#027 Al Condeluci on Social Capital

Published by Genia Stephen on

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes or Spotify. You can read the transcript here

For all of us the quality of our lives is related to our relationships.  

Social capital is a human relations strategy for all of us. It levels the table for us.  

People with disabilities, whether the disability is acquired or whether it has always been there, experience isolation.  

Services for people with disabilities often analyse their deficits. This is called the micro approach to disability. The micro- approach aims to solve this problem by “fixing” the person with a disability. If the person’s deficits are fixed then the isolation will be addressed. 

social capital

Al’s cousin Carrie had a cleft palette and had hundreds of hours of speech therapy. It wasn’t all that effective. And every hour of speech therapy that she had was an hour that she was not in her community developing relationships.  

But if we can’t fix someone’s problems, then what can we do? What can we fix?  

Well, we can take a macro focus. We can change the environment, the culture, society’s perception of the person.  

Al’s family could understand his cousin Carrie. Because they had a relationship with Carrie. Carrie didn’t change. But the family did.  

Macro change, changing the world, has two tracks.  

1. Let’s change the laws.  

There have been a lot of laws changed in the last few decades. But… it hasn’t really changed a lot of people’s attitudes. “You can’t legislate morality… You cannot pass a regulation that will cause people to be nice.” ~Al Condeluci 

2. Social Capital 

Understanding relationships is a strategy for changing the world.  

When people build relationships they treat each other nicer, they are more compassionate and honest and kinder.   

The average person without a disability has about 150 relationships, but people with disabilities have on average about 24. Those relationships are key to getting jobs, staying safe and staying healthy.  

What can I do about this?  

1. Relationships can’t happen in the abstract. People have to actually be in community.  

2. Similarity overrides the perception of difference and builds a bridge to connection. Use points of similarity between people to help them connect.  

3. Regularity (frequency of exchange) is required to make meaningful connections and to dilute perceptions of difference.  

4. Ask yourself, where do the people who share one’s interests gather regularly around their interests?  

5. Identify the social norms of that group and teach the person with a disability those social expectations.  

6. Identify a gatekeeper in that space. A gatekeeper is someone who already belongs in the space and who other group members respect. Try and engage the gatekeeper with the person with a disability seeking belonging and relationship in the group.

Transcript

Genia:            Welcome to the good things in life podcast. I’m Genia Stephen. Today’s podcast episode is a recording of a presentation hosted by good things in life and given by Al Condeluci. The topic is social capital. I’m going to just jump right in.

Genia:            Al was the former CEO of CLASS, which is a non-profit community based support system for folks with all types of disabilities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He holds a Masters of Social Work and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh where he is on faculty in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the School of Social Work. He’s authored seven books, including the acclaimed “Interdependence: The Route to Community” in 1991, and the newly released “The Macro Change Handbook”, which was published in 2015. He has many other credits and many other accolades, but I will leave it at that in order to defer to Al’s presentation. So, grab your coffee and a pen and a notebook and Al, I will hand it over to you.

Al:                  Great. Great. Well thanks Genia for this opportunity. You know, when we first met and talked about this, I was really, really excited about having this option. You know, I love the notion of webinars because it can get to so many people so easily without folks having to get on planes and travel to conferences and things of that nature. And, just sitting in our living rooms, we can plug in and share ideas and compare notes. So, and I heard you announcing that couple of the folks I knew, some of my dear friends actually are on the webinars. So, I’m really excited about that. Joyce Teal from Rochester, other folks that you announced that I’ve come to know and really respect and work closely with over the years.

Al:                  So, it’s really my pleasure. I appreciate this honor and I think everyone who’s plugged in and those who may be watching this later and folks who are plugged into the podcast, I really appreciate you taking some time to think about probably the most important issue in relationship to, you know, people’s lives, for people having a quality life. And actually, in a generic way, any of us, all of us having a higher quality of life is really allied to the notion of relationships. And so, this material, this introduction if you will, to social capital on relationships, is not just a disability related, you know, strategy. It really is a human relations strategy for all of us, for any of us.

Al:                  It really kind of unifies the levels if you will, the table, you know, often in disability related notions. I’m sure a lot of families that are plugged in, a lot of individuals perhaps who are experiencing disabilities who are plugged in, whenever we go to gatherings or when we pause to sort of think often it’s talking about things that we can do for people who are experiencing disabilities, our children or if we happen to work in an agency or clients. And that really is, I think that’s the mainstay of information that’s out there at conferences or gatherings. But this notion of social capital is really not about disability specifically, it really is just about any of us, about all of us. And so, what I wanted to share with folks is kind of a chronology of thinking in my own experience, in my own practice that really got me to pause and start paying attention to the notion of social capital.

