6 Prototypes


Visual Identity-14Relationships are super important!
There are many individuals at day programs who feel the quality of their day comes down to who they are matched with, not the activities they do. There are also many individuals living at home who feel the quality of their housing transition comes down to who is in their support network.
And yet, we know very little about people’s relational preferences. Beyond their person centered meetings and our personal history with them, we don’t really know what people might want – if they were exposed to different options.
n’Tandem is a Matching Process and Platform that helps day programs and life shares figure out who might ‘get-on’, and how to broker that relationship. Individuals create a profile of the constructs that matter for matching people and based on their profile, individuals receive recommendations.
They can browse other profiles and if there’s a match on paper, it’s time to make it happen virtually or in person. This backend methodology of collecting in-depth data and matching has a wide range potential of front-end outputs; 21 days, shared staffing, Kudoz, etc.



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Adults living with a cognitive disability are too often in the dark about sex & relationships. It’s a topic that’s not openly talked about, for which there is a lot of discomfort and shame.
Ask A Dude turns sex & relationships from being a hidden topic of conversation to being THE topic of conversation, and a lifestyle brand; in a safe, enlightening, and irreverent way. Individuals living with a disability are invited to ask questions – by calling a number and leaving their question, writing a post-card, recording a message etc.
Ask A Dude draws on local comedians, actors, improv artists, and persons with a disability to film a conversation answering the crowd-sourced questions. The short film’s that are produced are distributed to group homes & share homes via a network of Ambassadors. These Ambassadors help facilitate ‘watching parties’ to view the short films. These ‘watching parties’ have a set of routines associated with them – they are held in comfy places and spark an open conversation afterwards, and encouraged viewers to ask questions to be answered in future episodes.



Visual Identity-15Small businesses have tons on their plate, and one of the big barriers to hiring people with a disability is cost. They can’t afford full-time or even part-time employees.  And yet, they have lots of small jobs that they are forced to do themselves: whether it’s calling customers, unpacking supplies, moving furniture, etc.
Hire Wire co-op changes that! Businesses join the Hire Wire co-op and get access to bulk purchasing, communication & web design, and to an HR broker. This HR broker helps to identify the small jobs – episodic or ongoing – that they could use help with, and then bundles these small jobs, to make a ‘full’ job for an individual with a cognitive disability. The HR Broker also matches people with disability to these ‘job bundles’ and offers ongoing support.



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Frontline staff expressed they are sometimes lonely, isolated, and in tumultuous relationships with one another. A negative workplace event can too easily spiral into anxiety and damaging behaviour among staff. The common forum for dealing with this turmoil is monthly or quarterly staff meetings. Tensions can build up and boil over, and at the moment there is little time or space to address team dynamics differently.
Check Mates creates the time and space for twiceweekly team check-ins. Teams start and end their weeks with a huddle. Huddles are 15-minute periods for setting weekly goals, naming challenges, and reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Huddles are standard practice in the tech industry – so why not bring them to the social sector? Huddles might be facilitated by a rotating team coach role – who models how to run huddles, and comes back to troubleshoot during the week!



Visual Identity-16Supervisors are too busy fighting fires to do reflective practice with their teams.They are also dispersed in group homes, day programs, and children’s services; and have limited peer-to-peer contact with each other. At the same time, staff teams and family members have limited opportunities to give feedback to supervisors or to the organizations. Sure, there are yearly satisfaction surveys, but the data that comes back isn’t readily actionable.
Share on Air changes that. Staff members and family members submit stories about their experiences – good or bad – to the Share on Air platform. Each week, supervisors and wannabe supervisors can read the stories and sign-up to go to an informal ‘jam’ around a chosen question or theme. Jams are not your typical staff meetings. They are informal, impromptu gatherings with tools for discussing issues in a reflective and generative way. They are held in small groups at lunch & coffee spots, or over the phone. Supervisors earn points and recommendations for going to jams and work together to capture what they discussed in a visual way and share it back out into their organisation and community.


