• Philip J Connolly

The Bluffers Guide to Obtaining Old and New Resources

Most NGOs have two arms to them. The first is the one that established them

as providers of information, advice and guidance, possibly backed up by legal

rights and/or group forums. The second leg rests on policy, campaigns and

advocacy. There may also be a service delivery leg that is possibly based upon

innovation in resolving a specific need and often for a specific impairment.

Sometimes the innovation is in integration with mainstream services and

sometimes the innovation is in specialist provision. But is another leg possible.

One that connects people to resources or the means of generating their own

resources. The Disability Resilience Network could take this route, we urge you

to support us to test this option and indeed to succeed so that you may come

to see it as a route for you too.

Resources are manifold; they may include money, food, shelter but also the

resources described as social capital that are generated through social

relationships, and these could include acts of neighbourliness, lifts, informal

childminding, etc. Resources may have intermediate stages such as a particular

knowledge or skill and intermediate generators too such as the people with

community development skills or even simply those people willing to host the

meetings. Some resources may be near permanent such as gardening

equipment for an allotment whereas others may be short lived such as

cartridge ink for a printer. Naturally many of these resources are not visible so

local authorities and the voluntary sector are investing considerable efforts

into compiling directories and mapping their existence. Once known it may be

possible to bring them into play, even share them. It may also be possible to

convert the money spent guarding buildings and equipment into training

people in the skills to operate the same machinery instead.

Increasingly it is possible for disabled people to commission their own

resources, design them and even to make them. There are now more than

twenty digital fabrication laboratories or fab labs in the UK. Most of these fab

labs are open to the general public for them to gain access to the machines on

at least one day a week. I recommend Dr Ursula Hurley’s book on our

collaboration called “In the Making: Digital Fabrication and disability” to those

wishing to follow up their interest. It is possible to print everything from a

wheelchair to a new hip bone. There are websites where you can upload new

designs or download existing prototypes.

Disabled people themselves can revolutionise access to information by sharing

their insights and experiences on user generated video clips (for instance of

the welfare system) via a digital platform. I have developed two apps that

house this possibility. The second one called bResilient allows users to

download the url for video content that is already on the net. I hope to bring

you more on this shortly.

Of course money itself is a vital resource and how to create value is explored in

Bernard Lietaer’s book and again more recently in Charles Eisenstein’s book,

“Sacred Economics”, Both books describe alternate and already successful

systems such as Fureai Kippu from Japan, a system of the exchange of credits

for meeting much of the social care needs of people living and ageing in their

own communities.

These approaches are not offered as replacements for state support but as

supplements to state sponsored provision. The Government appears to be

withdrawing its previous commitment to disabled people as evidenced by the

five weeks wait between applying for universal credit and obtaining this form

of social security. The DRN will not simply look to close that gap through its

dialogue with Government but to offer the claimants options for self- directed,

self-sufficient and mutual support.

So what is possible in the future? Could the DRN not simply listen to people as

my own local authority has declared its wish to but go further and equip

people with the means of intervening in their own predicament and begin

resolving their own needs. I don’t know but what I do know is that every

question that starts with the words, what if gets answered. We therefore need

to ask more and bigger questions with greater expectancy of an adequate

answer. Somebody somewhere once told us: “Ask and you shall receive.”

Disabled people are resourceful, they need opportunities not penalties. I have

on occasion been asked, how would you land the policy transformation? One

answer for DRN supporters to consider is this. The UK economy was the fifth

biggest in the world, but it has just lost that position to India. Other countries

are also set to march past us. Those countries where everyone is a participant

and where everyone is a resilitator committed to furthering the aspirations of

their fellow human beings are set to steal a march on us. I end with a

prediction: equality will turn out to be our motivation that eliminates the UK

productivity gap. Our best resource are our people. Support them. All of them.

Visit www.disabilityresiliencenetwork.com and join the DRN

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