Disability Justice as a Complex Adaptive System (DJCAS)-3

Part 3: Engaging the Fuller Reality of the DJCAS

Advocacy (especial advocacy on behalf of individuals or small groups) forces a very distinct realism and depth in any view of the DJCAS as a support system. No knowledge of the DJCAS as imagined or designed can provide this.

At the same time, this deepened perspective is created by specific engagements (analogous to the engagements between parents and child in the clinic model), not by the model of the support system as it was designed.

In fact, the basic model of individual advocacy shows this. The model:

  • The goal of advocacy for an individual is to force the system to operate as it was designed.
  • The fulcrum of transformation to achieve this is to threaten the support system with a forced larger change in its operations if it doesn’t agree to operate as it was designed in this instance.

Individual advocacy incrementally changes the subject system and can benefit an individual or a small group fairly quickly. (The issue of how much permanent change there is in The System is complex. I’ll start to address it later in other posts.)

What is usually called systems advocacy tries to benefit a community of persons impacted by a policy inconsistent with the system as designed. Using organized pressure (political or legal) the focus is altering that policy to insure access to support by a community of persons within the system as it was designed.

Disabled communities also use advocacy to imagine new dimensions in the design of systems of support. These efforts use techniques of legislative advocacy, community organizing, protest, political pressure, and so on, to build new models of how support should be designed. When successful they can change the way support systems are actually implemented.

Finally, disability communities can build alternate systems of support using designs that fit support needs of our community better than the larger social institutions of The System. Getting good at these kinds of advocacy should be a part of every disabled community’s efforts to build real support for its members. Such advocacy skills are more easily generalized through intersectional community organizing, as well, supporting real collaboration across marginalized communities.

At the end of the day, though, The System will, as part of its normal dynamic, operate to devalue and institutionalize (incarcerate in one way or another) all marginalized communities. Advocacy experience is a vital tool for fighting these mechanisms of oppression.

But there is another dimension to DJCAS that requires a deeper take on how The System operates. Getting at this dimension requires a more nuanced exploration of the difference between the System As Designed and the System As Engaged through our advocacy.

Author: disabilitynorm

hubby2jill, advocate50+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, Tom and Pepper the wundermutts