The Ontario Independent Facilitation Network has grown out of the collective vision of independent facilitators, people who have a developmental disability/self-advocates and families, coming together in conversation, shared learning, mentoring and building a principled context for the work of independent facilitation.
There has been a great deal of work done in Ontario over the last two decades to help people come to appreciate and to understand the value of ongoing independent facilitation and planning in the lives of people and families living with disabilities. The policy and advocacy work of the Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario (IFCO) alongside their family and community engagement strategies has contributed immensely to this broader awareness.
In the late nineties, IFCO held two large events aimed at bringing together national and provincial leaders and international experts on individualized funding. These events acted as a catalyst for families to think differently about what they wanted to see happen. As a follow-up to these events, as part of their ‘Community Engagement strategies” IFCO held a provincial two day event in 2004 that was called “Workfest”. The Workfest acted as a major impetus for bringing families and independent facilitators together from across the province to reflect on and expand the work.
Between 2005-2006, an Ad Hoc Working Group of identified leaders in facilitation from across the province developed a Terms of Reference from which these efforts would evolve. Beginning in 2007, IFCO hosted three informal gatherings aimed at bringing together people who were passionate about independent facilitation including those that were actively offering independent facilitation to explore a shared vision and common agenda. Following these events, IFCO took a lead role in obtaining an Ontario Trillium Foundation multi-year grant (Modelling Community Change- 2008-2010) focused on using a community development approach to expanding independent facilitation options across Ontario. During this time, the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network continued mobilizing interest across the province and clarifying their role in shaping the practice and defining the values and principles. In 2010 the Network adopted a community of practice approach to organizing itself.
Throughout OIFN’s history, IFCO’s continued research and jurisdictional reviews taught us about the importance of a citizenship based model of support – one where people living with disability live full lives as citizens, with valued human rights, directing and making decisions with support. Research demonstrated the role of individualized funding in helping those living with disability having more choice and control in their lives. The idea of a citizenship model based on human rights, self-determination, and more choice and control was first documented by IFCO in Individualized Funding, A Vision for the Future from the 1998 Symposium, written by Catherine Frazee. As well, research from Ontario, also sponsored by IFCO, taught us the importance of infrastructure supports for individualized funding (like ongoing facilitation and planning) and the need to be ongoing and independent of the direct service system.
(See the following two reports: Linking Individualized Supports and Direct Funding, Making Money Work for People, A Pathway to Self-Determination and Community Involvement for People with Disabilities, [Report of the Roundtable]; Moving Toward Citizenship: A Study of Individualized Funding in Ontario.)
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