'We are all colleagues together in a very important mission.
Ultimately our goal can be nothing less than total transformation of our culture.
Only when the most vulnerable of us is valued and appreciated for his or her gifts will everyone be safe and supported to be a fulfilled person.
Inclusion is in the journey, not in the goal. Each step of the journey is as important as the ultimate destination.'
A wonderful gathering happened in Liverpool on the 27th April 2016. People travelled from all over the UK, from Cornwall to Scotland, in order to join together in celebrating 20 years of Partners in Policymaking leadership courses.
It was made even more wonderful and emotional as the news broke that finally the people who had been fighting for justice for the 96 people who were killed and 766 people who were injured at Hillsborough had got justice. One person said, 'we always believed that we were right and now the rest of the world knows it'. This statement echoed what Partners does for its participants; there is a knowledge and understanding between us and a belief. We don't question when someone says they are having a hard time, we support each other through bad times, through grief and also celebrate when something goes well.
It was a wonderful celebration. The sun shone, we had stunning views across the Mersey and thanks to Gaynor, Julie and Wendy the venue was wonderful with Partners in Policymaking bunting, afternoon tea and balloons making it feel like a real party. Mix It gave an amazing performance at the evening celebrations and Elvis even made an appearance too.
We remembered those who we have lost - Nicola Elwell, Danion Allen, Tia Pollitt, Roger Dyer, Jo Harris, Mitchell Green - our children who taught us so much and left us too soon. Also Paul Taylor, Herb Lovett, Judith Snow, Marsha Forrest, Amanda Caine, Karen West - all the people who fought so hard for justice and rights for disabled people. We will never forget them.
Hearing all the good news lifted our spirits and several people said they felt recharged. There is a real unity and power in our network. None of us need to make this journey alone.
Personally, I can't tell you how moved I am by all the lovely messages and comments. The flowers and gifts were overwhelming. Two weeks later I am still getting waves of happiness just thinking about it. Thank You.
Many people are uncomfortable with the term 'leader' or 'leadership', preferring terms such as 'activist'. Partners graduates are people I admire and respect because they are not driven by personal ambition but by a cause and a desire to make life better for people who need support. Partners are people who exercise leadership and bring about changes. The celebration was an opportunity to hear about some of the wonderful things people are doing.
Working separately means that our voices are limited, but when these voices are heard collectively, giving united messages of what disabled people, their families and the people who are paid to support them want and need, things will really begin to change for the better. Partners encourage each other to imagine better, to seek the best solutions. We have been doing this for twenty years and will continue together until we are successful in creating a fair and inclusive society.
During World War II, many men who were exempted from the military as religious conscientious objectors were assigned to alternative duty with civilian public service teams and sent to work in state institutions for disabled people. They were horrified by the brutality and inhuman conditions of the institutions and recorded instances in diaries and in letters to one another.
After the war, a group of them founded an organisation to improve the institutions and began publishing articles in national magazines about their experiences. Their accounts were the first exposures in decades of the deplorable conditions in state institutions and an important contribution to eventual reform.
Three things about these men enabled them to speak out: they were "outsiders" with fresh, unbiased eyes, who got to see all the way inside; they had allies in one another who validated their perceptions and gave them the support of a group; and they were men of conscience who refused to walk away from the suffering of other human beings. By recounting and by publicising what they had seen, they acted according to their consciences and brought an unacceptable situation into public view.
Partners in Policymaking helps its participants to get out of the confusing maze that is 'service land' in order to know what is possible and see the way forward clearly.