Al:                  And really share that my own voyage really all starts with family and that a lot of folks who know me know that, you know, I live in Pittsburgh, live on a big family hill. We have a whole number of families. In fact, when I was growing up, there were eight Condeluci families. Now, we have about 17 Condeluci families. So, you know, we have this sort of tribe. And when I was growing up, my best buddy was my cousin Carrie who had Down Syndrome. And unbeknownst to me actually, until Carrie didn’t go to school. And I remember asking my mom why Carrie didn’t go to school with us? My mom, you know, said, “Well, she’s different. She has a problem.”

Al:                  And that was just really face slapping to me because I never perceived Carrie was having problems. And so, my mother, you know, kind of pointed out that Carrie had Down Syndrome and it affected her learning and schools didn’t know how to educate her. And consequently, she didn’t have to go to school. And, I actually thought that was cool. I, you know, I even remember asked my mom if I could catch Down Syndrome because I thought it was cool that Carrie didn’t have to go to school. But you know, as I got older, I began to really realize what a devaluing sort of notion that was, back in the time Carrie and I were kids, with her not being, not having the opportunity to go to school. But even further in my experiences with Carrie from a more social perspective, I came to observe and see how people treated Carrie, not on our hill, not on Condeluci hill, but when we were out and about in the community at large, how people made fun of Carrie, they taunted her.

Al:                  And I, you know, I always knew that that stuff was wrong and I would get angry when people would do that but, didn’t really have enough awareness about why that was happening. And it really wasn’t until, you know, I went off to college and, you know, I was very interested in disability. Not only with Carrie, growing up with Carrie, but my uncle Pete had a stroke. He lived just two doors down and he used a wheelchair. And then a little further down the path, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. And so, from a family perspective, you know, I’ve always been around disability. It’s always just been a natural part of my world. But that, people who are experiencing disabilities, whether they were congenital disabilities, like Carrie being born with Down syndrome, or whether they were acquired disabilities, like my uncle Pete’s stroke or my dad’s Parkinson’s, that those folks really began to become more and more isolated.

Al:                  They didn’t have as many opportunities to connect. And, I remember in college, when I went to college, the primary way that disability was described and how we learned about disability in our university exposure was really from the deficiencies that people experience with their disabilities. And I’m sure every family listening to this, or watching this, have had, you know, have had their child, you know, really sort of sculpted or framed from what they can’t do or their struggles or their problems. This is actually called the micro approach. It comes from a medical model. And the micro approach is really looking at the deficiencies or the abnormalities that are perceived about people. And the intervention that really is suggested is, well, let’s fix the problem.

Al:                  Let’s try to lessen whatever the struggle is that the person has and really be able to liberate them so that they can enjoy community and enjoy life and have a more enriched life. And so, the focus is on the problem. I, you know, I harken back to my cousin Carrie when, you know, when I got a little bit older and really began to, you know, learn this micro model. You know, my first thing was, well, you know, to my uncle and to our family is that we, you know, we’ve got to try to see if we get Carrie some help to address what she struggles with. I’ll give a good example. One of Carrie’s struggles was of speech. She had a cleft palate which was congenital. It was a congenital issue and it was surgically repaired when Carrie was just a baby.

Al:                  But it affected her ability to clearly, you know, articulate. And so, because of the cleft palate, Carrie couldn’t enunciate words, very nasal kind of a sound. And so, people, you know, they had trouble understanding her. Now, the ironic thing was that on Condeluci hill, with our family, we understood everything Carrie said. And, but when we would go off the hill or when we would encounter other people who really didn’t have a relationship with Carrie, they couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. And so, the micro approach would say, well, if somebody has difficulty speaking, let’s get them some help. Let’s see if we can get some therapy. And in fact, Carrie went through countless thousands of hours of speech therapy to try to facilitate her for her ability to speak.

Al:                  And actually, in the end, never, the speech therapy never really helped. That in fact, I think it actually hindered because for every hour that Carrie was in speech therapy, that was one less hour that she was in the community, or one less hour that she had an opportunity for building relationships. And so, it really had this weird sort of negative effect, I believe, in a broader way and really thinking about relationships. But the micro model doesn’t really think much about relationships. It really focuses on the problem, trying to liberate the person by way of their problem. For example, if someone is on the spectrum and perhaps they do some self-stimulation by flapping, you know, which is perceived in the greater community as being an odd behavior.