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We have a task issue in group homes. Getting tasks done competes with doing fun, developmental activities. With HackTivities we are looking at how to re-frame tasks and turn them into more interesting, teachable moments. By doing this, we’ll create the space for far more innovative and interesting activities outside of the home to take place. HackTivities costs organizations and systems no additional monies – it’s about creating a different, more positive incentive structure for staff to do the same-old things in fresh ways.

Out of our ethnographic research came the realization that carrots might be more effective than sticks to motivate staff. One quote that really struck us was: “Wild, praise from management…you never hear that!”  Social praise could be a much more powerful incentive for staff. With HackTivities,staff & homes can earn praise & prizes for ‘hacking’ day-to-day activities and making them more fun. We’ll provide staff with inspiration for how to hack activities, and a way to share what they are doing between group homes! The Hacktivities platform will share the stories of what group homes are trying, and perhaps use some gamification principles to turn it into some friendly competition.



THE RESEARCH BEHIND THE PROTOTYPES

Team BrainGamers

Finding the “super” in supervisors, Braingamers on a road to discovery.

Team Shifts-01What kind of road are you on?” Braingamer Frankie asked. “A country road, a straight road, a six-lane highway?” Metaphors were one attempt to explore the realities supervisors face in their work. The team expected to see some complacent, apathetic people in the job.

What they found, instead, were supervisors full of ideas, but disproportionately spending their time on tasks other than supervising: whether it was manually adding up hours for timesheets or fielding phone calls. There were far too few opportunities for critical questioning, coaching, and modeling team routines – for what the Braingamers are calling ‘reflective supervision.’ To enable more reflective supervision, the team is exploring what’s standing in the way – e.g expectations, skills, tools & technologies – and designing clever workarounds.


Team SWAT

Security versus Socialization: Alarm in community as safely housed man has night on the town.

Team Shifts-06In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory of human motivation. He studied the healthiest 1% of the population, and found that unless peoples’ ‘deficiency-needs’ were met – for things like security, sleep, food – they could not focus on ‘metamotivation’ – on things like self betterment and personal growth. Maslow’s theory has been widely visualized as a pyramid, with basic needs on the bottom and self-actualization at the very top.

In the 70 years since Maslow’s theory, there have been plenty of revisions and rebuttals. Some researchers have turned the pyramid on its head. But for Team SWAT, the idea of a hierarchy of needs has been called into question by a set of positive deviant families. This is a set of families who have rejected existing housing and living options for their adult children with cognitive disabilities. They’ve literally constructed a different reality. It’s a reality that weaves together secure and independent housing with friendship and a vocation. These needs are conceptualized as one-in-the-same. How might Team SWAT enable this combined reality for more adults with a cognitive disability?

Luckily, there are some clues from the positive deviant families: (1) ways of bringing families together with similar personalities; (2) ways of drawing on professionalized resources: accountants, lawyers, engineers – not simply relying on professional disability service providers; and (3) ways of building-in privacy and spontaneity from the very start.


Team Carra

Mafia, Modern or Matriarch? Team Carra applies Family Systems Theory to Business Models.

Team Shifts-02When Team Carra hit the streets to talk to businesses about hiring young people with a disability, they differentiated between the small and big varietals. What they didn’t expect to find was that irrespective of size, some businesses felt like a tight, close-knit family. Employees of these ‘family-like’ businesses described being cared for, looked after, and with a sense of mission that went beyond the products or services they sold. It was here, in these settings, that owners and employees could imagine welcoming new family members with and without disabilities.

That’s when Team Carra stumbled upon the broader opportunity. What if they looked at all businesses as a kind of family, whether close-knit, distant or blended, and offered fit-for-purpose supports for inclusive hiring? How might they identify the type of family a business is, and better understand the match with the prospective employee? So that employment services weren’t just about finding jobs, but about strengthening families?


Team Day Dreamers

Day Dreamers dream-up finding ‘your tribe’.

