Powell River seeks to strengthen personal networks


Initiative one of four Community Living Innovation Venture winners
Tuesday May 2, 2012 — Camille Jensen

The Powell River Association for Community Living (PRACL) is advancing a project that strengthens personal networks for people who have a disability.

The initiative started as a pilot project last year and based on its success was recently awarded $25,000 from the Community Living Innovation Venture to expand the model.

Lynn Roberts, PRACL’s director of community services, says PRACL has learned from experience the power of personal networks after researching the model for several years.

In its pitch to Community Living Innovation Venture, the association was able to share results from its Art of Asking initiative, which was a pilot project that paired individuals with trained staff who acted as initiators of new relationships based on their interests and strengths.

Each of the four people who participated in the pilot gained three to five community members to their network as a result.

The project had a major impact for Greg, a young adult supported by PRACL, who since leaving high school had grown increasingly isolated and less active. Trained facilitator Lesley Thorsell was able to pick up on Greg’s interests and harness her own network to create new relationships for the young man that included a teacher to play golf with and the owner of a music studio who plays music with Greg.

The results were not only beneficial for Greg, they rekindled the families’ confidence in their sons’ gifts and abilities; in the agency’s ability to support their son effectively; and in the community’s ability to embrace their son, states PRACL’s website.

Lynn says PRACL supports 100 individuals who have a disability and with the awarded funds will be exploring how it can expand the network model, first to six individuals, but eventually to as many people as possible.

She says in the future, the model could involve PRACL hiring a trained facilitator who focuses on building networks for individuals and is available as a paid service to families or funded through service clubs.

She says Powell River has a number of people who have been working on creating a more inclusive community that are interested in attending a meeting to explore moving the model forward. PRACL, along with interested stakeholders and Community Living Innovation Venture’s Maggie Vilvang, are meeting this Sunday and Monday to discuss next steps for the project.

When asked what could be the best result from the initiative, Lynn is quick with her response.

“Networks, networks for everybody,” she says. “We all rely on networks on our lives, it keeps us safe, and we think it’s a benefit for all of us.”

To learn more about PRACL’s work, click here.

This story is part of a BACI Blast series spotlighting Community Living innovation.



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