Vinfen’s Supported Employment Director Phoebe Goodman and Senior Program Director Sydney Rives have embarked on a journey of learning and leadership called Creating Our Common Wealth. This innovative program is designed to inspire and sustain emerging leaders in the art of community building and social innovation with and on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities in Massachusetts.
The initiative was developed as part of Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Commissioner Elin Howe’s plan to create more comprehensive social inclusion policies. Phoebe and Sydney kicked off their involvement with the three-year program in April of 2015. Since then, they have joined their 150 fellow participants made up of staff members, family, and self-advocates, in the formal quarterly training sessions.
“I find the groups and learning opportunities invigorating!” Sydney said, “I am thankful to know there are others in Massachusetts who agree that our protective system often limits individuals’ abilities to experience life to the fullest; successes and failures. I am thankful to be given the opportunity to learn from others to increase my awareness and abilities as a supervisor, an advocate, and an avenue of change in today’s society.”
Phoebe and Sydney have also had the opportunity to visit agencies with marked successes in overcoming the barriers encountered by direct care professionals when connecting the people they serve with their community and forming supportive relationships.
“Creating Our Common Wealth has helped me see people with disabilities in a different light,” Phoebe said. “It’s exposed me to real friendship building, community mapping, and the civil rights movement for persons with disabilities. It’s increased my awareness of how I view friendship with the people I support and it has changed the way I initiate meaningful relationships with them.”
Vinfen Director of Training and Development Katherine Fox is serving as one of the Regional Facilitators for Creating Our Common Wealth, and has been collaborating with Northeast Region Director of Staff Development Pat Cronin and Statewide Director of Family Support Margaret Van Gelder to continue developing the innovative program.