Atlanta, GA – On December 9-10, 2017, the final meeting of the fifth cohort of My Voice. My Participation. My Board (MVMPMB) was held in Augusta, GA. This gathering was the conclusion of a three-part, multi-day training on self-advocacy, which focused on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) learning how to be effective and engaged members of board of directors and advisory councils.
Far too few individuals with IDD have had the opportunity to make valuable contributions as members of boards and councils. MVMPMB seeks to change that by training and preparing individuals with IDD to contribute to the work of state agencies, and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations in Georgia and the United States. Project Coordinator, Susanna Miller-Raines, agrees that “having people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on boards and advisory councils as active, participating members and not tokens, is vital to being diverse and inclusive. Their voices, experience and perspectives are valuable.”
Paige McKay Kubik, the Executive Director of the Frazer Center in Atlanta, GA shares how their experience of having a member of their board with a developmental disability has been so important. “[This individual’s] opinions and feedback are critical. They inform and vet board decisions so that [the board is] respectful and responsive to the needs and desires of the people we support,” said Kubik.
The MVMPMB program consists of three components, all of which help participants prepare for and obtain leadership roles. First is “Self-Awareness & Self-Advocacy”. During the first session, participants identify their personal strengths and how they can contribute to a board or council’s success. Liz Weintraub from the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) was the guest lecturer for this weekend. Next is an in-depth look at “What are Boards of Directors and Advisory Councils?”. Members and peer-mentors will be able to identify the characteristics of an effective board member and ways in which their unique gifts and talents fit in that role. The cohort concludes with “Translating Knowledge into Practice”, where members and peer-mentors will take the knowledge that they have gained in Part One & Part Two and practice the skills they have learned through a series of scenarios and the opportunity to network with professionals within the disability community.
MVMPMB alumni have become involved in over 20 boards and councils throughout Georgia. Alumni serve on boards at the Frazer Center and DIG, Inc. Three alumni serve on the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. They also serve on advisory councils for the Autism Plan for Georgia, the CLD, and the Atlanta Autism Consortium.
This project is made possible through a funding partnership between the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.