Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seeding Change and Policymaking

Greetings, and welcome to the NTAR Leadership Center's new blog called "Seeding Change".

Why seeding change? Because I feel the work we are doing through the Center is about introducing people to new ideas, concepts, knowledge, and most importantly, other people from diverse fields. Our hope is that these 'seeds' will result in fostering new or different approaches -- approaches that will ultimately create jobs and better economic outcomes for adults with disabilities.

I also like the concept of seeding change because I like to garden, and I find that the “systems change” work that we all do is very organic and a lot like gardening. For example, in public policymaking, it is important to have an idea of what you want to accomplish. In gardening, it also helps to start out with a plan and a layout of what you want to grow. Yet, in either case, there’s no guarantee that what you end up with will look anything like what you planned. That is a given. In my garden, I am amazed that every year I approach it in the same way -- I plan it, plant it, prune it, weed it, water it -- and every year it ends up looking different!

I could, of course, rip it all out if what I wanted doesn't work out -- or I can embrace the unexpected, because it may be just as good or better than what I thought would grow. In my garden, I find doing a little bit of both helps. The perennial phlox that I planted several years ago decided to seed itself all over my yard and now comes up in the most unexpected of places. I could dig it up -- but I like its brazenness. On the other hand, my husband and I waged a relentless fight against the potato blight that threatened my Jersey tomatoes this past summer (potato blight and tomatoes? Who knew?). The point is: in gardening, I need to strike a balance between the things I have the power (and desire) to change -- and my willingness to live with the consequences of my actions or inactions. The same is true in making public policy!

When it comes to working in the trenches to reform a system, as many of you are doing, I have come to realize how important it is to be vigilant and pay attention to it every day. While I must admit I am not able to be in my garden on a daily basis weeding, watering, or fertilizing, I recognize that to neglect it for even one day means something is going to run amok. Last year, I somewhat ignored my garden (o.k., really ignored it), and I learned one valuable lesson -- the power of those plants that I do not nurture to take over. In this case, I underestimated the power of Creeping Charlie to take over the yard. And, as many of you who have worked in public policy know, trying to undo what has “taken over” while you weren’t looking is back-breaking, difficult work.

Finally, in both gardening and policymaking, I have found that new ideas can come from unexpected places. Inspiration for my garden can come from anywhere -- the farmers market, talking to friends, or looking at endless magazines. You never know where the muse is. The same goes for changing systems and creating opportunities: inspiration to change -- or to try something new -- can come from the most surprising sources.

Recently, I was talking to my colleague Mary Alice Mowry from Minnesota. Mary Alice was telling me that she had gone to a workshop at the Milwaukee APSE conference in early summer and it really energized her. She said the workshop asked the participants three simple questions. Number one: What time is it? Number two: What do you need to learn, unlearn, and relearn? And Number three: What is your next bold move?

So, as we launch this new blog, I invite each of you to become an active participant in the two-way “conversations” our guest authors will lead every week in this space. In the spirit of change and inspiration, please share your comments and insights, and tell us:

What do YOU need to learn and relearn? What is YOUR next bold move?

Kathy Krepcio

Director, NTAR Leadership Center


  1. Thank you so much for starting this blog. I can tell you I need to learn to keep on advocating, keep on working for change. I do need some time to recharge, as these activities require both physical and emotional energy. My next bold move is to ask that NTAR look at the situation in Arizona, my new home. Everyone here tells me Arizona is in the dark ages when it comes to disability resources, and I'm beginning to believe it is true. I'm more than willing to help!

  2. Thanks so very much for sharing your thoughts and for your energy and advocacy in working for change! Please feel free to share our website with your colleagues in Arizona and we will work to engage Arizona in our efforts.