July 25, 2018

“This is a great forum for us to all talk and learn:” Second Living/Working Well Facilitator Peer-to-Peer Series Call a Success

A circle of clip art people surrounds the Living and Working Well with a Disability logo, Peer-to-Peer Series written underneath.RTC:Rural’s second Peer-to-Peer Series call for Living Well and Working Well with a Disability Facilitators was held on June 28th, 2018. Twenty-two participants joined the conference call and shared their experiences, challenges, and successes as facilitators. The topic of the second call was program implementation, recruitment, and sustainability.

Facilitation skill-building is not the only thing to consider when planning a Living or Working Well workshop in your community. The programs require attention to the needs and capacity of your organization, as well as the needs and interests of participants.

First on the implementation to-do list for many organizations is to figure out how to cover the costs of training, materials, and time. There are sometimes state or federal grants available for health promotion programs like Living & Working Well, but these are very competitive and some Centers for Independent Living (CILs) find that they need to get creative.

As one facilitator shared, “Our center has had relationships with a couple of local companies who have provided small grants to us to assist consumers. In the past, we’ve done different things with these funders, related to basic needs for consumers – housing, transportation, etc. And this year when we knew we wanted to implement Living Well and see how that program worked, we went to a couple of our long‑standing funders and said, ‘We’re going to focus on this program this year. It’s evidence-based, these are the results. We want to see how it works for our center.’”

After planning for program costs, how do you get people in the door for a ten-week workshop? There are many things to consider with just that one question, especially if you are recruiting participants who do not already access CIL services. How and where can you reach people? How do you accommodate different scheduling and transportation needs? How do you keep people wanting to come back each week?

A group of people in a circle in a room. One person is using a wheelchair, one person is using a red and white cane to help with navigation, and the others are standing unaided.

Photo from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

A facilitator on the call shared that, “one of the great ways [to recruit] is to look at the past graduates that have taken the course and really got a lot out of it and ask them to recommend their colleagues or their friends in the community that might benefit from the course. And I would say each course I teach, I get about half the class [who have been referred] from past participants that have graduated.” Other CILs partner with different organizations to recruit participants, such as senior centers, Vocational Rehabilitation departments, and other social service and disability organizations. Building relationships like these not only helps with recruitment to a specific program, but can also strengthen ties and networks across the community to the benefit of all.

To get people coming back each week, facilitators on the call emphasized the importance of helping each participant relate to the workshop material in the context of their own life experience.

“What really makes a difference is to focus on how the content of Living Well is applicable to each person in their personal life, and how it relates to them. And so letting the participants talk about that seems to really resonate with the group and help the group bond and help them learn from the material,” shared one facilitator.

Helping people connect with the curriculum is key to the sustainability of the program. Generally, people love to talk about things that are meaningful to them and make a difference in their lives, and word-of-mouth is often the best way to recruit new participants to programs.

To learn more about what facilitators shared in the call, check out the “FAQ: Facilitator-Answered Questions” handout. View or download a PDF and text-only version of the document by following the links below:

Visit the Facilitator Tips page on the Living and Working Well with a Disability website to access FAQs from Call 1: Managing Group Dynamics.

The next Peer-to-Peer Series call will be on September 13. These calls are free, and open to any Living and Working Well facilitators. Stay tuned for a registration reminder in August.

The Living Well and Working Well with a Disability programs are evidence-based, peer-led health promotion workshops provided by organizations that serve people with disabilities. RTC:Rural provides training and certification for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and other organizations to conduct the workshops. Both programs are based on the Independent Living philosophy, which recognizes that individual choice and self-determination are essential components of living independently in the community.

Since Living Well began in 1995 and Working Well in 2003, over 1,300 facilitators have been trained in 47 states, in turn serving over 10,000 adults with disabilities. To learn more about the development of Living and Working Well, visit the RTC:Rural website project pages here:

Interested in becoming a Living or Working Well with a Disability facilitator or provider? Visit the Living & Working Well with a Disability website or email livingwell@ruralinstitute.umt.edu for more information, resources, or to be added to the Living and Working Well listserv.