Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Some Clear Thoughts On Transparency

Over this past year I have come to some real clarity when it comes to being transparent.

I have always believed that those of us in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities (including providers, care takers, and policy makers) have an ethical obligation to be transparent in our actions. We are all engaged in what is essentially a community building endeavor, and therefore we owe it to the communities we serve to be open and honest about everything we do.

My thinking on this issue has evolved to the point where, in 2012, I would argue that it is almost impossible not to be transparent. In the era of Web 2.0, where the roles of information creators and information consumers are seamlessly interchangeable, there is too much access to information and too many opportunities for instantaneous feedback for anyone in our field to be able to effectively operate under the radar. The internet and social media have leveled the playing field to a degree I would not have thought possible even a few short years ago.

This phenomenon has been observed on a much larger scale recently (and commented on by people much more knowledgeable than myself) during the Arab Spring, when protesters used social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship. Attempts to control direction and decision making process through subterfuge or hidden agendas have been exposed, resulting in negative outcomes for those trying to operate undercover rather than out in the open.

Even in our field, and even in Imagine!’s neck of the woods, one has to wonder. Are we ready to understand what to me has become obvious? The old days of decisions about services for some of society’s most vulnerable citizens being made by a very few people in closed-door meetings have long passed. The days when being placed at the head of the table, literally or metaphorically, meant that you had more influence than others who weren’t at the head of the table (or didn’t even have a seat at the table) have also passed.

I think this is great news for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families, and also great news for those of us who provide services. More transparency and more genuine communication between all stakeholders, regardless of where they are sitting at the table, should result in better services, better communication, and a better understanding of how to leverage the skills, strengths, and successes of individuals with developmental disabilities to benefit all members of a community. That’s the kind of clarity we can all support.

Then again, what do I know?

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