By Jennifer Gledhill, Community Inclusion Coordinator, Search Inc.
Back in 2016, Search, Inc. (Search) adopted the principles of the Council on Quality Leadership (CQL), an accreditation body that uses several principles to guide agencies like ours further towards person-centered services. CQL put into words what was already in the hearts of those choosing to work in this field: “How do we get even better at improving the lives of the individuals we have the privilege of supporting?” CQL gave us the tools to work towards new horizons and qualities of life.
One such tool was the Personal Outcome Measures (POM) interview. The POM interview is a set of questions covering such important topics as personal security, health, relationships, and choices. These interviews were to be conducted annually in a one-on-one setting as a way to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the services being received by the interviewee.
But I mean, how much can we really learn in one sitting? Let’s be real: what online questionnaire or one-page magazine quiz has ever truly uncovered the complexities of our unique, complicated, and utterly fascinating selves?
Enter Self-Advocates University (SAU) – a new self-advocacy initiative born of a pandemic, Zoom technology, and Search’s earnest desire to support the mental, physical, and spiritual needs of our residents and community guests. Through our weekly SAU meetings, we stretch the principles of the POM interviews into a weekly exploration into who we are, what we want, and then how are we going to get there.
Each Thursday we work side-by-side with our Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s) and dig into all things Self-Advocacy – be it on a personal, agency-wide, local, or national level. It’s a conversation and everyone has a seat at the table.
For the big stuff, we record the meetings and post them on our SAU playlist on Search’s YouTube profile.
We may record tutorials and how-to videos to teach and encourage self-determination, as well as independence. At times, we have conversations that inspire further exploration of topics of interest, like the Aztecs or the Webb telescope.
We come together and plan events big and small, such as cooking projects, educational topics, and current events! We work together to experience those things together. (Did someone say Winter Olympics?) Additionally, we are currently talking about creating playlists with information videos about topics chosen by the advocates.
Our YouTube channel is currently where SAU lives – check it out! Mind you, there’s not much to write home about yet because it takes time to build something real, but the Self-Advocates of Search are in it for the long haul. Between the residents, our community guests, and those rock-star DSPs advocating from the sidelines, we are collectively committed to building our Self-Advocacy University one Thursday at a time!
We encourage feedback, so please write your suggestion or share your resource below. Think of it as a virtual suggestion box!