All four of us work in human services...my guess is that there would have been at least 100 years of service and experience sitting around the table. Between us we've experienced the ebb and flow. We know that there are fashions and seasons for even the best of ideas.
Probably the one constant for us all has been our values. If they've changed, it's because our understanding has deepened and we've been able to hold tight to what's important and sit lightly with the stuff that isn't 'of the substance of the faith'. And it has been a matter of faith...
Much of what we believe about inclusion and being person centred has still to be embedded in the way we work. There are pockets of good things happening all over the world but, despite the best intentions and best efforts of many people, we still struggle to find ways to welcome people in to the richness and challenge of community life. We seem to have settled for gathering information about people rather than building relationships with them. We have reduced them to a set of initials or acronyms and believed that we could capture their beauty and complexity in one page.
Without faith we would give up.
It's not a mystery that this is the way things are. Person centred working is highly skilled, nuanced work. It is often messy and can feel chaotic.
People can be like that - and we give up on them when they are too hard...
Organisations on the other hand like to be organised. They value predictability and standardisation. The free-flow of life needs to be tamed and people contained so that the organisation can function - and we invest huge amounts of time energy and money re-structuring them and imagining how to make them better.
We make choices and most often the needs of the system triumph over the needs of the people.
That can't be right, eh?
It can't be right that people play second fiddle to systems. It can't be right that these wonderfully affirming ideas of inclusion and the value of people - ideas underpinned by social justice and human rights - it just can't be right that after our collective 100 years of experience and work we still have to operate on the basis of faith.
And yet...we still believe...
Lots of our conversation was about what we've been doing and how we could do it differently or better...and what it will take to keep us going.
What else would we do?