Supporting All Members of our Community
Posted on March 30, 20156 Comments 0 Likes Like this post
Sam Morgan - NCDB Program Director
On March 11th, Gail Leslie and I hosted a drop in webinar for new state deaf-blind project staff. In this current grant cycle (2013-2018), approximately 18 projects have added new staff in key roles, serving as Director, Coordinator, Educational Consultant or Family Specialist. Some in this group have a history with the project but are in new positions with new demands. Others joined at the start of the grant cycle and some have occupied positions for only a few months. Nearly a third of this new staff is also new to state deaf blind project work. Given the small size of our project community, this number has significant implications for all of us in deaf-blindness as we move towards operating as a network in the provision of our technical assistance and implementation of practice.
These webinars provide an opportunity for new project staff to meet others and provides us, at NCDB, with a sense of the support needs within projects. This month’s webinar included participants from eight states. The discussion of the group coalesced around a set of issues that are recognizable to anyone who works in the deaf-blind network: completing the APR, collecting census data effectively, prioritizing grant activities, and system problems related to low incidence populations. Even though new, this group was not short on perceptive observations. The newest member of our network honed in on two large issues in our field, early identification and interveners.
The nature of the comments and questions of the participants made me think, aren't we all, in some ways, new to the deaf-blind network? While the new project staff has certain areas where they need to gain knowledge, all of us in the network have a new set of demands around effective collaboration across a dispersed and diverse national network. While we have made significant strides as a network in our collaborative work together we need to intensify our relationships and grow our network. There are still many questions to address:
How can we structure our TA in a tiered model that helps us provide more effective services leading to lasting change?
What do implementation stages look like in an area of low incidence like the deaf-blind network?
While individuals who are new to projects or who are in new roles have specific areas of need for support, they in some ways might be better equipped to embrace new ways of providing technical assistance, something we all are wrestling with. They do not have to let go of old ways of doing things and can embrace new things more easily. When I look back over 20 years of involvement in deaf-blindness, I find myself referring to the old to understand the new, and think it may make it harder for me to adopt new ways of work when it is overshadowed by my thinking about the old.
NCDB will work towards a set of supports for new staff, including drop-in webinars, online resources, and mentoring. However the most important and significant support we can all offer them is including them in our collaborations and sharing knowledge. I know that one reason I have stayed in the community for 20 plus years is the support and learning I have gathered through collaborative activities and the relationships built through that work.