System mapping is important for groups like Peer Positive because it helps people with different perspectives of complex issues find common ground. Even where experiences are similar, differences still exist and these differences can become more pronounced within larger groups. Systems maps visually represent the current thinking of a diverse group of people by drawing connections between ideas and experiences.
Even within smaller organizations, there are pre-existing policies, practices and interests that can create barriers to successfully creating positive change. Throw inter-personal politics and relationships between service users, service providers, board members, and funders into that mix, and things can get complicated very quickly.
Expertise exists at many levels: formal education, informal experience and the breadth of knowledge, skills, and resources that exist within these spectrums. Building connections between agencies and community champions, or service users and service providers, ultimately bridges gaps in understanding and removes the silos that are so prevalent in the social service sector.
There was recognition that service providers need navigation room around what works best for their context. This was of great importance because it acknowledges that one service provider’s approach toward being Peer Positive may not work for another. Giving service providers the room and support to develop the best solutions to becoming Peer Positive in their environment is a key to bringing about change.
I believe that we all have some kind of unconscious fear of finding ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We may not even have any specific definitions of what our comfort zones are, but we all feel it.
At the heart of Peer Positive is the belief that the individual is the expert of his or her own experience and needs. As a participant in this discussion, I feel that embodying this value within the Peer Positive community of change is also essential.
At a recent Peer Positive Community of Change session I was drawn to a discussion about resistance to change in our own work, as I‘m aware that I don’t always ‘practice what I preach’. It’s hard to get out of our comfort zone at work, to shake up our status quo.
What are some of the challenges of introducing Peer Positive to an organization that concentrates leadership capacity with the Executive Director and Board rather than dispersing it more widely?
The first round of training sessions for Peer Positive Champions were held in February and March of 2015. They were co-delivered by three pairs of peer and professional trainers, who tackled the topics of Critical Reflective Practice, Addressing Inequities, and Co-Learning. As successful as they were, they also gave us an important opportunity for learning and reflection.