Al:                  The families are encouraged, well, let’s try to stop that flapping. Let’s see if we can intervene. Maybe if there’s something we could do that will lessen that particular problem. Because it’s a problem orientation paradigm, right? The micro approach. And you know, in my frustration with this, you know, when I graduated from the university and started to, you know, practice, in a formal way, trying to liberate people by virtue of fixing their problems. I got terribly frustrated because it really didn’t seem to help. It actually seemed to create more harm. And so, as I began to awaken and began to sort of question this, a lot of the questioning was, well, what’s the alternative? Right? If we can’t fix someone’s problem, what can we fix?

Al:                  And this was an awareness that came to me in graduate school. That notion of, not micro interpretation but macro focus. Because of macro focus really begins to say, if you can’t change the person, then what can you change? You can change the environment, the culture, the perceptions, the attitudes that people have about the individual’s uniqueness. And as I learned a little bit more about macro theory, it really exploded for me because it really answered some of the questions of why our family could understand Carrie and no one else could, right? Is because we, you know, we had a relationship with Carrie. We changed how we heard, how we listen, because we cared about Carrie. And so, as I began to examine and think more about macro change, which has really changed the world, right?

Al:                  And change the culture, change things around the person rather than just focusing all this attention on trying to fix the person. That got me to another awareness, right? That I really want to share in the corpus of this conversation today. And that is macro change, changing the world, really has two tracks. One track is really a formal track, right? That’s let’s change the laws. For example, let’s go back to Carrie. Carrie didn’t go to school because school’s actually didn’t have to educate kids with disabilities. And this is going back to the 50’s in the United States, same in Canada and everywhere else by the way. And so, it wasn’t until we passed the law here in the United States, in 1976, in Canada, shortly thereafter, that was really designed to literally safeguard the opportunity for people with disabilities to go to school.

Al:                  That was a formal ‘change the world’ agenda. If we just changed the school, get the school to have to educate people, that will solve the problem, right? And, what I learned in those early years of really formal macro change, changing laws, and by the way, as a change agent, we did all kinds of things, we, you know, we passed all kinds of laws, housing laws and transportation laws and vocational rehab laws and, even civil rights laws with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. But in spite of all that legal, formal approach, we really weren’t necessarily changing people’s attitudes or perceptions. Right? And the lesson that I learned as a change agent is you can’t legislate morality. You cannot pass a regulation that’s going to allow people or cause people to be nice to Carrie or to not make fun of her or to, you know, mock her because she can’t speak very clearly.

Al:                  And then the other track of macro change I got exposed to, this was when I was working on my doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh, and that was the informal side of macro change, which is really all about relationships. We call it social capital. And you know, Genia introduced that topic, and I’m not so sure how many people have ever even heard about social capital, even though, you know, it’s been around for literally 80 years in terms of sociological references. But, the notion of really understanding relationships becomes, I think, a strategy for changing the world. Because when people build relationships, they treat each other nicer. They’re more honest. They’re more compassionate. They’re kinder with each other. But also when people build relationships, and again, whether you have disability or not, that’s irrelevant.

Al:                  What is relevant is that relationships make life better. They make people healthier. They make people happier. They are at the fuel of getting a job. They are the fuel of keeping a job. They are tied to literally resolving problems more easily, when people have relationships with one another. They’re even tied to life expectancy. And that now theory is very, very clear and research has been very, very focused around the fact that the one key determinant of a longer life is relevant relationships that people have. Now, the opposite of that is also true. The opposite of social capital is social isolation. And when someone is socially isolated, bad things happen in their lives. That literally, even just one focus that is health, we know that people were socially isolated are at greater risk of being sicker more often and listen to this, of dying sooner than other people.

Al:                  Social isolation is now perceived as a health determinant for longevity. It now out polls obesity, it out polls smoking and cardiovascular issues. Social isolation, loneliness, disconnection is lethal. And, when, you know, as I began to think about all of this, both as a practitioner in human services, working for a non-profit agency for 47 years, in thinking about it as a scholar in the doctoral work that I did and subsequent research at the university and then in teaching this around the world. You know, it’s become so vivid and clear to me that relationships become the fundamental building block of a better life. And now, I think every parent listening to this podcast, or with this webinar, if you think about your greatest fear, you know, for your son or your daughter, that fear is articulated and I’ve heard it thousands of times from families.

