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, who have come together in conversations, for shared learning and mentoring, and to build 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 support people to appreciate and to understand the value of ongoing Independent Facilitation in the lives of people living with developmental disabilities, along with their families and/or loved ones. The family and community engagement and policy and advocacy work of the Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario (IFCO) has contributed immensely to this broader awareness.
In the late 1990s, IFCO held two large events aimed at bringing together provincial and national leaders and international experts on Individualized Funding. These events acted as a catalyst for people and families to think differently about what they wanted to see happen. As a follow-up to these events, IFCO held a provincial two day “Workfest” event in 2004, which acted as a major impetus for bringing people, families, and independent facilitators together from across the province to reflect on and expand the work.
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 supporting people living with disability to have more choice and control in their lives. Additionally, IFCO-sponsored research in Ontario taught us the importance of infrastructure supports for Individualized Funding, including Independent Facilitation, that need to be ongoing and separate from the direct service system.
To learn more, see the following reports:
- Individualized Funding: A New Vision, ‘Report from the 1998 Symposium’
- Linking Individualized Supports and Direct Funding: Making Money Work for People – A Pathway to Self-determination and Community Involvement for People with Disabilities
- Rationale for Independent Planning and Facilitation in Ontario: Why MCSS Should Move Quickly to Implementation
- Moving Toward Citizenship: A Study of Individualized Funding in Ontario
A Timeline of OIFN’s Evolution
As an action step, the vision for ‘connecting as facilitators’ is birthed.
A commitment is made to form a working group of facilitators and develop a Terms of Reference.
Ad Hoc Working Group
A Terms of Reference is developed through a series of teleconferences and meetings.
Laying the Ground Work and Gathering Information
Three facilitator forums were hosted by the Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario (IFCO) to gather information and obtain more clarity about the value of facilitation and what people, families, and independent facilitators deem would be helpful into the future.
The importance of developing a Provincial Network and Community of Practice was identified as one of the goals for the future, as was the importance of linking with local facilitation networks that were starting to develop.
Moving Forward with a Provincial Network and Regular Forums
Beginning in 2007, IFCO hosted three informal gatherings aimed at bringing together people who were actively offering and/or passionate about Independent Facilitation to explore a shared vision and common agenda. Following these events, IFCO took a lead role in obtaining an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant in 2008-2010 for the Modelling Community Change and Innovation Project (MCCI), which focused on using a community development approach to expanding Independent Facilitation options across Ontario. Supported by MCCI, three more forums were held, and the provincial network continued to grow in vision and strength. Partners and volunteers were 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.
Growing, Strengthening, Learning, and Expanding Connections
After MCCI project funding ended, volunteers, sponsors, and partners continued their commitment to grow and strengthen the network by holding forums and finding ways to stay connected between events.
Although it was used informally since 2009, the name Ontario Independent Facilitation Network was officially adopted in 2011.
Learning and sharing continued; energy and excitement grew, as did the need for more volunteer involvement and networking.
An invitation was extended to network contacts to join the Ad Hoc Website Committee.
Planning for the Future and Expanding Our Reach
In early 2013, the development of a website began, with a launch planned for the spring.
Priorities and next steps were identified by participants/members who attended two strategic planning days:
- Expand connections and linkages to local and regional groups.
- Support the practice of Independent Facilitation provincially.
- Address gaps.
- Seek out funding/support and write proposals.
- Establish governance and shared leadership.
- Form additional Ad Hoc working groups to take on priority projects.
MCSS-funded Network Activities
In late 2013-2014, OIFN received grant funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), which has since been re-named the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services (MCCSS), to strengthen the network’s provincial presence through education and capacity building activities, website development, and expansion of the Community of Practice.
- Hosting of a two-day Common Threads Conference to explore the origins, vision, and roots of person-directed planning.
- Hosting of a 1.5 network forum in the Near North to share, discover, and learn form the expeirences of Independent Facilitation across Northern and Southern Ontario.
- Eight face-to-face and twenty teleconference meetings of the OIFN Planning Group to oversee planning and development.
- Website upgrades to enhance website functionality, increase Community of Practice engagement, and create a growing library of Independent Facilitation resources.
Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project
In 2015, the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network (OIFN) received two years of funding for the Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project (IFDP) through the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), which has since been re-named the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services (MCCSS). The project intended to expand the capacity of Independent Facilitation for people with developmental disabilities across the province and learn more about the benefits of Independent Facilitation. The project was extended for an additional year in 2017/2018 and again in 2018/2019. The project formally ended on March 31, 2019.
The Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project had three objectives:
- To increase the number of people who are receiving Independent Facilitation and planning;
- To evaluate the outcomes of Independent Facilitation and its impact in the lives of people who choose it;
- To build the capacity of grassroots Independent Facilitation Organizations so they are able to retain facilitators and operate sustainably.
Over 1,600 individuals experienced Independent Facilitation funded through requests to and referrals from the Ministry’s DSOs to an initial 7 Independent Facilitation Organizations* that were funded through this project, and which offered capacity building, mentoring, and support for Independent Facilitation.
OIFN convened gatherings in 6 communities across the province_ Thunder Bay, Near North (Huntsville, Parry Sound, Timiskaming), Hamilton-Brandt, London and area, York Region, and Kingston- with an intention to expand Independent Facilitation across the province.
OIFN continues to focus on the importance of genuine inclusion, belonging and raising people’s voices in the decisions that affect their lives. The need for change is more important than ever. OIFN is committed to collaborating with everyone who wants to work on what’s possible. We look forward to continuing our work together.
*Initial 7 Independent Facilitation Organizations involved in the IFDP:
- Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region (formerly Facile Waterloo)
- Citizen Advocacy Ottawa
- Facile Independent Facilitation (formerly Facile Perth)
- Families for a Secure Future
- Facilitation Wellington Dufferin
- Partners for Planning
- Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports
Following the conclusion of the IFDP, some Independent Facilitation Organizations continue to support a limited number of people and families on a Fee-for-Service basis.
To connect with an IFO directly, please see this Independent Facilitation Organization Contact List.
Creating the Future We Want
OIFN remains passionate about raising the voice of people with developmental disabilities and their families, loved ones, and friends, in pursuit of an everyday, ordinary life in neighbourhood community, where everyone’s contributions are needed, welcomed, and valued.
People and families continue to share stories through a family-led initiative called the Independent Facilitation Matters Coalition, highlighting the difference and contribution Independent Facilitation has made in living the life of their choosing. We have learned over time that adults with developmental disabilities and their families/loved ones know how powerful it is to build a meaningful life in their neighbourhoods and communities. People and families have shared stories about what it takes to stay together and build their resilience and courage.
OIFN is maintaining its strong social media presence by distributing weekly social media posts and quarterly newsletters to share stories, experiences, and connections to ideas about what more is possible and to delight, inspire and start conversations that matter.
OIFN continues to focus on the importance of genuine inclusion, belonging, and raising people’s voices in the decisions that affect their lives. The need for change is more important than ever. We are committed to learning together with people and families and others who care about what true belonging is and what it takes to hold a vision of a more just and inclusive Ontario. We continue to hear from people and families who want something different – a full life in their neighbourhood or community. OIFN is committed to collaborating with everyone who wants to work on what’s possible. We look forward to continuing our work together.