Guidepost 2: Promote Community Membership

Community Life Engagement supports should promote community membership and contribution. This requires:

Starting with inclusive settings and activities.

Accessing inclusive opportunities often involves service providers partnering with other local organizations to identify community resources and generate new community-based options. Examples could include attending a local college or university, being involved in arts and theater organizations, belonging to a church community, or doing volunteer work. Engagement with local organizations is particularly important in rural areas where options are more limited and networks are closer-knit. Tapping into the social networks of individuals, their families, and support staff can also play an important role in identifying inclusive opportunities.

Ensuring staff presence does not limit connections with other community members.

Another factor in increasing community connections is ensuring staff presence does not interfere with the development of relationships with community members. This may require retooling staff training so that it is aligned with new expectations and new settings, particularly if staff who were previously working in a segregated group service setting are shifting to a role of providing community-based supports.

To ensure staff presence does not interfere with the creation of authentic community connections, staff members must maintain a mindset of being in a support role rather than a caregiver role or even a teacher role and be constantly aware of supporting people only to the extent that it is necessary.

Placing value on membership in the community.

Community membership goes beyond simply being in community settings. Community membership is about active engagement. Community membership includes being known by people in one’s community, forming relationships, and contributing to the community through work, volunteer activities, or other community activities. Consistent involvement in community activities can lead to interactions and relationships with others, forming a sense of membership. Supporters can further emphasize developing relationships that enhance peoples’ quality of life, such as relationships with coworkers that extend beyond the workplace.

Considering the individual’s preferences, goals, and other activities.

While community connections are important in general, service providers should avoid unilaterally pursuing active social engagement. Some people may prefer a less connected life, and that should be an option as long as it is an informed choice. People may already have community connections through other aspects of their life, such as employment, or they may not be comfortable with extensive social engagement. It is ultimately up to the individual.

Here are some additional resources to help providers apply Guidepost 2:

  • Guidepost 2: Promote Community Membership. This brief describes the second guidepost and how service providers implement it based on expert interviews and case studies. (ICI Engage Brief #5)

  • Promising Practice: Using Staff Networks to Build Community Connections at LOQW: This promising practice describes how Learning Opportunities/Quality Works staff use their own longstanding relationships in a small town to build connections for people they support. (ICI Service Provider Promising Practice)

  • Fostering Belonging: In this presentation, Dr. Erik Carter describes how faith communities can more actively welcome and support people with disabilities.

  • Putting Faith to Work: This paper shares how faith communities have the opportunity and capacity to transform the lives of many people with disabilities by helping people find meaningful jobs, assume valued roles, and share their gifts.

  • Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute: This center explores how to use local assets, such as “the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions” to build stronger communities.

  • Mapping Community Assets Workbook: This ABCD product is a hands-on workbook with questions and worksheets to guide individual and community asset mapping.

  • Inclusive Retirement: This one-hour video describes a Transition to Retirement intervention developed in Australia to support inclusive retirement options for older adults with IDD.

Last updated