Where the employment inclusion of people with disabilities is concerned, is it enough for services, advocates and ‘champions’ to merely coexist and occasionally communicate? A quick survey of the results generated by any of the sectors involved in this complex issue will give you a hard answer. The employment participation statistics for people with disabilities have not changed more than a couple of percentage points over the last 25 years. The significant yet separate efforts of government, service providers, business champions and self-advocates – while well intentioned and necessary, have not resulted in the kind of society wide change we’ve all been seeking. In the current economy, significant outcomes are becoming even more elusive.
Over the past few years in Canada, multiple national initiatives to increase the employment inclusion of people with disabilities have been launched. Some of these are policy or funding initiatives, some are national projects around awareness, and others are service delivery projects. Still, more initiatives being driven by business to business (B2B) associations and Universities arise every few months, all with intended elements of innovation, all with irrefutable values around inclusion and diversity. Yet the problem remains – the overall issues of poverty and 50% employment participation for Canadians with disabilities are not changing.
Why? Collective Impact would tell us that it’s because we’re all working in isolation instead of together. The powerful (but often counter-productive) forces of ego and competition, from an individual level right up to a state level, continue to preclude an authentic, national collaboration between policy makers, services providers, self-advocates and business. Working in isolation results in partial solutions, inadequate resources, and ultimately in creating two new problems for every one we solve; we need to deepen our understanding of this issue and devote resources and energy to collaborative solutions.
Why wouldn’t we try the one untried strategy and put aside the atavistic characteristics of ego and competition in order to work together to actually achieve our shared goals? CASE hopes to promote and launch a National Collective Impact Initiative for Employment Inclusion at #CASE2016. It’s time for a higher level of collaboration and better results. It’s time for us to recognize and capitalize on the collective wisdom of each sector and person invested in the employment inclusion of people with disabilities. Our cause is collective – so why, at this point, should our strategies and efforts continue to be isolated?
(*Image originally published in Stanford Social Innovation Review)