5 Ways To Be Community-Led While Serving People With Disabilities

Do you serve people with disabilities? How do you put them at the center of your work? GlobalGiving’s Cassandra Kouris shares tips for community-led practitioners.


“Unless every one of our citizens can reach their full potential, our nations never will.”

The words of Penny Mordaunt, UK Secretary of State for International Development, at the 2018 Global Disability Summit stuck with me—and led me to write this article.

At GlobalGiving, we want to transform aid and philanthropy by accelerating community-led change. What do we mean by community-led?

Community-led organisations are accountable to the vision and priorities set by the community. Thus, a community-led organisation serving people with disabilities is accountable to the visions and priorities set by people with disabilities. They put people with disabilities in the lead and implement adaptable, feedback-driven decision making. They celebrate and mobilize community assets, and they collaborate and share knowledge with others to achieve systemic change.

Inspired by Mordaunt and the excellent ideas generated at the Global Disability Summit, I wanted to share five approaches that an organisation serving people with disabilities can adopt to become more community-led:

    1. Build a strong network.

    Learning from your peers, community of service, and other network of stakeholders is important to improve and strengthen your organisation. In addition, working with a range of different stakeholders, including governments, people with disabilities, civil societies, disabled persons organisations, and so on, allows a strengthened unity on addressing and achieving a community-level, national, and international vision for people with disabilities.

    2. Work with and not for people with disabilities.

    To amplify the voices of people with disabilities and their families, and to put people with disabilities at the heart of the agenda, it is essential to work with people with disabilities. Inclusivity from design to development to implementation of initiatives ensures that people’s voices are heard and included, that they are being fairly represented and that they help to iterate and adapt services as things change. It also ensures that the organisation incorporates equality and inclusion at the heart of their strategy.

    3. Collaborate.

    Whilst there are limited financial sources, competing with others to gain these resources does not help achieve solidarity and unity between disabled persons organisations, government, and civil societies. A better approach might be for smaller organisations to find common, shared goals and approach a funder together, or to look at new sources of income such as earned revenue or social investment.

    4. Increase smart data collection.

    Disability is diverse. To make sure that everyone with any disabilities is reached, regardless of gender, age, sexuality, religion, smarter data collection can help understand people’s needs, their challenges, and areas for support. This will help design projects and activities relevant to them. One approach is to use the Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability, which was developed to help practitioners learn more about a person’s disability.

    5. Raise awareness.

    It is vital to raise awareness of the challenges that people with disabilities face. As a service provider or practitioner, you may be in a position to amplify the feedback you receive about the challenges that people with disabilities face at the local, national, or international level. You may want to frame your discussions around the United Nations Convention of Rights for People with Disabilities. Communication has the power to strengthen public knowledge and support of people with disabilities. It also has the power to accelerate societal change to remove stigma and discrimination.

Over the next year, in partnership with Big Lottery Fund, GlobalGiving will be supporting community-led disabled persons organisations to access resources and strengthen their capacity to sustainably deliver services for their communities. Contact us to learn more.

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Featured Photo: Improve the Rights of Disabled Adults in Nicaragua by Fundacion Cristiana Comunitaria para Personas con Disca

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