Forming Partnerships

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Forming Partnerships

Thank you to all the Conversation Leaders for their time and commitment to taking part in this important conversation. Please take a moment to learn about the conversation leaders by clicking on their profile photos. Thank you!

Below is a list of questions to serve as a framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • What are ways to build coalitions to pass policy? Among other steps, discuss how to identify partners, dialogue effectively and create a plan of action. 
  • How can stakeholders work with organizations in sectors not traditionally included in the disability field to create multi-sectoral partnerships? 
Coalition building

I have noted for some time that Cazenovia, New York, a historical town, is not accessible to wheelchair users. I would appreciate hearing from folks specific, concrete, doable strategies for getting the town - which has evinced great hostility to access - to become ADA compliant and accessible to wheelchair users.

Cazenovia is not the only town with the problem of wheelchair inaccessibility. Skaneateles, NY, is another town that needs greater accessibility.

Ideas for partnerships, effective dialogue and workable plans of action are welcome.

I'll be happy to answer questions in order to help people respond to my inquiry.

Michael Schwartz


Organistions and institutions working in the disability fratanity shhould come up with strong starategies in working together as a unifiy team than as individual to work in one goal as to see way of metegating the situation faced by persons with disability The earlier actions we take the easier it become to us as advocates for persons with disabilities.

How can we come together as a unify team in fighting for these course?

what are the steps that should be taking in achieving our goals? 


Lessons learned from effective coalition building in Peru
Degold - in response to your question about coming together as a unified team - I want to share this example of effective coalition building which comes from coalition formed in 1985 and is still strong today. The Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) is a collective of non-governmental organizations that have worked in the defense, promotion and education of human rights in Peru since 1985. The CNDDHH emerged as a result of the outbreak of the internal armed conflict that shook Peru between 1980 and 2000. CHDDHH worked with New Tactics to develop an in-depth case study regarding how they built and have maintained this decades long coalition. You can find it here: "Together we are stronger."  CNDDHH provided some lessons learned for others interested in coalition building (found on page - 12 in the case study). I hope you find the recommendations they provided (listed below) helpful as you explore coalition building for advancing rights for persons with disabilities.
In order to support and strengthen unity over time it is important to emphasize the following points:
  • The structure has to create appropriate opportunities for the group members to participate, whether they are large or small, urban or rural.
  • The process of decision making has to indicate solutions to controversies and avoid divisions and ruptures, not only in the short term, but in the long term as well. It is not worth it to be effective for a medium term by forcing agreements if this process causes an internal weakening that, in the long term, attacks the coalition’s unity.The groups have to feel that the process was just and that their voices were heard. We have affirmed that insisting on a process of consensus is essential. However laborious it turns out to be, it has the impact of strengthening unity in the long term.
  • Clarity in the conditions or criteria of membership in the coalition is necessary. The coalition must protect itself from being infiltrated, co-opted or sabotaged by external interests. In our case, it was necessary to establish boundaries and to move away from the influence of armed groups and political parties. Each situation can be different but it is probable that we will always find external agents that want to take advantage of and/or distort the work of the coalition. Because of this, the coalition’s definition and the structure that it assumes should prevent this risk.
  • The coalition’s limits and scope of action must be defined, in accordance with the mandates agreed upon by the members. At the same time the members should feel autonomous in making decisions about their strategies and the actions which they take independently from the coalition. Also, it is necessary to make sure that the coalition may take actions that contradict the basic principles of some members the coalition cannot be limited to acting only on topics that have been unanimously agreed upon. Member groups must be flexible in order for the collective to be effective. At the same time the collective must think carefully about the best way to take on topics that are very controversial among group members.
  • Leadership and internal mechanisms must be agile and allow the confrontation of controversial topics with a capacity for negotiation that avoids increasing polarization and aims for creative and inclusive solutions.
  • And therefore, although unity is protected, the coalition still has the obligation to be effective and have an impact which makes it worthwhile to continue to be a part of it. With respect to this matter the following is suggested:
  • The structure must delegate a clear authority to its leadership so that it can act quickly and efficiently.
  • The member groups must be ready to respond and participate in the group campaigns, so that the collective strength is clear.
  • It is necessary to look for mechanisms that take advantage of the capacities of the group. One such mechanism that is very important is the strengthening of the smallest groups.
  • The coalition’s leadership must be carefully selected, looking for persons with the ability to represent the group both to the public and the state. The quality and credibility of “the voice” of the movement is important.
  • Finally, we would like to pick up on an element that has been key for this coalition: creating within the group the ability to react in spite of the social and political imbalances that generally run through the contexts in which human rights organizations work. It is necessary to remain alert to the events that move our societies–from a human rights perspective–in order to be able to respond without losing sight of our goals and objectives as a collective.
This is helpful in terms of