Al:                  It’s articulated in the notion of my greatest fear is what’s going to happen to my son or daughter when I’m going longer there. And every family member listening to this podcast, know that probably your son or your daughter was experiencing disability, whether they’re a child, you know, a teenager and adult, even an older adult, are probably socially isolated, probably have less friendships, less connections. When the phone rings, it’s usually not for them. They don’t get invited to parties or to activities. They are often awkwardly positioned in gatherings for a variety of reasons. I remember with my dad watching painfully as his world shrunk, right as people began to back away as they got, you know, they were fearful perhaps or they were just ignorant. But they began to, you know, bail out or you know, back away from my father.

Al:                  And, here’s an interesting piece to ponder and that is sociologists have been looking at relationships generically for 80 years. So, it’s been an area of study. Most of it has been really highly academic study. More recently there’s been applied study too. And I want to just tell you about one study and that is we know through research that the average person, the typical person has about 150 important relationships, 150. Now, I know when I say that often I’ll say that publicly in a presentation or you know, in a discussion that I’ll be having and people will like, you know, they’ll back away and say, oh my god, they’ll start thinking about their relationships, they’ll start counting them out on their fingers and they’ll say, a hundred, I don’t have 150 relationships. And actually, you do. If you think about your life and if you examine the notion of a relationships in your life, and if I was sitting with you and we were exploring your social network inventory, you’d be amazed at how many relationships you have in your life.

Al:                  Right? And when, when I started to read this and think about it, and look at the work of Robin Dunbar, D-U-N-B-A-R. Robin Dunbar’s a anthropologist out of Cambridge, and he actually wrote a book called the Theory of 150, where you looked at tribes and villages and, you know, ascertained that we actually, from a limbic perspective, have, you know, have the capacity on our relationship ability at about 150. But, be that as it may, what I began to wonder about in my work at CLASS, and in, you know, in the lives of my many friends who had disabilities, was how many relationships that folks with disabilities have? Right? And so, I went to the literature, started to examine if anyone had actually looked at this and much to my chagrin, I could not find one entry that examined relationships and disability.

Al:                  And so, I said, “Well, I’m diving into this pool.” And so, I got involved in a research study with the University of Toronto, kind of as our academic partner. And we looked at 250 of people with disabilities in seven different cities in three different countries, and we began to sort of probe. We asked those folks, we did a survey called the Social Capital Benchmarking Survey, which is a survey developed at Harvard University by sociologists that have been interested in social capital. And so, we took that instrument, we adjusted a little bit, and we use that with these 250 people. And you know, what we discovered was just stark on the differential between what has been typically discovered about social capital and numbers of relationships and what we began to discover by using this. We actually wrote the study up that appeared in 2016 in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies out of Waterloo.

Al:                  And it, what, you know, you can track this study or you could contact Genia and you know, we’ll make sure that, that you get a copy of that because I really think it’s important that we advocates, whether we’re family members, self-advocates or professional advocates, have got to understand the importance of relationships. We’ve got to really be, we’ve got to be awakened to this. And then we’ve got to figure out some intervention strategies that are more macroscopic. And so, let me just finish though on the research, finish the story before we talk about interventions, because that really is the core of a gathering like this is, you know, when I do presentations, folks who will say to me, “Okay. Now I get it, man. You’re making the case. I understand it. Now, what do I do about it? Right? How do I address it?”

Al:                  And I want to get to that. I want to share with you some of the things that we’ve been thinking about and trying. And some of my friends, really all over the world, have been trying. But before I do that, let me just kind of summarize. I told you the average person has about 150 relationships. And when we did this study that we wrote up in the Canadian Journal, what we discovered was that the typical number of relationships reported to us by these 250 people who had all types of disabilities, not just intellectual disabilities, but mental health, perhaps mental health issues, autism spectrum issues, acquired disabilities like MS or Parkinson’s, and traumatic brain injuries.

Al:                  What we discovered was that the number, the average number that people reporting to us in our study was about 24 people, that they could identify that they have connections with. Now, you have 150, and my cousin Carrie has 24, immediately that begins to show just a stark differentiation, right? Between who she knows and who knows her and who’s willing to use, sort of take off their blinders and pay a little bit more attention to Carrie as a person. Because we knew when people build relationships, just incredibly good things happen. That literally, people advance, people get jobs. And now we know right now in Canada and in the United States, the typical person with disability, people with disabilities are unemployed at about 76%. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 76%.

