Over the last three months, Chris Dodds and her 20-year-old daughter, Darci, have been helping Community Living BC to design a new employment service scheduled to be offered in 2019.
The Advancing New Support Option (ANSO) project started because individuals and families around the province said they were interested in support to find employment, but wanted a service that focused on other parts of life too. The new service aims to help people find a job they love, but also help with things like making friends, finding new opportunities in community and learning skills that build confidence and independence.
Chris and Darci are part of the Victoria design team with local service provider Lifetime Networks, who, from September to November, trialed various parts of the new service. They are one of four clusters from around the province made up of small teams of parents, service users, service providers and CLBC staff engaged in what is known as User-Led Design. User-Led Design is about including the people who use the service in the center of the design process.
“I’ve loved being part of the ANSO trial,” says Chris. “It’s very exciting as a parent to be part of designing something that will help our kids connect and contribute to community.”
Families are part of User-Led Design process
Chris and her family moved from Irvine, California to B.C. in 2016, with roots originally in Ontario. They decided to move as a family from the U.S. where they had been living for 16 years, partly because there were limited supports available to Darci after she finished high school. Both of Chris’s now adult children, Taylor and Darci, are on the autism spectrum and Darci has diabetes, so it was important to her and her husband Brian that their new home was somewhere with good health care and support services.
“I had read articles about how B.C. was very progressive about employment for people with disabilities,” says Chris. “There seemed to be a very inclusive frame of mind in B.C. that everyone could work and contribute.”
Chris learned about CLBC through local agency Pivot Point, which works with children with autism, and then went through the assessment process to confirm Darci qualified for supports.
Once Darci was eligible for CLBC support, her facilitator helped Chris to access respite support that Darci uses to attend a social cooking club with Lifetime Networks, which is how they found out about the opportunity to participate in the ANSO trial. “We were really excited when Lifetime Networks offered us the chance to be part of the ANSO trial. Darci has been paired with a very skilled support person who just gets it and isn’t afraid to use her own life experience and connections. ”
What difference do people want in their lives?
The ANSO trial includes trying out parts of the new service. One of the first conversations with Chris and Darci was about the difference Darci was looking for in her life. Lifetime Networks explored how they could help Darci achieve the impact she was wanting in four key areas: employment, life-long learning, community connections and building relationships.
Darci said she wanted to feel successful in a job using her Microsoft Office skills. She was also seeking a sense of independence in her new community of Langford, near Victoria. Goals were set, as well as a check-in strategy so that Darci and her mom could be continually evaluating and adjusting the service. The idea is that the new service will be able to respond to the natural rhythm of a person’s life and adjust over time in response to their changing goals and needs.
Another key design feature is that service isn’t based out of one location, but rather happens in community and occurs when and where the person’s goals will best be achieved. After a few weeks of trialling the new service, Darci enrolled in a website design college course, learned bus routes, met friends for music bingo, went to a job fair and was even offered a job interview.
The service won’t be based in one location, but happen in community
“Darci is a whiz on the computer and really likes the idea of getting a job and making money, but she also really likes a schedule where she can do other things like be a college student and go to cooking classes and just figure out where she likes to hang out in her community,” says Chris.
After testing the different parts of the service, ANSO participants are led through a reflection process where their ideas are used to further refine the design of the service.
“I’ve been on parent advisory committees before, but this is different,” says Chris “I love the idea of government working together with families to create what we think will work. As parents we are always trying to connect all the different services and opportunities to make the best life possible for our kids,” she adds. “If the new service can help us connect all the pieces that make life purposeful, then I think we will have designed a good thing.”
To learn about the background of the ANSO project, click here to read our story “Building the next generation of community inclusion services.”
To see how User-Led Design is being used in another CLBC program, click here to read our story on families helping to re-design CLBC’s welcome and orientation process.