways that differentiate and are deterministic.   Fraser and Gordon, in “A Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State,” say that discourse of dependency is as “an incomplete state in life: normal in the child, abnormal in the adult. In a world where completed men and women stand on their own feet, persons who are dependent – as the buried imagery of the word denotes – hang” (Moynihan 1973, 17).”

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 10.05.21 PM Raymond Williams, like Linton, says that language not only describes but actively shapes the social conditions it refers to, and Fraser and Gordon’s examination of the concept of “dependency” allows for a de-familiarization that makes it possible to see that the word and concept derive from the idea that referring to individuals as dependent de-politicizes the potential of minorities, such as people with disabilities (although this is not their specific topic), while reinforcing a hierarchy of control.  They point out that with the rise of industrial capitalism dependency becomes the opposite of a touted concept of “independence.” In a kind of cyclical process of othering and labeling as dependent, race and gender minorities are embedded within a stigmatized state leading to policy decisions which address groups of people described as dependent.

Or, as Michael Oliver states of the relationship between dependence, independence and interdependence, people with disabilities are “marked” as different through a process of labeling that is not logical:

…independence suggests that the individual needs no assistance whatever from anyone else and this fits nicely with the current political rhetoric which stresses competitive individualism. In reality, of course, no one in a modern industrial society is completely independent: we live in a state of mutual interdependence. The dependence of disabled people therefore, is not a feature which marks them out as different in kind from the rest of the population but different in degree. (p. 84) (quoted, Carnaby 221)

Jan Walmsley particularizes this when she writes of caregivers who are “[w]omen with learning difficulties . . . usually portrayed as dependents, people in need of care, not care givers” (Walmsley 129). She interviews a woman who had just gone through a demanding care-giving period with her mother, and spoke of herself as a carer, although she was known as a recipient of services and someone who was cared for: “I began to notice how often in the literature care-giving by people with learning difficulties was casually mentioned but rarely commented upon as being worthy of note” (130). She summarises: Caring relationships are complex and multi-faceted. Recognition that care and dependency are part of a continuum allows us to acknowledge diversity. In some carer-dependent relationships one person is clearly dependent on the other, but overall the picture is far more diverse than the rather monochrome one often painted. It is impossible, and unproductive, to look at carers in isolation from those they care for. . . . (139). The difference between care and dependence is a “false dichotomy,” she states, that must be examined.  This idea reminds me of a conversation with a friend, a woman with an intellectual disability, who was caring for her mother who had become ill.  Her mother, years and years before, had not thought her daughter should be independent and living in the community, and would follow her around as she cleaned and made dinner and did all the things that allowed her mother to not have to leave her home, saying, “It’s just not safe for you to live alone.  You don’t have the skills.  You have a disability.  It’s not right.”   I asked her how she felt about it all and she said that she knew that if she did not go over to care for her parent, her mother would have to go into a care home, and she was used to hearing about how her life would not work out.  “I’ve been hearing that for 25 years now!”

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 9.57.40 PMThe idea that we are all parts of circles of support presumes reciprocity and relationship, each of us with gifts and strengths to share.   However, this implication of dependence on each other also requires reconsideration of all of us as dependent, which may be a more political act than one expected on entering into a relationship.

I was reading Jenny Mackness about her experience of the last week in #rhizo14, what comes up for me is that I recently went to a conference about community building. On the plane I was thinking about what I might hope to learn there – what was my goal, given that it was costing a whack of money and taking up my weekend etc.. I decided what I really wanted to learn about was a BIG question: how do we be in the same rooms with people we don’t like / respect / want to spend time with? I was thinking here of rooms I am constantly in where social service people talk about inclusion but haven’t invited the entrepreneurs and bankers or the racists homophobe fundamentalists – and we’re having a conversation we all agree with, with each other, but not with the people we might need to try to understand if inclusion is the actual goal.