Team Shifts-03Arrive. Wait. Go out. Wait. Return. Wait. Go Home. Such is the daily rhythm of people attending disability day programs. Idleness abounds, but as Team Day Dreamers found, idleness is not necessarily a lousy outcome. A lousy outcome is feeling unhappy, stressed, unmotivated. Like you’ve wasted your day. And yet because Day Programs lack clear external milestones (like graduation), performance goals or feedback mechanisms, ‘wasted days’ seem to have more to do with whom you spend your day.

Indeed for a segment of people in day programs, relationships trump activities. Spend the day with people you like, and not surprisingly, it’s a better day. Idle time has more meaning. You are more open and receptive to trying things. For this segment, how could peer-to-peer networks (tribes) become the unit of focus? Rather than pre-set programs? In other words, how might Team Day Dreamers enable individuals to find their tribe, and for the tribe to be the entity that contracts out its own activities & supports? How might tribes choose from a broader range of activities & supports, and not just those organized by paid staff?


Team Spread The Love

Spread The Love asks where is the love: and finds that it has been replaced with high-fives and other “safer” options.

Team Shifts-05The birds and the bees is that quintessentially awkward parent-child conversation. But, for adults with a cognitive disability, there is little ongoing conversation: awkward or not. In the absence of much discourse around sexuality, Spread The Love found the conservative mindset prevailed in Group Homes and Shared Living settings. Sexuality was something dirty, unsafe or feared. “Will masturbation shrink my brain?” an adult in his 40s asked. Staff tended to shut such conversations down. Without the backing of a clear sexuality policy, they err on the side of abundant caution. And that was particularly true for staff in longer-term caregiving roles with individuals. They didn’t want to rock the boat.

And yet, nearly all of the individuals Spread The Love spent time with, wanted to rock the boat. They wanted to feel human touch. Indeed, ‘the cuddle party’ was the most popular intervention chosen. For many individuals living in a Group Home, the only time they are touched is when they are restrained or firmly directed away from something. How might meaningful touch be facilitated, or brokered to?

Here’s where Spread The Love is drawing on inspiration from an unlikely source: nursing homes. Well, one particular nursing home in the Bronx, New York. At Hebrew Home in Riverdale, staff are trained to encourage human touch and relationships. Even amongst frail residents with memory loss. Perhaps not surprisingly, quality of life indicators have risen dramatically.


Team Tenacious Trio

Tenacious Trio gets beneath team tension 

Team Shifts-07Crossed arms. Passive aggressive sound bites. Quiet detachment. For a segment of staff working within children and adult disability services, defensive posturing is a visible reality. By observing and talking with those on the frontlines, Team Tenacious Trio is beginning to probe what is behind such passive coping mechanisms, and compare to staff who are actively coping with similar stressors.

Interestingly, the style of coping mechanism wasn’t necessarily related to length of time working. Newer and more senior staff both displayed active and passive styles. There was something about their workplace – and the interactions there – that kept re-triggering discomfort and shame. One trigger was physical space. Many staff came day after day to an environment that looked and felt and smelt the same.

How might Tenacious Trio identify triggers, and try out a more therapeutic approach to engaging staff – from the very start of their employment? How might recognizing and acknowledging extreme stressors create a more proactive and less reactionary culture?


Team Hopscotch

Bored & Busy: Hopscotch distills the issue of overwhelmed staff and underutilized residents.

Team Shifts-04Kitchens are congregation points, social hubs for household activity. Unless you live in a Group Home, where they can often be staff-directed spaces: food is out of reach; meals are prepared for people; eating is a task to be checked off a list, rather than an experience to be enjoyed together. For Team Hopscotch, the pre and post dinner time period is full of opportunities to shift how staff & residents interact.

From 3-9pm, routines dominated the lives of the residents they observed: snack time, medications, making dinner, cleaning-up, walks, and bedtime. Staff were busy completing tasks. Residents were busy waiting, wandering between rooms, without much of anything purposeful to do.

How might Team Hopscotch help staff re-distribute the tasks, and support a richer & fuller afternoon & evening life with residents?  If their research is any indication, pooling staff resources, offering small prompts, suggestions, and leading by example can disrupt some of the same-old patterns and spark new activities.