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Conversations on Citizenship & Person-Centered Work

Edited by John O'Brien and Carol Blessing
(Paperback - 145 pages)

True to its title, this is a unique and timely compilation of key conversations with eight people who, over the past four decades, have provided us with leadership as through what they have learned, honed, and crafted in their individual efforts to promote full inclusion and true citizenship of persons with disabilities into their respective communities. The thought-provoking, inspiring and oft-times challenging chapters contained in the book were edited from a series of live interviews conducted between April-July, 2010 in conjunction with the Cornell University’s Disability Institute “Citizen-Centered Leadership Development” Community of Practice series. (www.citizencentered leadership.org) for use in an online course.

The brainchild of this project, and one of the book’s editors , Carol Blessing, invited eight leaders who she felt have most influenced the field of organizational change and supports to the citizenship of people with disabilities. Herself a visionary, Carol writes in the book’s introduction, “I selected these eight people first because I see each of them as a pioneer, an inventor, an explorer, and sometimes a warrior, bushwacking uncharted territory in the name of creating healthy, holistic communities that welcome, honor and celebrate the gifts of all of their members… The content of their works is uniquely and distinctively their own, single brilliant stars, yet the spirit-thread of messages of belonging, capacity-building, strength, potential, and interdependent relationships weave their work together in a what that reaches far beyond the limit of any one individual.”

Each of the chapters is organized in an easy-to-read Question/Answer format which invites each of the contributors to share their distinctive contribution to the field. What is equally compelling however, are the various responses to common questions put to all of them such as: What is citizenship? What is community? What is leadership? What inspires you and your work? What is disability? How do we promote inclusion? Known in part for his ingenious capacity to uncover” common threads”, John O’Brien also offers a chapter on core principles and ideals woven throughout the eight interviews.

Here is a summary of the Eight Contributors whose voices together offer a gem of a book:

Beth Mount – Long time civil rights advocate and creator of “Personal Future’s Planning” which integrates the ideals of citizenship into the heart of the planning process. (www.capacityworks.com) 

Diana Whitney – President of Corporation for Positive Change (www.positivechange.com) speaks about Appreciative Inquiry and of Appreciative Leadership run parallel to the philosophy of person-centered planning and community-building.

Michael Smull – Co-creator of “Essential Lifestyle Planning”, (www.elpnet.net) specifies the kinds of settings and supports people need for a good life in community services and refining this approach into a set of person-centered thinking tools and a comprehensive approach to organizational development and system change.

Denise Bissonnette – Author and trainer in the field of employment, (www.diversityworld.com), offers ideas on how to develop alternatives to traditional job placement by being true to the term “job development”.

Jack Pearpoint – A world leader in the arena of inclusion, (www.inclusion.com), describes the origins and descriptions of the MAPS and PATH planning process.

Mike Green – Pioneer in the field of community building, (http://mike-green.org/), contributes his knowledge and expertise in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) as the basis for organizing citizen-action to building more inclusive communities.

Connie Ferrell – A recognized expert in the field of supported employment, (Integrated Services), shares the uses and benefits of the Framework for Planning, which she co-created with Carol Blessing in 2004.

John O’Brien – A celebrated author, trainer and long time contributor and to the field, (www.inclusion.com/jobrien.html) articulates central principles that are foundational for person-centered work that embody democratic ideals.

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