This is helpful in terms of thinking on the macro level. The list clearly delineates what elements are required for a successful coalition of human rights advocacy NGOs. However, there are several problems confronting us in Syracuse, New York, that get in the way of building a durable, strong coalition: conditions on the ground, time and money. Let's take conditions on the ground: first, we have a judiciary hostile to the Americans with Disabilities Act; second, the town of Cazenovia is hostile to people with disabilities; and, third, the disability community in Central New York is fractured, and the needs for shelter, employment, and health care are far more pressing than barrier removal in a rich town that would enable better shopping opportunities. Time and money are perennial problems: I run a small law school clinic that cannot in of itself form the coalition, and efforts to build a coalition are difficult and slow. There are a number of disability organizations in town, but all of them are social services agencies, not human rights advocacy organizations. There's the problem, too, of turf: these organizations fight for power, money and prestige, nothing surprising here, but it does get in the way of unity.

building coalitions at macro level

Michael, I can relate to the challenges you are facing in New York. We face similar challenges with different actors but we are progressing. lessons learnt from our advocacy here in Kenya and building coalitions at the macro level is that peer exchanges are key to forging partnerships and enlightening different actors about rights of persons with disabilities. Talking about peers, In our project on 'implementing article 12 of the UNCRPD' the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights which has been running the project together with Open Society Initiative for East Africa organized a forum for judges which was facilitated by a fellow judge from New York. The judges were very receptive and we have seen progress even to an extend that DPOs are now collaborating with the Judiciary Institute to sensitize judiciary staff on issues of legal capacity and we already have a progressive judgement from one of the judges who attended various forums. Here is first case to make reference to article 12 of the CRPD in our jurisdiction secondly it is about identifying which advocacy strategy will work best. Our coalitions and partnerships specifically in the area of legal capacity have been influenced and driven by self advocacy. People telling their stories and sharing their lived experiences has changed many actors thinking. what are your experiences about self advocacy as an advocacy strategy in your context?

You ask excellent questions,

You ask excellent questions, Degold. I wish I had answers. Pearson clearly lays out some of the elements that make for a successful, durable coalition of NGOs devoted to human rights advocacy. Unfortunately conditions in Central New York make coalition building quite difficult, not insurmountable, but difficult, time-consuming and costly.

I run a law school clinic at Syracuse University, and I have ten law students working under my supervision to represent live clients with disabilities. One of our projects is to work with local community groups in advocating, and it's slow going. There are so many problems: employment discrimination, housing discrimination, educational discrimination, the list goes on.

I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact the fight against disability-based discrimination under capitalism is a lifelong struggle.

Working (and Learning) Across Sectors

A challenge for the disability community has been and continues to be how to work across sectors successfully. One dimension of working across sectors concerns building bridges between the disability community and other civil society actors, including the mainstream human rights community. A challenge for integrating disability issues into the human rights mainstream is how the voice and perspective of persons with disabilities can be integrated into human rights organizations and the mainstream human rights movement. This is especially so given that few (if any) of the leading human rights organizations have a disability inclusive staff or disability inclusive human rights programming. Mainstream human rights organizations have been very slow to take disability rights on board, and indeed that gap has resulted in the establishment of some excellent disability rights organizations, such as Disability Rights International (formerly MDRI).  If they do take on disability issues without drawing on and bringing into the organization persons with disabilities to build their capacity in the diversity and complexity of disability and disability rights, their work will fall short substantively and will clearly not meet disability rights measures of legitimacy.

On the other hand, it is important to recognize that the framing of disability rights in human rights terms requires disability organizations themselves to be strategic in determining their comparative advantage in engaging in one or another form of advocacy. It entails hard choices in an arena where resources are scarce and experience in the kind of human rights advocacy undertaken by the mainstream movement is limited.  

And finally, it should be acknowledged that there are serious internal disputes within the disability community as to whether and how human rights organizations ought to participate in disability rights advocacy. While some disability organizations consider outreach and participation in disability rights a necessity for all human rights organizations, still others have cautioned against their entry into this realm of advocacy, voicing concerns that raise issues of ownership and control.  

Building an inclusive global human rights movement is quite clearly still a work in progress.

Janet Lord's summary of the

Janet Lord's summary of the challenges facing the global human rights movement is extremely illuminating. Mainstream human rights advocacy has yet to fully incorporate disability in its analysis while disability advocates have to think strategically how to become part and parcel of the larger movement all the while satisfying the impulse to reject non-disabled actors as a way of asserting ownership and control. What a tangled challenge!

I have long noted the failure of the progressive movement in the United States to fight for the rights of people with disabilities. Marginalized/oppressed groups like people of color, women, and LGBTs haven't fully embraced their members who are disabled, although that is changing, to be sure. As Janet says, it's a work in progress, too.


