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Invitation, discovery and engagement: Great real-life examples of families inviting community in to help them with planning.

May 30, 2014

youhadmeathello2David Wetherow has got us thinking, first about the idea that any planning event is an opportunity for invitation, and second, about invitation and introduction in general.   This led us to create a short workshop which we’ve now given a few times, “The Fine Art and Craft of Introduction and Invitation,” on rethinking how we approach community through growing our ability to invite and introduce by identifying and focusing on sharing our strengths.

We’ve been given permission to use a couple of examples to show and most recently this one, from Kari Sullivan in Portland Oregon, who is working with the excellent folks at Community Vision Inc, who organized some meetings with families who wanted to do some planning that I facilitated.

In preparation for a planning meeting for her son, Nick, she sent out this invitation:

 Dear friends and family,

 For the past several months, Nick and I have been involved in a program called Dream Builders.  Nick has been thinking about his dreams for the future and we have been learning about how to help make these dreams come true. Here is a link, if you would like to learn more about the program.

 As part of Dream Builders, we have the opportunity to get guidance in a ‘mapping’ meeting about Nick’s future.  This is where YOU come in.  As important people in Nick’s life, we would LOVE to have you be a part of this process.  The meeting is scheduled for “X” time at “X” place.

I have attached some questions to think about for the meeting. The questions are written from Nick’s perspective since we are talking about person centered planning and the person we are talking about is HIM. 🙂  I realize that some of you live out of  town or will not be able to make the meeting that night. We would still love your insight via email, so that we can add your input to Nick’s map. Please have your emails to me by “X” date. If you are in town and can make it to the meeting, that would be awesome!  Please let me know if you are able and plan to attend.  I will provide some snacks and I think Nick will be providing a little musical entertainment to start off the evening. 

Of course, I have also created this short video for your inspirational needs. 🙂

NicksDream.29 PM

[Aaron: I really encourage you to click on this link and see the video!]

Nick’s Big Dreams

About 20 people attended the meeting, excited to talk about Nick’s gifts and his future. Nick began by playing three songs that were meaningful to him:

Nick performing for his friends

Nick performing for his friends

By the time he was done, several things were evident – his talent as a musician, his facility to use different kinds of community, and his (and his family’s) ability to bring together a room full of appreciative and loving friends on the Friday evening of a long weekend. Here are the questions that Kari sent out on Nick’s behalf. Half a dozen people emailed their answers, from as far away as Europe, and different people in the room took responsibility for “holding” those answers as well as their own ideas, so we could make sure we got it all “on the same page.”

Nick’s Big Dreams

Things I am really good at:

Something that would surprise people about me is:

Things that make life more challenging for me are:

Things that help me to communicate or feel safe are:

Things that I like to do outside the home are:

I love music! How could I use this to build other skills?

Some ideas of how to improve support and increase my independence in the community are:

My dreams for the future are:

Who do I know and who do THEY know that can help me reach my dreams?

I loved the last question, which David has been so careful to usher into our thinking, and also the “Something that would surprise people about me is…” because it led to such interesting conversations about how what people love about Nick could be leveraged so that it was more visible to his community. We turned it into this graphic: NicksBigDreamsEditNoEmails Kari was really pleased with the results and with how the evening went, as were all of Nick’s friends and family.


An example that we’ve been showing people has been from Teaghan’s PATH, facilitated by Shelley Nessman, graphics by me, invitation inspired by David and Faye Wetherow.   Teaghan’s mom, Pam, wrote and sent out this invitation:

Invitation from Teaghan!

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 9.22.53 PM

I am thinking a little bit about my life now and what I think I would like it to look like in the future.

I want to share this adventure with the people I care about most of all!

You are one of those people who has encouraged me, supported and even challenged me! I love you for that!

I am inviting you to come and help me think about this adventure for a couple of hours. I have invited two other special people to help guide our time together – both are really good friends to my family! One will help us get our ideas expressed out loud and one will draw them on a big piece of paper. It is a really fun thing to do! My mom says so!

I am inviting you because:

You are so special to me

You have made a difference already in my life

You will help me make my dreams come true

I trust you

I want to keep you in my life!

“X” date

“X” address

Refreshments and dinner will be provided.

Please say Yes!!!

