What do you get when someone believes in community and inclusion, and is able to see how to make it happen? You get Derek McQuillen, work experience coordinator for the Vancouver School Board, community builder and departing CLBC Vancouver Community Council member.
Derek decided to become a council member in 2015 because he recognized building community was a way to help students move into adulthood.
“We all have needs and they look different, but we all need support,” says Derek. “The self advocates who sit on council learn to recognize their abilities and find allies in community to support and foster them. Participating in the council, you really see how you can support that – it’s a beautiful experience.”
Changing the dynamics
Derek has contributed to the work of the council in many positive ways, but the work he is most proud of is their recruitment efforts and the change in council dynamics.
In 2015, the council had seven members and needed more. They decided what they needed was a strategic and coordinated approach to outreach and awareness. First they developed a video with self-advocates to talk about council, and they invited people to attend as guests to learn more. They sent out a recruitment package to service providers, community agencies, social service departments in government and self advocate groups. Now the Council has 15 members, and they often have up to five visitors at meetings.
“We looked at how we ran our meetings and made them more plain-language so everyone can participate. We use a lot of multi-media and video as part of our discussions, and every meeting we do a round table check-up so everyone participates. I now feel there is a better sharing of power.”
In 2018, Derek began supporting Vicky, a self advocate on the council, to take on the role of Chair. Over the year, Derek met with Vicky and the CLBC manager before each meeting to go over the agenda, and during the meeting he supported her to lead the discussions if needed. Vicky is now confidently chairing the meetings independently.
“I believe if we involve ourselves in community and strengthen our relationships in community, that this affects social change. By participating, we demonstrate what success looks like and we can celebrate it. Jim Dyers says, ‘Why have a meeting when you can have a party?’ It’s a good motto to follow for social change.”