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.
THE RESEARCH BEHIND THE PROTOTYPES
Finding the “super” in supervisors, Braingamers on a road to discovery.
What 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.
Security versus Socialization: Alarm in community as safely housed man has night on the town.
In 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.
Mafia, Modern or Matriarch? Team Carra applies Family Systems Theory to Business Models.
When 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’.
Arrive. 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.
The 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
Crossed 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?
Bored & Busy: Hopscotch distills the issue of overwhelmed staff and underutilized residents.
Kitchens 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.