Last week, I attended the WISE community summit conference in Wenatchee. It was an awesome, inspirational and thought-provoking event.

In particular, I attended two sessions presented by Al Condeluci PhD, author of the book "Social Capital, The Key to Macro Change" of and CEO of CLASS.

His talk was an epiphany to me. He pointed out that his training as a psychologist led him to think of services for people with disabilities in the micro sense; that the person being treated has a problem, that the problem could be treated only after a diagnosis, and that the cure involved segregation by special measures in special places.

When he asked his cousin Kerry (his inspiration for seeking a career in psychology) what her problems were, she replied 1) a job 2) a home of her own and 3) friends... exactly the same goals all of us have. He then realized that her problems were actually aggravated by the micro approach. He began to think that the solution to the micro problem can only be resolved by addressing the macro; all of us.

His solution is simple.

  • Identify our key areas of interest
  • Find the matching cluster or community
  • Understand how those communities behave
  • Find the gatekeeper to acceptance

I've always understood that friend networks are a huge factor in people's quality of life, and that acceptance and inclusion was a key need for people with disabilities. The concept is called "natural inclusion". The concept that I could never get my head around was "natural". How can well-intentioned people intervene to create anything called that we would call natural?

After listening to his talk, I realized that what I needed to hear was "intentional inclusion"; we can help people make these connections.