The Best Meeting of My Career
A few weeks ago I attended one of the best meetings of my career. I know what you’re thinking. Really? How is that possible? First of all, the meeting was on a weekend. A weekend! Then there’s the fact that it was a meeting, and everyone knows that nothing much gets done during meetings. There are articles published daily in business magazines that expound on this.
Well, my experience was different. This meeting was expertly run. It began on time an even ended early. And between the beginning and the end, the group accomplished what it set out to do.
Where was I? I had the privilege of attending the statewide meeting of Speaking For Ourselves Colorado (SFO), a self-advocacy group that tackles issues of importance to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
My experience began with being warmly welcomed by members of SFO. Smiles and hugs all around, I was greeted by old friends and new. Coffee and bagels and catching up with people I don’t see nearly enough – now that’s the way to start a meeting!
The agenda was clear and guided the meeting. People were brought up-to-date on self-advocacy activities across the state. The Treasurer gave a report on how much money the group has in the bank, and the status of the repayment of stolen funds (a story for another time). The President shared his experience at The Arc’s National Convention in Nashville.
But most of the meeting was an impressive display of SFO and The Arc’s shared values of self-determination and participatory democracy. You see, the national convention of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) is coming to Denver in 2020 (in conjunction with the Coleman Institute), and SFO is the host chapter. They have many responsibilities including communications, lining up transportation solutions for people of all abilities, promoting the conference, registration, and planning special events. During this meeting SFO created committees for each of these important duties and they are working collaboratively with SFO advisors and the Coleman Institute team to get all of this important work done.
The most exciting part of this planning session was the portion where SFO members offered suggestions for session topics at the conference. So many smart, challenging, thoughtful ideas were shared!
- Self-advocacy stories
- Different cultures/diversity
- Transportation challenges and solutions
- Disability awareness/inclusion
- Starting a business and other employment
- Talking to legislators
- Service animals
- Health and wellness
- Closing institutions (yes, there are still institutions in the US)
- Independent living
- Mental Health
- Higher education
- Service providers
- Different learning styles
- Community access/ADA
- Hidden Disabilities
- Parents with disabilities
So why was this the best meeting of my career? The group ran efficiently and got their work done. They also made me feel welcome, valued and included. But most of all, I witnessed a group of people who are chronically underestimated by the community, accomplish more meaningful work in a few hours than most people accomplish in a few weeks. And that, my friends, was a beautiful thing.