In the fifteenth century in Renaissance Italy, the main cities like Venice and Florence had groups of influential individuals who met together regularly to think about and plan about the issues they were facing. These were called Operas.

Might these ideas help in areas of need?

The European Union is using the concept of durability – to enable equality, ecological orientation and economic sustainability. Universal, accessible or inclusive design are similar ideas – how might we enable sustainable, participatory, mutual, equal and accessible multi cultural communities to emerge?

How might we evolve personal solutions and create strong social networks and life plans or maps?

These would be multi-dimensional maps:

o Where someone has come from, where they are now, where do they wish to go

o Their geographical environment – how accessible is it, issues, strengths, weaknesses

o Their social environment – their relationships with institutions, communities, businesses and individuals. The attitudes they meet.

Instead of negotiating a probably incomplete and institutionalised set of “services” for which someone may or may not be “eligible” I want to plan and map in detail with disabled people a multi dimensional change architecture that is right for the person, their family and their community.

John Barrow Cosmic Imagery writes:

“Maps symbolise a human desire to understand and be in control of our surroundings.

To map a territory was tantamount to possessing it.

Maps of the heavens offered an ultimate reassurance that all is well with the Universe, that we were at a focal controlling point within it and had a special part to play in its unfolding story.”

We are aiming to construct personal life maps – learning to act of one owns volition with others.

Holistic Government

The core problem for government is that it has inherited from the nineteenth century a model of organisation that is structured around functions and services rather than around solving problems.

Budgets are divided into separate silos for health, education, law and order and so on.

The vertical links between departments and agencies in any one field and professional groups such as the police, teachers, doctors and nurses are strong.

The horizontal links are weak or non-existent. (Demos – Holistic Government)

The Audit Commission has noted common weaknesses:

• A lack of integrated planning and decision making
• operating reactively (Home Alone)

What is to be done ?

How can organisations fit to house the human spirit be created and sustained such that they meet the needs of individuals, communities and society at large?

Whole Systems – Ten core values in whole systems development

(1) Optimism – that people and organisations have the capacity to learn and the commitment to tackle dilemmas and intractable ‘problems’.

(2) Empathy and humility – in the face of the tough challenges faced by those who are charged with, or voluntarily take on, a whole systems development agenda.

(3) Tenacity and courage – to question assumptions and current ways of working.

(4) Learning – putting learning at the heart of what we do and a recognition that it is as important to honour what is and what works as it is to encourage new ways of thinking and acting.

(5) Relationships – that are founded on the pursuit of mutual understanding and preparedness to negotiate, sharing learning and experience from elsewhere and working through problems.

(6) Whole system perspective – resisting fragmented and ‘one size fits all’ approaches and seeing organisational and community issues within the wider environmental context.

(7) Local knowledge for local solutions – a bias towards the use of local knowledge, held by individuals, communities and organisations, to create locally invented solutions.

(8) Building social capital – an active appreciation of the personal qualities and experiences of the people with whom we work and a determination to involve them in designing processes that will strengthen learning and build capacity and social capital.

(9) Celebrating small steps – a welcoming of the small improvements that demonstrate the practical posssibilities and potential for learning in whole systems development.

(10) The long view – being there for the long haul rather than the quick fix.

Social exclusion

Is about multiple, tangled webs of problems that are persistent; there may be beliefs that it is permanent. Ways out of this morass include:

• Dealing with real problems

• Tackle problems that cross-organizational boundaries that fall between the cracks

• Give power to local people – ask them to be catalysts for change. They will need support, training and encouragement.
• Let people who implement things be a bit strange

• Involve local people from the start – change from doing to to doing with

Social Capital

Social capital consists of the networks, norms, relationships, values and informal sanctions that shape the quantity and co-operative quality of a society’s social interactions.

There are three main types of social capital:

• bonding social capital (e.g. among family members or ethnic groups)

• bridging social capital (e.g. across ethnic groups)

• linking social capital (e.g. between different social classes)

Social capital can be measured using a range of indicators but the most commonly used measure is trust in other people;


We are powerful beyond measure – Nelson Mandela

This is key to evolving excellent solutions. There is an apocryphal story that Kennedy was being shown around Cape Canaveral. He asked a cleaner in the toilets what his job was. “I help put men on the moon.”

Bliss Browne helped with the Imagine Project in Chicago. She trained 50 young people who then met 140 Chicago decision makers. Together they identified what was best about the city and how they could continue to make improvements – Chicago Glue.

The European Union is researching sustainable cities. One of the early findings is that cities designed for and with children solve many of the issues of cities.

Everyone – staff, clients, senior people, must be fully involved in long term and day to day thinking, strategy and operations in the jargon.

Future Search

A Future Search conference is a way for a community or organisation to create a shared vision for its future. It enrols a large group of stakeholders, selected because they have power or information on the topic at hand or are affected by the outcomes. Ideally there are 64 people, who form eight tables of eight stakeholder groups. Examples of such groups are health, young people or shopkeepers.

They take part in a highly structured two and a half-day process covering five stages:

• Review the past – Each participant writes key events in the history of themselves, the community and the world on three parallel time lines.

• Explore the present – An enormous mind map is made of trends affecting the local community. Stakeholder groups identify important trends and what they are and would like to be doing about them. Groups share what they are proud of and sorry about in their community.

• Create ideal future scenarios

Mixed small groups develop visions;

• Barriers to the visions are identified;

• Each group acts out its vision to everyone else.

• Identify shared vision. First the small groups, then the whole group, work out: what the shared vision is; what potential projects would achieve it; and any unresolved differences.

• Make action plans – Self-selected action groups plan projects and publicly commit to their action.

Several features are designed to empower participants:

• The principle that people are the experts in their own lives. There are facilitators, but no other experts

• The emphasis on self-management in small group work

• The openness – everything is written up on flipcharts and displayed

Lived experience

We suggest a project of a group of young disabled people tasked to report on their experiences of being disabled and accessing services, access to life chances and transition to adulthood.

We would ask each young person to complete a life diary and to detail their experiences of being a disabled person, accessing services and ease of or thoughts on transition into adulthood.

Audit requires looking in detail at a physical environment, systems and processes and how things are implemented. This project is designed to be participatory and to enable access by teaching appropriate skills. It will enable a small group of disabled people to learn skills of looking at and assessing their environment and their lives and making recommendations. It will use principles of the social model of disability and life time learning. It is beginning a process of empowerment for individuals.

We will increase skills of problem solving and negotiation by equipping disabled young people to be aware of the barriers in the community and the types of solutions available. We will show participants how to effectively communicate with the various statutory authorities, like health and social services, they meet.

By building person centred life maps, the participants will be enabled to have an effect on the quality of services provided by others. A person centred life map is a map of the issues in someone’s life, the relevant people and organisations, and a list of priorities for action.

We will be creating a detailed photographic, web based and printed record of how young disabled people experience their world.

We will be enabling disabled people to report the barriers they meet and to argue for change.
We will audit that outdoor and indoor spaces are accessible and create a league table of their quality.

A significant aim to give participants the experience of managing.
An excellent life map and guide will have a significant health and wellbeing vector
By highlighting the experience of being a disabled person, this creates better understanding of the “other”.


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