RSVP to my mom “X” or X (email)

Here are the results: teaghanPATH A plan to usher Teaghan into his life as an adult, after graduation, generated by he, his friends and his family.  The resulting plan does not depend on his parents, except in the specific areas where Teaghan requested their help.  Teaghan’s friends and supporters signed up for what made their “hearts sing.”  Also, props to Teaghan’s grandmother who sat with him through the whole event patting his hand beaming pride and love. And here’s a picture of Teaghan, ready for Grad! TeaghanGradAndPATH Grad was a BIG thing for Teaghan as it is for anyone leaving school, and after the planning event he became my Facebook friend and send us a couple of dozen photos of him with different girls in different combinations – dancing, singing, posing, all of them ready for the next steps in their lives. I was so glad to be part of both these events, but more to the point, so was everyone else.   Both families had about 20 participants, excited to contribute.  Both events combined snacks and drinks, music, fun, hospitality and a range of loving thinkers who assisted with communication for people for whom that gets challenging.  One event was in a nice, rented space and the other was in the family’s home.


Here are David and Faye Wetherow’s ideas for how people might be invited to a planning event:


David and Faye Wetherow

This is not a template for a letter of invitation. You might use some of the words in framing an actual invitation, but we intend the words more as reminders when you think about who you (or someone you support) might invite to be part of the deep conversation that is a PATH or a MAP.

Here are some ways to think about inviting people into your planning circle.

In the next few weeks, Iʼm going to take some time to think about my life. I want to create a clear description of what I love, what I hope for, what I want to be doing in my life, my interests, contributions, commitments, and next steps.

I want to share this exploration with people I care about, people who mean a great deal to me, and people who have encouraged, supported and even challenged me.

Iʼm inviting you to come and help me think about this direction for a couple of hours. Iʼve also invited two people who will help lead the process and make a big graphic poster of all of our thoughts and ideas. Itʼs an exciting process that I know youʼll enjoy (you might even want to do it yourself sometime).

I am inviting you because …
…I appreciate and admire you.
…We appreciate many of the same things.
…You have made a difference in my life.
…I want to make a difference in your life.
…You excel at something I want to be good at.
…You are connected to something I want to be connected to. …You are connected to people with whom I want to connect. We share an passion or an interest that is important to me. You have a quality that I aspire to.
You are making a contribution that inspires me.
You have a gift that delights me.
I have a gift that I would like to share with you

We share a cultural heritage, or you belong to a culture that intrigues me. You work in a place that Iʼd like to learn more about.
Youʼre doing work that interests and inspires me.
I think that we might share a dream.

Iʼm deeply curious about something that you might help me understand or explore. You belong to a community group that I might like to join and contribute to.

I think we share some core values, and I want to explore how I might put those values into action.

I want to be part of your life, and I hope that youʼll be part of mine. If you have a wish for my life, Iʼd love to hear about it.
I want you to know what Iʼd love to be doing with my life.
I want to renew and strengthen our connection.

I value your wisdom.
I trust you.
I enjoy spending time with you.
I cherish our friendship.
Weʼll have cake and ice cream, fresh fruit, tea and coffee!

Sometimes families, or self advocates, will say, “But I don’t think I know 20 people!  I’m not sure anyone would come.”   Of course you don’t need 20 people – one of my favourite PATHs was a mom and her son, who had done so much together, and used it as an opportunity to debrief and move on into a new stage of their lives.  But people will come.  One family, wondering who to invite to their son’s planning event, decided just to invite everyone as they walked their dog through their neighbourhood.   Neighbours came, but also brought their kids and a niece, who were the same age ask the son and had known him from afar in a quite segregated school, and said they’d always wanted an opportunity to get to know him better.  Those kids were ready with a bunch of ideas and glad to make commitments to new adventures with him.  As they left they thanked his parents for being open to them coming and to their ideas. At a recent planning event the young man had decided not to talk to a strange adult (me) and as each question was posed, he pointed to one of the four friends he’d brought along as the person most likely to know the answer.  At the end of the planning, which he’d been very nervous about after some bad experiences of groups of people getting together to talk about all his “issues,” he gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up sign!

Thanks to the Sullivan family and the Collins family and particularly Teaghan and Nick, and to the Wetherows for allowing us to share their work. To learn more about the work of the Wetherows check out

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 17, 2022 6:01 pm

    Reblogged this on ImagineACircle and commented:

    This post is a few years old but one I return to again and again and refer to so I thought I would copy it to my site 🙂

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