Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Going For Zero Waste

Like many companies this month, Imagine! hosted a holiday party for employees, families, and friends. Unlike most companies, this particular event lasted 12 hours … I know … it sounds amazing. I could go on and on, and provide many details about the fun and festivities, but that isn’t what is on my mind today. For this event we worked with EcoCycle (long time employer of people with disabilities) to create a Zero Waste event.

Here at Imagine! we are not just a pretty face. We have some Lofty Goals – some that may be out of reach for decades. One of last year’s “Lofty Goals” was to go GREEN; become a community leader for sustainable energy and recycling.

To that end, check out our report card from EcoCycle for our Imagine! 2010 Holiday Party.

In 2011, we now have something new to shoot for.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good News Friday!

Since my earlier post this week discussed ways of using social media and other technology tools to allow for more public input on key issues facing the DD system in our State, I thought I’d share another way social media tools can be useful today.

Imagine! believes that the social media revolution offers new and exciting ways for individuals to engage in their communities. That is why we are exploring a variety of ways to provide access to social media tools to those we serve. Check out the video below to learn more.

It is difficult not to be proud of Imagine!.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Are You Speaking?

As a follow up to “Who Are You Speaking For,” I am wondering when we will step up to contemporary methods of collaboration and public participation. We have watched voting go from the first whatever Tuesday (after the first Monday) in November to whenever before the first Tuesday in November (due to the increase in voting by mail). We are familiar with open source software, and at least the concept of open access research. When will we be ready (and I am ready already) and willing for open access collaboration on many more public issues?

Within our contract with the Department of Human Services as the Community Centered Board for Broomfield and Boulder counties, we must hold a “public forum” to gather information and listen to community comment related to issues of people who have developmental disabilities. Well, meeting the contract is no problem; we schedule an evening date for a couple of hours and voila.

Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, in addition to a public forum, to include all the information we gain from the engagement of our communities using social media tools? People can share comment when it is convenient to them and when the issues are clear in their minds. Plus, it does not require any public speaking skills.

How about this example, from an invitation I received recently: “You are invited to join us (Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing) for a public forum regarding Colorado’s application to participate in the national demonstration program, Money Follows the Person. This opportunity will enable you to provide input into the direction of CO-ACTS and to learn more about the Program.”

This is a two hour event scheduled for December 16th at 4:00 at the downtown Sheraton in Denver. The event will be web-enabled from Grand Junction. The “public” in this case is presumably the literal population of Colorado, and in particular anyone who might be affected by this demonstration project.

How would you know if that might be you? I don’t know – I guess you have to show up to find out. What better opportunity to engage a public online collaboration tool? How much better for the public servants who will administer CO-ACTS to know what the “public,” and I mean the real “PUBLIC,” really thinks?

Imagine - real public input.

Go ahead have the local meeting in Denver, but add a feature that has a video description of the program, a PowerPoint display and short narrative so the real public knows what the heck you are talking about. And then ask for input in a way that comments and thoughts can be coat-tailed and enhanced. We have brilliant people who will not be able to make the meeting. We have brilliant people who have no idea what this “public forum” is all about. Bring them to the table. Let their voices be heard.

Look at this picture of Alexander Graham speaking into one of the first telephones. That technology brought about a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Social media represents another fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Let’s start embracing that shift and opening up discussions to include many more stakeholders in the conversations that directly impact the lives of those we serve.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good News Friday!

A couple of weeks ago, Dave Query, owner of Big Red F Restaurant Group, once again treated Imagine! clients and their families to a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

Query donated the makings for a delicious Zolo-style repast with all the trimmings, and the wait staff volunteered its time. There was no charge for the meal for the clients and their families, and no tips were necessary. Query said that he just likes to make the day a little easier for families associated with Imagine!.

This is the seventh year Query has offered this generous opportunity, and in the last six years, The Big Red F Restaurant Group has donated Thanksgiving dinner to over 2,500 Imagine! clients and families.

So here’s a big post-Thanksgiving thanks to Dave (that's him on the right in the first photo below, along with longtime Imagine! supporters George and Kristin Karakehian) and his staff for providing such a fantastic holiday meal to Imagine! families.

Thanks also to Chris Sturgis for sharing her photos of the event.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Colorado Gives Day Is Today

Donate to Imagine! this Holiday Season and increase the value of your gift TODAY, December 8.

Imagine! is participating in this new initiative that will help raise $1 million in one day for charities. Help us bring in our share!

TODAY UNTIL MIDNIGHT, you have an opportunity to increase the value of your gift. FirstBank has provided $250,000 as the lead gift for a Colorado Gives Day Incentive Fund that will leverage donations made through The Incentive Fund (now at $320,000!) will be proportionally allocated across all donations received today, increasing the value of each gift. In addition, 100% of your online gift and the extra incentive will go to Imagine! – no bank fees! Just go to the Imagine! website at: and press the Donate Here! button on the right hand side. It will take you directly to Imagine!'s page on the Giving First website.

Note: Imagine! Celebration ticket, table, and sponsorship purchases (because you receive goods -- dinners -- back in return) are not eligible.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who Are You Speaking For?

