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Empowered Employment Series - hits the ground running

The Empowered Employment Series first session (Friday 19 Sept) was the best event of its kind that I have attended in recent years.

The amount of energy that developed in the room is something I rarely find at events of this kind. I was hugely impressed with how superbly it was organised, planned and executed, complete with a team of volunteers who took care of every detail, making everyone feel welcome.

What stood out for me right from our first planning sessions with chief dreamers Priya Somasekhar, Gerri Pomeroy and Vaughan Mikkelson is how they articulated the impact they wanted to achieve – for participants to engage in depth with the material. Their vision was that participants would be empowered to take action steps from that moment on. From my discussion groups and conversations around lunch it was obvious this impact has been achieved.

The other point that stood out for me is how committed Ministry of Social Development people are to investing in our future together. This is very different to what I have witnessed in other countries... 

Anne Hawker introduced the topic with the high level concepts of our changing world, including the international perspective. She set the tone for powerful conversations to start. A key learning for me is that we must widen the lens around 'employment' to include social participation and contribution. Kylee Black, Founder, 
Spirit Sparkplugs shared her story of how investing herself in her mission to provide uniquely designed parcels to people who are bed, hospital or home bound was the foundation upon which she built a future career, though this came as a secondary benefit! The first benefit was to channel her energy on building the venture, taking her attention away from her own chronic pain... but wait there is more: she connected two groups that could potentially benefit significantly from each other but would never come in contact - apart from the contact made through Kylee's ideas and actions. One group of people who would love to contribute but who don't know how to go about this, were connected via Spirit Sparkplugs to the other groups of people whose chronic condition keeps them in stark isolation: the first made surprise parcels for the other!!! Kylee sent over 200 parcels in New Zealand and abroad - all from items lovingly made especially for one person at a time, knowing what the individual likes and interests... but wait, there is more again: building her skill set through this enterprise contributed to Kylee building self confidence and ultimately being offered her first paid employment in 6 years. This is where the subject of contribution comes into play - Kylee started contributing long ago! It was my privilege and honour to introduce Kylee's story.

It was clear from people’s faces (>60 participants) that they were delighted with the content of the day. They were making rapid connections with the personal significance that the topic had for them! 

Our experience is that the wider public still has to overcome a fear of engagement with disabled people and participants recognised that it is up to us to make the first step... it means tackling our own fears of putting ourselves out there, but there is no question that this leadership act is in our court. People shared experiences of what the impact of this first step may be for them, for me, for us.

The next event in the series will take place on 3 October, Hotel Ibis, 18 Alma St. Hamilton from10am to 1pm. More on: https://www.facebook.com/dpawaikato Well done team!!!

Future-proofing our impact: we really need to think about how to involve more people in this process because as numbers show us, most of our audience cannot attend face to face workshops... sharing stories electronically must be on our agenda, else we'll leave most of our constituents out! I have started thinking about it here, so if you are into a cuppa and a talk, email me!!!

Posted on Facebook:
Oh my! The Empowered Employment series strikes again!! What a FANTASTIC day you organised Priya and Vaughan. Hats off to Disabled Persons Assembly, Waikato... there must have been >100 attendants!!! This speaks volumes for your ability to rally a crowd to the cause - and this is a significant achievement in itself... in an environment where representation and reach is challenging. I'm so impressed also that the organisers have decided to carry out an evaluation at the end and summarise the learning from the sessions - this will be very useful for other interested people who simply cannot attend the face to face meetings.

Second session: October 3