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Vernon Inclusive Research Community Mapping Project Journal

March 20, 2013

For all posts related to this project, check out this link

This is an overview of the Inclusive Research Community Mapping Project so far.   You should be able to click on the graphics and see them larger.   Feel free to save them and to use them in publications if you like; just attribute it to this site and to my own site

TedsTalks2-003Through a contract with Community Living B.C. we’ve been working on helping families, networks and individuals “deepen and expand” their personal support networks of friends, families, congregations, work colleagues and those who share their passions.  What great work!   Last autumn, after one of these sessions Ted Decker asked us to come and speak to his self advocate group, Vernon’s own Community Connections.  We talked about what we’ve been doing, they talked about what they’ve been doing, and then they told us about a vision they had: “What if we got all the self advocates in town into a room and talked about the places where we feel welcome, where we make a contribution, where we are valued and would be missed – what if we show people we matter to our communities AND we show them they can matter too.”

This seemed like an amazing idea, and at about the same time another friend was encouraging us to apply to the Ashoka Changemakers Foundation, who were doing a special group of “B.C. Ideas” grants.   We wrote up “Ted’s Talk” as we fondly called it and it seemed to make more sense to do something in a few places to look at what might be the same and what might be different.  In each city we would have two co-facilitators, Shelley Nessman and someone local who was part of a self advocate group, and we would use art to help people get clear and describe their ideas.

We chose Vernon, a smaller rural city which has a long history of self advocates (the hometown of one of our greatest teachers, past President of B.C. People First, the late Arnold Bennington), Victoria, which always impresses us with the way that self advocate groups and agencies work together, and Vancouver, which has quite scattered self advocate groups but is pretty much the homeground of B.C. People First.   We were also doing some research on how to best involve people with intellectual disabilities as co-leaders and co-researchers in everything we do as a social enterprise.  We were funded in the area of community innovation, but by the time we knew that, about six other communities had asked us to come to their home towns!  (Some people are talking about asking their Community Councils for funding to do this, if you wonder how it could happen.)


Getting our cheque for project funding!   Barb Goode, author and Spectrum Press Co-Manager of Book Sales; Shelley Nessman; Cheryl Fryfield; Maggie Vilvang from The Venture; Aaron Johannes

We then met with two of our team colleagues, Barb Goode and Cheryl Fryfield and mapped out a workplan.  Barb and Cheryl liked the idea of fostering more leadership by having a kind of world cafe.  We like these because while Ted was going to co-host with Shelley, it means that someone at each table gets to “host” and practice leadership, making sure everyone gets to talk and gets heard.   They wanted lots of opportunities for people to get to know each other, and moving from table to table makes that happen, and lots of fun.  And they wanted to make sure that people knew they were heard and that their messages of interdependence would get out into the world, so we decided we’d keep blogging our work and putting up the graphics that recorded our conversations.   Here’s our plan for the project.


March 8th was our first Inclusive Research Community Mapping session in Vernon.   We got together with the Vernon Community Connections self advocate group on Monday and made a plan for the actual day with them.  Ted’s really good at scheduling things and he wanted to be sure that by the end of the day people felt they’d worked hard together on something that mattered.   We’d been part of another event with one of the group’s members, Maggie Lister, where we had done a skit about employment that went really well so the group added the idea of doing a skit.

People drove for up to three hours to be part of our day, and came from six different communities.   They brought amazing support people with them who had worked really hard to get them there.   Transportation is a big issue in smaller places.  We started by having Ted and Shelley introduce the day and talk about what we would be doing together.  They explained what a world cafe was and everyone got a chance to introduce themselves and meet each other.

conversations that matter

Then we got to work!   First, we talked about how we wanted to be together and made a list of some agreements about listening and talking.  Then Shelley led us in a meditation about places where we feel like we belong.   That led to a great conversation which we documented.  Shelley and Ted led the conversation and table leaders helped people report back.  I drew what they reported on and other people drew pictures too, which we then collaged into the graphic.  It won’t be a surprise to any of the groups that we’ve worked with over the last several years that having pets was a really big thing for people.
hosting hospitality

After lunch we talked as a whole group about “words of belonging” and made a list of everyone’s “places I would be missed.”   Maggie Lister had brought us a gift of a mandala that she made of “friends, family, community” so we used that as the centre for the graphic.   We talked about what all these things had in common and people said there was a pattern of “our regular connection,” leading to a feeling in the community that “something is wrong” when the person isn’t present.   That was cool.  A new friend told a great story about how he’d started his own business and how people depended on him to come to work and they’d certainly miss him.   Vernon 2013At the end of the day we talked about what it feels like to feel welcome and what exactly happens for people.   There were a few places (and some people) who were great welcomers and people talked about what happens when they go to those places.   We had little stickers printed that look like name tags but instead of saying “my name is” they say things like “I feel welcome here” and then people wrote down the places where they felt welcome.

where do I feel welcome

FeedbackFinally, we talked about how the day had gone and what people liked.  They liked mostly everything but felt we should have talked about hockey more!  This is a constant complaint in our workshops! We are going to try to work on this.  We might need some help.

Our findings from this workshop:

– People really appreciate the chance to get together and connect and share their experiences.  They would like to do this more.

– They like how the graphics made them feel heard and listened to.

– There are common things that happen in places where people feel welcome: they are greeted, they feel known, people let them take their time, they are appreciated (especially in their work places).

– Often they are helped by community friends, particularly in smaller towns, but they are also helpful and many people with disabilities do good things for their communities.   A thing many people liked was that there were lots of new ideas about how they could “give back” and this was a real concern for many people in the group.

– They would like more opportunities for more education in “regular schooling” – they like the idea of inclusive schools but also like the idea of lifelong learning.


MaggieAt the end of the day our local hosts held a reception for community members.   About forty people came – including staff from Community Living B.C., Community Council members, four local mayors, a council person, local educators, parents and others.   We led them through the graphics and talked more.   Learning from the reception:

– Local people really wanted to know how to be inclusive and helpful.

– People were really interested in the idea of strengths’ based learning and appreciative inquiry.

– They really enjoyed getting to know their neighbours and appreciated all the work of the day.



Learning for us: have more opportunities for people to make art that will be included in the graphics.   Have the day be one hour shorter.

By the end of the day, Ted and the Vernon Community Connections group had worked so hard!   They felt they’d accomplished what they wanted to do and made lots of new friends too.   The graphics are now in the new Lydia Boss Centre and are spreading the messages that the participants wanted to be heard.

TedDekker KindaleThanks to Ted for this idea, and to Gary Arbuckle from Kindale Developmental Association for his passionate, creative support for folks we care about and community development!   Our next community mapping sessions will tentatively be in Victoria in June and in Vancouver in September or October.  Watch this space for more updates!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2013 11:55 am

    Reblogged this on ImagineACircle.

  2. Jessica Humphrey permalink
    March 21, 2013 7:09 pm

    Sounds like an amazing day. Thank-you for writing it all out for those of us who couldn’t be there. Can’t wait for Community Mapping in Victoria!


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