A value that many Americans share is the desire to speak for ourselves. We tend to resent it when someone else claims to be speaking for us, especially when we don’t agree with what that person says.

Unfortunately, many individuals with developmental disabilities aren’t in the position to be able to speak for themselves. A number of organizations have attempted to take on the task of speaking for these individuals. Although I admire those organization’s efforts, I do feel there are important questions that need to be answered when a person or organization undertakes the effort to speak on someone else’s behalf.

Let’s say I operate an organization called “Left is Right!,” a membership organization for lefthandedness, and I publicly profess that I speak for everyone who is left handed, and I take a position on wearing wrist watches on the right wrist. Have I reached out to all lefties and know my position is shared by all? Have I reached out to my “Left is Right” membership for the same feedback? Has my “Left is Right” leadership taken the position for which I am speaking? Does my position afford me the right to make group claims? Does my audience know the difference? Or care to know the difference? Do I even have an audience to influence? Does my organization, “Left is Right” have touch points with lefties from which I can profess my position about wristwatches? Can I produce the supporting data to my claim of touch points?

What about the unintended consequences? Wristwatch controls are on the right side of the clock face. Switching positions to the right wrist may exacerbate future adjustments. Have I researched the unintended consequences? Am I willing to take the responsibility for not researching the unintended consequences?

These questions are important: who are we really speaking for? How are we speaking for them? To whom are we speaking? What are we saying? Who is really listening? Are we just preaching to the choir? Are we speaking with one voice? Is there really just one voice? Can I support my claims? Is my opinion shared or is it personal?

Answering these questions are the keys to truly successful advocacy, in my opinion. It could be from a service provider, community centered board, faith-based organization, parent group, a list serve, or professional advocacy organization. And as I look at the organizations that have been able to answer those questions most effectively and have consistently served as a true voice for individuals with developmental disabilities, I see a common theme: family member involvement.

Families live life with individuals with developmental disabilities every day, and you don’t go through that experience without learning a great deal about practical solutions and innovative ideas. Harnessing that knowledge and using it to advocate for and serve others with similar disabilities has proven to be a recipe for sustained successes. The key is “harnessing that knowledge.” How can we do this? Social media collaboration tools can help. These tools can help substantiate a spokesperson’s claims.

Would you like an example? Well, Imagine! was formed in 1963 by a group of parents who just wanted their kids to have the same opportunities to engage in their communities as all of their friends’ kids did. We continue to use that philosophy as the cornerstone for everything we do at Imagine!.

I think that is demonstrated in our advocacy efforts. I am extremely proud of the endeavors we have undertaken to improve the lives of so many Boulder and Broomfield residents who don’t have a voice. On behalf of the individuals we serve, we lobby local, State, and Federal officials, we engage in fundraising, we write grants to increase and enhance our ability to provide services, we seek a variety of other ways to increase our funding streams, we have undertaken several efforts to address Colorado’s waitlist, and we are constantly raising awareness through media outlets of the many contributions the people we serve bring to their communities every day. We are also using social media tools to harness the knowledge of the families of the individuals we serve.

I have constantly stressed in this blog that we need to look for new and creative ways to fund and deliver services, and that all interested parties need to come together to find solutions. I’d like to add to that list: we need to listen to the families and loved ones of those we serve – they have the knowledge and answers we seek, and substantiate public claims.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to congratulate the 2010 Imagine! Employees of Distinction.

This year’s Employees of Distinction were selected from an impressive list of nominess because of the great work they do every day to ensure that Imagine! is able to meet its mission of providing opportunities for the individuals we serve.

As you know, we are so fortunate! to have so many dedicated, talented, and passionate people working here at Imagine!. Even among this impressive group of employees, there are workers whose work ethic, compassion, and creativity allow them to stand out in a very gifted crowd. They are truly Employees of Distinction, and I am honored and humbled to call them colleagues.

All of our Employees of Distinction will be honored at Imagine!’s Holiday party tomorrow. In advance of the ceremony, I’d like to introduce them to all of my blog readers, along with a brief snippet from each honoree’s nomination.

Congratulations to all!

Nate George

“Nate does a great job at keeping a cool, clear head in any difficult situation and continues to provide a subjective point of view and innovative ideas when tackling unexpected problems.”

Tim Johnson

“Tim has not lost sight of why he does his job—to ensure that quality services are being provided to consumers and to make sure those who provide the services feel supported.”

Jennifer McLaughlin

“Jennifer embodies the balanced approach that is needed in behavioral services. This is demonstrated in the way she considers a person’s feelings, not just what motivates a behavior.”

Matt Mock

“Matt often requests to work with the more challenging participants, puts an incredible amount of energy in attending to their needs, and has such a gift for patience and insight.”

Mary Simonson

“Mary uses skill and diplomacy to orchestrate a host of people, organizations, and federal housing requirements throughout the ticklish process of finding homes for those we serve.”

Meagan Witt

“Meagan offers a high level of service to the students in her classes, providing them with greater avenues of communication and adding meaning and value to their lives.”