Grab your headphones and get listening—posAbilities has a new podcast! Good For All, hosted by Monique Nelson, is a show that shares stories about disability, community, and inclusion. We invite our listeners to join us as we work toward our vision of “good and full lives” for all.
But what do we mean when we say “good and full lives” and how do we get there? For our first episode, our Director of Innovation, Gord Tulloch, sat down with us to talk about innovation’s role in that journey. Check out some highlights and key quotes from our conversation below.
A story about John
Gord moved to British Columbia in the early 1990s. For a while, he was working as both a philosophy instructor and bartender, but still couldn’t make ends meet. After looking through job ads, he ended getting a position working with people with intellectual disabilities.
During that first experience, he met John, a tall, intimidating-looking man who would tell fantastical stories about rescuing people, standing up to bullies, and being an everyday hero. If John started telling stories that weren’t true, Gord was supposed to stop him and refocus him on things that really happened. Gord, and other people supporting John, focused on activities—John liked playing cards, so they played a lot of cards. But it was through his stories that Gord got to know who John was. In his stories, John was a solitary rebel who could stand up for himself and other people.
He wanted a life that mattered. That’s what was coming out in his stories. He wanted to be a force for good, and we were playing cards with him instead.
The same conversations over and over…
Gord continued working with people with disabilities, eventually ending up at posAbilities. He started to notice that people in the disability sector were having the same conversations year after year. To find genuinely new solutions, he realized, he would have to step outside of that echo chamber and spend more time in community. After all, that was the goal—for people to be part of community life.
Much of the sector focuses on getting people to a basic level of support and increasingly, as funds grow tighter, that’s the exclusive focus. How do we move beyond that to actually supply people with genuine opportunities to live full, good, meaningful lives, whatever that means for them?
The path to innovation
Connecting people to community life wasn’t just a disability problem. A 2012 report from the Vancouver Foundation found that many people in Vancouver were lonely, isolated, and found it difficult to make friends. With that in mind, posAbilities—along with Inclusion Powell River, Kinsight, and the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI)—introduced the role of Community Connector. The Connectors worked to build social connections, bridge people to community, and to organize small events called “activations” or “interventions” which aimed to change the interactions happening in public spaces. They might offer up hot drinks and chairs on a cold day, inviting people to sit and have a conversation, or hand out high fives at a SkyTrain station.
That’s a longer game in terms of changing the source of interactions that were occurring in public spaces so that [people would] be recalling, remembering that there is a lot of social will and social good out there, people that are interested in the well being of others.
Partnering with InWithForward
One game-changing partnership was with InWithForward, a social design organization. InWithForward came to British Columbia to help figure out what was really happening in the lives of people with disabilities. The echo chambers Gord wanted to escape would often approach new initiatives believing they already knew the problem. InWithForward turned that on its head—their approach is rooted in understanding people’s lived experience before developing new ideas.
Innovation is about making progress toward long-term change. It can be difficult to measure that progress, but even changing the way we approach little interactions adds up over time. As we like to say, progress is about “stretching” ourselves to reach the change we want to see.
If we want to have a vision that is more around people achieving self realization, about a society that is more diverse and inclusive and caring…then there’s got to be ways that we can repurpose some of our pre-existing practices and infrastructure and roles and structures to start edging in that direction.
Good and full lives
In our closing question, we brought the conversation full-circle: What does “good and full lives” mean to you?
For Gord, a good life is one where people are healthy, connected, secure, and resilient. A full life is one where people are experiencing the true depth and breadth of life, the emotional highs and lows that give our lives meaning.
You can listen to the episode below or read the transcript here. Subscribe to Good For All wherever you get your podcasts.
About our guest
Gord Tulloch is the Director of Innovation at posAbilities. Gord has worked in the developmental disability sector for more than twenty-five years. He has co-written a book with Dr. Sarah Schulman, a founder of InWithForward, that dives deeper into what we’ve learned on our innovation journey so far. The Trampoline Effect: Redesigning our Social Safety Nets comes out October 27, 2020. Visit trampoline-effect.ca for more information about the book.