Glimpse 1: Transformation in Service – Prayatna
Prayatna is a small organization in Pune, Maharashtra, dedicated to supporting adults and children with developmental disability. Founding partners Radiya Gohil and Mridula Das attended the inaugural Social Role Valorization course in 2016 in Delhi, and were struck with the concept of assisting people who have been often over-controlled and over-protected to maximize their personal autonomy and be "in the driver's seat" of their lives.
They thought, talked, discussed with the people they serve, the families they serve, and the staff, and formulated an idea. Prayatna has a vocational training program which was fairly typical across these sorts of programs. The people served in this program are all adults, and they are assigned work tasks such as paper bag-making, masala preparation, and creation of craft items for exhibition. When Radiya and Mridula began to think about how to increase the opportunities for choice and control, they began to question why such tasks were assigned and controlled by the staff, and whether they could change that. After all, decisions made about the tasks people are involved with define how people's time is used, and whether people experience a sense of pride in their work.
As a result of this exploration, the people they serve formed a "Friday Work Meeting," essentially a democratic staff meeting in which the workers themselves negotiated and decided which work would be done by whom. You can imagine the room for real competency enhancement here, as the people served learn to negotiate, advocate for their interests, work together, compromise, and lead. In addition, people gain the benefit of having some control over their next work week, and how they will spend their time. As an added unexpected benefit, they noticed that Fridays had often been a day when people decided to stay home from the program. Once the Friday Work Meeting was in place, people realized that their presence was important on Fridays, and attendance went up. After all, if you weren't at the meeting, you didn't have control of your time and activity for the following week.
This practice is evolving as the role of the workers in managing the meeting continues to increase and the role of staff decreases.
Glimpse 2: Transformation in Service – Ashish Center
The Ashish Center, under the founder Geeta Mondol and the current Director, Sheila George, has taken the implementation of both person centered practice and Social Role Valorization forward in a steady arc with one strong strategy after another. Over time, we will cover several of these strategies in more detail, but for this Glimpse, we'll look at just one. It should be said that Ashish was an early adopter. Their leader attended the inaugural SRV workshop, senior staff have attended, and families and board members have all been exposed to the ideas.
One of the biggest struggles in looking at implementation of SRV in services that serve only people with disability is realizing that integration and inclusive practice might be a long-term goal, but present structural realities prevent the realization of this goal at this moment in time. Ashish decided that they wanted to make every possible implementation effort they could, while keeping practical limitations in mind. Although Ashish is a school, they realized that, because it is a special school just for people with disability, it has drifted in some practices from what typical schools for typical students might do. This leaves the likelihood high that students will not be prepared for a more inclusive life in the future. They decided they need to study the ordinary, explore how typical schools operate and function, and adopt what they could into their own school. They accomplished this by "twinning" with a nearby school, and asking all the staff from Ashish to spend some time there in observation. They came back loaded with ideas. Some were big ideas – like grouping students by age in class rather than functioning level or type of disability, and renaming classes according to normative standards. Some were small ideas – like decorating the halls with the kinds of learning messages and decor one might see in a school, rather than messages to the staff and messages about disability. They learned about the how much time students spend in their own classrooms vs. out of the classroom, and tried to model that. They noted how the students' time was maximized in learning tasks, and replicated this by reorganizing class activities to reduce waiting time by students.
As an unexpected added bonus, the relationship established between the two schools may lead to options and possibilities for some inclusive practices between the schools. This is an excellent example of using the culturally valued analogue (what happens for typical people in the community) as an anchor point, and making adaptations and modifications from there.