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Person-Centered Programming

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending CAN’s Summit on Building a Person-Centered Community. Approximately 150 Austin leaders and residents spent three hours examining how they develop their programs, services and funding priorities from the perspectives of the people they serve.

Our facilitator, Anna Jackson of Alpinista Consulting, led us through half a dozen Liberating Structures. They are exercises designed to push our boundaries, stretch our assumptions, and move us beyond what we think we know to places of compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Through intense questioning, listening, and engagement participants checked their biases at the door and were moved to tears on some cases. One of the most interesting exercises was listing the key indicators of what a non-person-centered program or event looks and feels like. Participants easily listed 50 indicators of what bad planning and programming look like. Indicators included having meetings in the middle of the day, off of transportation grids, without the people the program is trying to serve, without providing childcare, with only one day’s notice, in only one language. Ever attend a meeting or program like that? Through identifying negative indicators, planners and programmers can do a better job of creating and delivering their services.

If we are going to truly create person-centered programs and services, then the people we serve need to be at the table, on the board of directors, and in the meetings where decisions are made. It is the only way to create patient-centered, student-centered, or person-centered services that improve community health, economics, and ultimately well being.

To learn more about Liberating Structures go to:

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