The culture of acceptance

Thank you very much commrades for those remarkable points given there.. Here in Africa( Gambia ) there is still more work to be done as to the issues of inclusion for person's with disabilities, mostly women are with the higher percentage to be marginalised and discriminated. The other challenge is acceptance amongst the disable people they feel shy to tell people their problem accepting the fact that they are disable. disable people also need to understand the condition that befalls them and accept the fact that they are disable there they will be able to share their stories with the community/society member, ones this is done the challenges and misconception towards them will be minimal. but unless and untill this is done, the society will stiil raise prejudice towards the disable person.

In order to have a very successfull campaign for inclusion of person's with disablility we need to first inculcate in our mindset that we are differently able and we need attention and inclusion on societal engagements 

thank you 


Forming partnerships

What is the role of partnerships in building inclusive societies and fostering sustainability of economic development?

Historically, the image of U.S. foreign aid may have been something akin to soldiers on horseback riding in to save the day in an old cowboy movie. We swooped in, handed over some money, told people what to do with it, and left. That is not the case anymore. Now there is a keen interest in accountability, the ability to show results. And, sustainability–the continuation of something or expansion of something–after U.S. dollars have been used and depleted, is the framework through which we now judge the success of U.S. dollars.

The best way to foster sustainability is to make sure the right people are at the table and have a voice at every step in the process – from deciding on projects, to designing, announcing, awarding, implementing, and judging them. There is a growing enthusiasm for ‘inclusion of people with disabilities and their perspectives and interests” in the dispersion of foreign aid. That is a very good thing! People with disabilities are part of families across all income levels, a part of the labor force, live in all kinds of places, and affect the economic strength of their communities.  Given that they are one billion strong across the globe, it is natural that their perspectives be considered and their influence be felt.

So people with disabilities need to be at the table when a school or hospital is being built, training programs are being developed for people who provide services to people in the community, materials are being selected for classrooms or public service campaigns, or roads and sidewalks are being restored after a natural disaster or conflict. What people with disabilities suggest results in benefits for everyone.

Now to partnerships. If people from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed as part of the planning and implementation process, they invest in and monitor progress, help in promoting the initiative and the credibility of the partnership, keep the group focused, and have an incentive to look for and support ways to sustain an initiative after initial funding is gone. Funding sources need to get to know organizations made up of people with disabilities in foreign lands. Government representatives in foreign lands and these DPOs, along with other groups, need to seek and engage in opportunities of working together in efforts to secure funding for projects they value.

Building partnerships takes time and is not easy but the pay offs are big. With the right perspectives at the table fewer mistakes are made, shared ownership and responsibility become accepted practice, creative problem solving and ideas emerge, potential for corruption is lessened, desired results are achieved, and experience is gained that can then be applied to new or bigger projects.




Forming partnerships and participation in decision making

I like Pat's overview, and the humorous but all too accurate image of the cowboy riding in to save the day without taking into account local knowledge and local needs!

Local DPOs here in Myanmar are really struggling with the registration system for persons with disabilities established in their national disability law. They worry about the role that the Ministry of Health is supposed to play and they are rightly concerned that persons with disabilities themselves - persons with real life experience and expertise - must take part in any kind of registration/classification process.

I also worry that too many resources will go into a registration and classification system that will result in the real needs of persons with disabilities not being met. And the way I read the local law here, accessing rights is actually made contingent on registration - a HUGE worry!

Does anyone have any material or thoughts on approaching disability registration and classification from a disability rights perspective? This is coming up again and again in developing countries...





FormIng partnerships

How to be a successful partner


1.    Make decisions based on facts

2.    Partner with all kinds of people and respect everyone

3.    Let people know your strengths and how you can contribute

4.    Be patient, good things happen, they just take time

5.    Listen carefully and ask questions

6.    Focus, do not take on too many projects at one time

7.    Do your share of the work if you expect to get something in return

8.    Look for new opportunities in which to participate

9.    Be flexible, there is more than one way to do something

10.  Look for and promote consensus




Research Partnerships

Does anyone have experience forming qualitative research partnerships with schools in the global South where students with disabilities who drop out of school are interviewed about the factors that contribute to their dropping out of school? Are there any longitudinal long-term projects like this someone could share with the group? 


Research partnerships (continued)

I echo Brent's inquiry in asking if there are any qualitative research studies regarding Deaf people's access to systems of justice around the world. The CRPD requires states parties to render their system of justice communication accessible to Deaf people, and I am receiving anecdotal evidence that law offices, courts and law enforcement agencies in the European Union and Africa do not provide sign language interpreters which means that Deaf people are deprived of access to justice.

I wonder if anyone has seen any studies on this problem.


Interesting point : "till

Interesting point : "till others have cautioned against their entry into this realm of advocacy, voicing concerns that raise issues of ownership and control.  "

Never thought about it as a possible obstacal to build a partnership. Thank you for input, Janet.

We are building an advocacy

We are building an advocacy campaign in Ukraine. I suggested the topic on disability rights. If you are interested welcome!