Friday, April 15, 2016

Advocacy at the right time, not all the time

By Andrey Khabursky, residence manager

Advocacy. What is it? What's it look like, feel like, and what makes it so significant and powerful?
Advocacy is the power to change the life of a person, a culture, a people.

Advocacy, whether spoken or unspoken is the driving force that brings us alongside our best intentions, and many times brings them to reality.

A few weeks ago "advocacy" became a redefined term for me. One of the gentlemen who live in a home supported by Heritage Christian staff had gone into the hospital, and after 5 days and 4 nights, he was ready to come home. The team at large stood on the fence, not comfortable to make a decision either way. I struggled through the channels of communication, hierarchy, and positional authority in order to take on the critical role of being an advocate in a new, very defined role. Much of the team looked at his past history, which is important, but they didn’t look at his current condition and honor what he wanted. We call this the “what ifs.” These what ifs could keep all of us from living a fulfilled and meaningful life, and moreover, keep us from offering the opportunity for others to do the same. As his housemates welcomed him home, he just "lit up" and a sense of refreshment washed over him.

So whether we're "thinking outside the box," or standing our ground on behalf of those we serve and support, we should always take their best interest into account when we become "their voice" for that moment. Like for you and I, there have been moments when we had someone come alongside us, and speak up for us, and make things happen. It's OK to be their voice, but may it be just for a moment... long enough to bring about change, build confidence and leave a lasting impact. Many times we want to be the voice of advocacy, not only at the right times, but all the time. We need to constantly reevaluate to see if we’ve taken their voice away or if we are being that push to get them going. Let’s think of their voice as a bobsled… many times, those we support only need that push to really get moving and the rest is driven by them. Often for our comfort, we long to hold on to that bobsled as it flies through the course at 70mph, and continue to be an advocate, not realizing, our advocacy was accomplished long ago.

Advocacy may be just the simple act of standing with another; unity.

Advocacy done right is empowering.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Listening for social change

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O

Listening is an art, and if we aren't careful it might become a lost art.  

I believe most people want to be better listeners, so how do we improve?  

Daily discipline. Conversation by conversation.  

First, slow down. Take a breath. Look at the person (see his eyes and mouth). Focus.  Next really pay attention, don't allow yourself to be distracted by the people or activity that surrounds you. When it is your turn to speak (there is never a good reason to interrupt) ask clarifying questions. This is not your chance to persuade or convince – you are the listener.  Finally, validate what you've heard and validate the person who has shared it. Thank her for sharing her time and thinking with you.

We know listening is an important skill for our personal development but it is also essential for social change. You see, social change requires congruent vision, collaboration and civility. Like any strong relationship it requires respect and mutual contribution and concession.  A stunning percentage of people when asked "When do you most feel respected?" will answer in some form or fashion "when I am heard."

We are hardwired as social beings so that belonging and contributing are important to us all. That's why most people prefer to talk to great listeners, not great speakers.

Collective impact will stall and social change will lag when we don't listen and hear one another, when we don't demonstrate value and respect to all as contributors.