At the conference I ended up being busier facilitating in different ways than I expected; I was grabbed for an extra panel; I did a presentation that turned into something else and then facilitated a dialogue. And through it all I was connected by the organizers with another facilitator that I hadn’t worked with before but knew by reputation – everyone loved him. People kept signing us up to do things together. Reputedly, he was thoughtful, creative, open, a great listener. Every time I wanted to talk to someone, he came along and joined in and it turned from whatever it had been about to being about him, and then he’d go and they’d say, “He’s so thoughtful / creative / open / such a good listener.” And I kept thinking there must be something wrong with me, or something I was missing.  Every conversation facilitated by him that was supposed to be about community, ended up being about him, somehow. I started diagramming in my mind how he was turning things this way – and yet somehow leaving an impression of thoughtfulness, creativity and openness and listening. He didn’t want feedback, or accept it (nor want to give it). So I decided to use my time with him to learn how not to roll my eyes when he opened his mouth. I tried to learn how to listen and let go… I’ve been learning how to listen closely but after realizing that I had nothing to contribute to what constantly became, essentially, a conversation about him, I started trying to listen to the flow of things instead – how could I look engaged but surf what I wanted to consider? when would he stop talking? and then instead of being angry and resentful (responsive), or even feeling the need to jump in, how could I hold a space of openness and intentionality which invited a continuation of the conversations I wanted to have about equity and inclusion? undistracted by personality, resentment and ego.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 9.57.55 PMOn the plane home I opened my notebook to the goal I had set: “I will learn how to be in a room with people I don’t like / respect / agree with because in community everyone is included, even if they are not like me.”  And even though that hadn’t happened in the way I expected, it had happened.  I think it was in one of your (?) FB posts that Jenny wrote “diversity isn’t something you get, it’s something you invite” (you attributed it to another post but I couldn’t find it there).

The title “breakfast with the enemy” comes from a two year program I was part of, in business management.   My friend and I were the only non-profit / social service people and everyone else (two dozen of them) was an entrepreneur.   We would meet for breakfast and then study together for two ten hour days.  I wanted to learn what they knew, but I didn’t expect to “like” them.   And yet they ended up being some of my favourite people to learn and work with, even though we were coming from different places.  We found things in common quite quickly.  One business owner was also an adoptive parent, and while we talked about that another one said that he was also an adoptive parent, and had an open adoption…    This class challenged a lot of my assumptions and, in turn, by the end of the two years they were no longer saying, “So, let’s get this straight…  you don’t *want* to make a profit?  is that what a non-profit is?”  And they’d shiver…

So, embracing uncertainty – going into situations with others who love what you love, who you might or might not know before you get there, who you will learn with.  Who will they be?   Or, going into situations and holding oneself accountable for one’s learning, even if it is not the learning one expected or doesn’t take the shape one expected – I might have just gone home on the plane thinking I’d failed in my own learning goal because it looked so much different than I expected.  Or, going into situations where one doesn’t expect to find commonality and finding things to appreciate….  in the end it is all about being accountable for one’s own learning, but perhaps assuming it will not be done alone.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 9.58.21 PMAn example of a really great class that I like to follow on Tumblr is comic artist Lynda Barry’s course  In one assignment they had to color pages, and then say how they felt about them.  She then took the results and turned them into something…  rhizomatic?

All these images have been taken from her Tumblr blog and place here at random (montage).

These are her books.


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baby birds and the enforcing of independence #rhizo14

“Clarissa had a theory in those days – they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoke to, some women in the street, some man behind a counter – even trees, or barns.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

StarRaftProjectHowDidThatFeelIt has been a surprisingly hard week of work, and connecting all over the place.  I am lucky to have (or I have worked hard to create) a job in which my interests all get to resonate and work together.   So its been hard to keep up with all the posts on “Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum.”   This weeks topic is the enforcing of independence – as in, how do we support students who have been taught within a system that is based on a “whole set of power structures that create a reliance on the teacher for setting objectives, assessing progress and giving direction” to learn independently.  

However, first I want to apologise to the fellow in the meeting I was in the other day who said, “I like microrhizomatic structures,” and then was so patient when I started to discuss education, pedagogy, networks and online learning environments and Deleuze and Guattari and reading them or not reading them.  I should have been listening better and realized, as you said, that you were just saying you liked mushrooms.  We were talking about gardens after all, it was totally my mistake.  And you really didn’t need to spend the rest of your afternoon avoiding me as you seemed to be, once I was clear I would not have continued on, I promise.  

welcomeBut I am really excited by all the great thoughts in this #rhizo14 class,  that are in so many places, by so many people – and having a lot of trouble keeping up, and contextualising, and making sense of it all.   It’s related, for me, to a stream of literature in disability studies, on the idea of nomadology and disability as social construction, informed by Foucault and others.   

