Last week, RTC:Rural was in Connecticut for the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2019 mid-year conference held in Mashantucket, CT. RTC:Rural Director Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Research Associate Dr. Meredith Repke, and Knowledge Translation Associate Lauren Smith met with advisor partners and presented the progress to date on the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Toolkit.
CANAR meetings bring together representatives from tribal VR programs across the country two times each year. “The meetings provide an important opportunity to share our work and gather additional stakeholder input about efforts to translate our self-employment materials for tribal VR programs,” said Ipsen.
Their presentation, ‘TVR Self-Employment Guide: Building resources in partnership’, focused on how the project is using an Iterative Participatory Curriculum Development (IPCD) approach to translate the existing VR Self-Employment Guide for use within tribal VR (TVR) programs. The VR Self-Employment Guide is an online toolkit that helps people with disabilities and VR counselors work from the same material while assessing self-employment readiness and developing a business plan.
“IPCD is a continuous and flexible process that has stakeholder advisors engage in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a curriculum, or in this case Toolkit materials,” said Ipsen. “Our advisors are a group of TVR counselors and directors from five different tribal and state VR programs across the country. During the IPCD process, we gather feedback from them about the content in the Toolkit and how relevant it is to the TVR system. Based on their feedback we propose specific changes to the materials, which we send back to advisors for further review.”
“Not only do we engage regularly with the TVR advisors, we also engage broader stakeholder input throughout the process to gain additional perspectives. This presentation at CANAR is one example,” said Ipsen.
“We know that the TVR Self-Employment Toolkit will be the most useful and relevant when it reflects the culture, values, and needs of its users,” said Smith. “By working closely with our TVR partners throughout this entire process, we’re making sure that this translation is inclusive of the people—both TVR counselors and the people with disabilities they are serving—who will be using it.”
There are four steps in the PCD process. The first step is to do a situation analysis, to “get a lay of the land,” said Ipsen. In this step, the project team discussed current self-employment practices in tribal programs, strengths and weaknesses of the original VR Self-Employment Guide for application in TVR, and how this translation could fit within delivery practices.
The second step is developing a rough outline to guide the process by reviewing the existing curriculum and developing guiding principles. “For example, one of our guiding principles is to make sure we present the content in a friendlier way,” said Smith. “Business jargon can be intimidating, so we don’t want people to be discouraged from pursuing self-employment because it seems impossible to comprehend.”
“We also view it as a way to show that we respect the time and energy people put towards their vocational goals. Each person is approaching self-employment from a different context in terms of disability, learning style, and other things happening in their lives. Developing materials that are easy to understand and inviting help people move towards their vocational goals with fewer barriers.”
Currently the project is on the third step of the IPCD process, developing detailed content. This step involves going through information, chapter-by-chapter, and developing specific content for the Toolkit. It also involves seeking broader input and support.
“For instance, in the chapter on Self-Employment Readiness, our advisors shared that they’ve had consumers who have challenges devoting enough time to working towards self-employment due to other tribal or family obligations,” said Repke. “To address this, we included an additional section about exploring how self-employment efforts align with community and individual values. It guides users to identify their personal values, and to think about how starting a business may support or be at odds with those values.”
Once detailed content is developed, the project will move into the fourth and final step — implementing and evaluating the Toolkit. This involves pilot testing and evaluating the materials. Once this step is completed, the Toolkit will be made available online.
The Tribal VR Self-Employment Toolkit is a work in progress and the project team has currently translated two of the eight chapters in the guide.
Read more about this project on the Rural Self-Employment project page.
Learn more about the history of VR Self-Employment Guide on the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities project page.