My two areas of interest are in supporting people with disabilities in growing interdependence – relationships that lead to increased leverage and access and knowledge – and in supporting those who support them to learn more about how to do this.  I like the conversation that is happening in rhizo14 about “community” – what does it mean?  It’s a concept so frequently thrown around, often for reasons that don’t have much to do with community but are kinds of marketing, that it has become meaningless and suspect.   Often “community” indicates us, not you.  Who has ben left out? 

Interestingly, in two of the meetings I was in this week, where I was acting as a graphic facilitator, people suggested we stop talking about “community” as something slippery and talk instead about networks and webs – people we know, in various ways.   A lot of the work I’ve been doing has had to do with clarifying in my field what “community” is, given that it is called “community living” – the support of people with disabilities to be part of their neighbourhoods etc..  But there’s a lot of confusion around “community” as geography (a place we go to, like a mall) and “community” as belonging (places we go to where people know and care about us).   Even the researchers who inform the funders who inform the services they pay for are confused.   In a lovely paper, “Community participation of people with an intellectual disability: a review of empirical findings,”  Verdonschot, de Witte, Reichrath, Buntinx4 and Curfs found that of the nearly 3000 studies over a ten year period that they looked at on “community participation” only about 23 met their criteria and defined community, defined disability and participation, etc..  In the end they suggest, 

It can be concluded that on the basis of empirical research, published within the time frame of this literature search, little is known about community participation of people with ID. Many researchers did not clearly define community participation or restrict their study to limited aspects of community participation. A valid conceptual framework is hardly referred to. 

They go on to say that hardly any of the studies dealt with the access of people who had more significant challenges and mostly they dealt with people with mild disabilities, and “The use of ad hoc questionnaires outside a theoretical framework is the rule in the selected studies.”   


One of the things I run into in my work is the targeting of staff who “don’t know what they’re doing” – how have we paid them this much money (in B.C. the budget for adults with developmental disabilities was 745 million for supports, most of which is directed at staff) and for what?  Those staff work for managers who work for coordinators who work for directors who work for executives who are informed by funders who depend on research that…  is mostly problematic.   It’s a cycle that comes out of education I think, in which we don’t really understand, as one mom said in a forum I was looking at, how typical learners learn much less how people with disabilities learn.  Instead of reflecting on this, deciding together on some trials if we must do something, and then pursuing evidence of how things work – everyone rushes headlong to the next thing, with little reflection and little evidence on which to pin their plans.   And a great deal of blame directed in all directions.  

I like this analogy by Andre Oides of birds leaving the nest but am struck by how it is a rather more complicated metaphor for me.   When we were once holidaying with friends who had brought their horrible teenagers, my partner saw how frustrated I was getting and said that they were like birds leaving the nest in that they needed to collect enough energy to get volitional, and they needed to demonstrate to themselves that they were too big to stay there any longer.  I found it very calming 🙂  (now that my son is in the same state, it is less calming).   I also think of this idea sometimes when I am supporting people with disabilities who decide to try some form of support in which they are more independent, and thus somewhat more vulnerable.  Here, baby crows leave their nests and need to wait a day or two before they can fly themselves, and their parents stay guarding them but they often don’t make it.  folks with disabilities often find that their connections increase as they move out of situations in which they are protected from almost all risk (at least in theory).  Those connections often lead to more opportunities, so that they begin to see the risk-avoidance of the systems they were/are part of as increasing their vulnerabilities instead of decreasing.  I think learning is sometimes that simple and that complicated – there’s a repeated moment that runs through the literature and stories of people with disabilities where through some often accidental means they end up at a conference that is partly about their rights, and then as part of a group of other people and they discover a commonality of experience, and this becomes a moment of complete transition for them, and often leads to a kind of numinous career in advocacy.   So it might be as accidental as that their name begins with a certain letter and the people with that letter in their name get to go to a conference, and then this meeting happens, and it leads to endless questions about identity, self concept, rights, social constructionism, etc. and also a sense of reciprocity in that they realize they have something to offer their friends, peers and their community.   Often in these same stories they will talk about how this led them back to education after what was almost typically a disastrous experience of special ed classrooms.  

I just did a study of a group of folks with disabilities and a theme for them was creating connections that in the light of some future opportunity, which they were unable to predict, would become meaningful, often in response to some event which we might not think of as meaningful or important.  The other interesting aspect of this group was that they’d been facilitated to take charge of their own life long learning, and they did so in informal and formal ways.  Some of them went to college, some of them went to museums, some of them watched documentaries or t.v. shows and talked to their friends about their conclusions.  

StarRaftScheduleOver the last year my work team has supported a group of self advocates to help them design their own learning plan and then invite in people from the community who knew what they wanted to know, and then process that information with each other, which has led to interesting connections and outgrowths (rhizomes!).   I was trying to imagine some variation of Dave Cormier’s student learning contract  that we might have used with this group.   We did generate a list with them about what they hoped to learn and how they would demonstrate that learning.  

And I really liked this post by Terry Cecil Elliot,  “I KNOW NOT WTF: SOME SHALLOW, ARBOREAL LEARNAGE,” from fellow learner on his Impedagogy site

Singing and singing and singing.  Listen to Brother Solomon Burke sing it.  I think he understood and I hope you will, too.  And know that his anthem is about  connection and care and freedom.  Is that rhizomatic learning?  Yes, but I think I will just call it love.

His blog posting ends with Solomon Burke singing “None Of Us Are Free”:  “It’s a simple truth we all need, just to hear and to see. /  None of us are free, one of us is chained. / None of us are free. / Now I swear your salvation isn’t too hard too find, / None of us can find it on our own. / We’ve got to join together in spirit, heart and mind. / So that every soul who’s suffering will know they’re not alone.”   

Yet I am confused in this course, as I am in my work sometimes, about what seems to be the intention to be alone, or to be with *some* (but not all) others in an us and them kind of fractiousness.   There was a conversation on Facebook about reading the source material, Deleuze and Guattari, which I read originally as a bit of joy in some who enjoy this reading finding others who were also interested in some thinking that is quite difficult.   However, it was quickly interpreted as privileging academics and as somehow dissing those who didn’t want to read D & G, in posts that went on forever.  There were maybe a dozen paragraphs suggesting that reading the source material could be fun and interesting, if hard, but I tried to count the number of references to that idea as privileging and lost count at 35.  Well, I got bored.  

IntersectionalityI really liked this post, “Teaching through Community Organizing: Being the Unacademic,” about the different roles we take on and intersectionality as a learning tool.    I want to think more about interesectionality as it has been a useful if complex discussion with people I support, but they’ve been really excited about the ideas.  

One of the most important aspects of my study was hearing about what constituted education for people with disabilities – and in some parts of the conversation how “learning” was one thing (“we like to learn”) but education, because it was in schools and there were power constructs that were marginalising and denigrating, were another thing.   One said “I like learning and I like school, but school is hard.”   So I was excited by the clarity of this bit of a post by Bonnie Stewart which nicely contextualises why this class’ ideas are so interesting to me: 

I see rhizomatics as a potent metaphor for conceptualizing the process of learning, and for approaching how we go about learning and working with learning. The value in the idea of the rhizome, for me, is the way in which it foregrounds the unpredictability, the messiness, the connectedness, and the multi-directionality of learning, knowledge, and educational research. I see rhizomatic learning almost as a lens, a pair of glasses one learns to put on in order to view the educational landscape.

These rhizomatic learning lenses are not intended to make you see more clearly, per se, though you may or may not come to that conclusion about their effects. Rather they are intended to make you see differently.

We live in a culture and time where our minds are colonized by education. Most particularly, by education as a system. We go to school, almost all of us, and are taught from an extraordinarily young age that school equates with learning. Our cultural concepts of education and learning are intrinsically interwoven with notions of schooling.

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