Al:                  Okay? Now that, when you think about social capital, social capital is absolutely the cornerstone to getting a job and to keeping a job and we know that. I mean probably those of you who are on this webinar right now, you think back to your very first job, whatever it might’ve been, maybe mown grass or maybe babysitting, whatever it might’ve been, how you got that job or how you got customers for that job goes right back to your social capital. But even more, the job you have right now if you happen to be working, I am convinced that how you actually landed that job was not because your resume was so great or that you were dressed so nicely. Those things might’ve helped, but I think what caused you to land the job was that on your application you had to write down three names on your application and those are references, right?

Al:                  Which are your social capital that will lie for you! Remember you called them up and you told them you’re going for that big job and you said, “I’m going to list you as the resume or reference. Would you please say something nice if they call?” Right? Now, you probably wouldn’t list someone that you didn’t have a relationship with on, you know, on your job application, right? I mean, you’re going to lose people you know. So, the notion of people getting jobs, people keeping jobs that pro social behaviors go up dramatically in relationships that people are more compassionate. I often use an example with thinking about compassion and relationships by, you know, kind of just setting up a little scenario, a two frame scenario, right? On the one frame, you go into McDonald’s, you are late for a meeting, you hadn’t eaten.

Al:                  You go to McDonald’s, you drive through, you give your order. And you get to the kid, you pay the kid and they give you $20 more than they should have in change. Now, you’re on the horns of a dilemma here because you’re holding that 20 bucks in your hand and you’re saying, “Yeah, I don’t know. You know, I eat this stuff all the time. I’m going to need a stint at some point. So, maybe I’ll just save that 20 for my stint fund.” Now, many of you, I’m sure, would give the money back. But that creates an ethical dilemma. But let me flip the scenario. You know, you’re going through McDonald’s, you’re running late for a meeting. You, you know, you make your order, you give the kid the money and the kid gives you $20 more than they should.

Al:                  But the kid that’s actually working the window is your nephew Johnny. Now, he gives you a $20 more and he’s your nephew. You have a relationship with him. Your very knee jerk reaction, don’t even have to think about it, is a teaching moment for Johnny. Right? “Johnny, you gave me $20 too much. I need, we got to, you know, you got to be more careful. You know, your register won’t balance at the end of it. So literally, your compassion vaults based on the fact that you know Johnny, right? So, relationships really matter and if you have 150 and Carrie has 24, right out of the gate, there is incredible disparity. And so, the notion of social capital plays this huge, huge role in our lives. Right? So, let me flip and try to be prudent with time.

Al:                  Let me flip now to interventions because, you know, a lot of times because as I said, people will say to me, “Al, I’m getting it, you don’t have to overstate this. Relationships matter.” And especially when you begin to think about your own life and the value you get in your relationships and the instrumental value, people doing things for you, the emotional value, people being there for you, even the informational value where people tell you things that help you. The real question that comes really to life is, well, what do I, what can I do about this as a parent, as a family member, as a professional, as a general advocate, what can I do about it? And so, just flipping gears to that, the very first thing that we need to understand about relationships and relationship building is that people have to be there.

Al:                  That relationships can’t happen in the abstract. They’ve gone to happen physically. People actually have to be in community. The other really important ingredient is that similarity of exchange begins to lessen differences that people perceive. Similarities override differences and similarities create what sociologists call bridges to other people. And, you know, I know that this has happened to you. Every time you meet somebody new. The very, the parlay is what do we have in common, right? Where’d you go to school? Where’d you grow up? What town are you from? You know, all of those kinds of things where we fish for these bridges to have commonality because similarities create a draw. They attract us. Differences actually push us away. If we see something different, regardless of what the difference is, somebody’s dress, somebody’s age, somebody’s cultural garb, somebody’s physical disability.

Al:                  Our first reaction is to back away and try to figure out what is the issue here? Right? And that’s actually a defense mechanism that human beings have to safeguard their lives, right? So, differences repel, but similarities attract, right? So, people have to be there. So, physically you have to be there, but they have to, what we have to use is a point of similarity as the bridge of contact. And then, the third general ingredient, before we get into some steps here, the third general ingredient is that people have to stay there. Regularity is what sociologists, they call that frequency of exchange, where people come again and again and again. And even in that regard, we begin to dilute the differences. I mean, just think of people in your life right now that are different from you, very different from you perhaps.

Al:                  But if you see them again and again and again in the neighborhood, in church, at work, you know, wherever you might be regular yourself, they’re differences don’t look so odd and you know, they become humanized more with you just through regularity. Okay. So, being present, being physically present, you got to be there, finding points of similarity that begin to create bridges between people and then staying in the mix, being regular, become three really important overarching ingredients. Right? And so, just to sort of package this a little bit and then, to be, to kind of conclude and then maybe take some questions or whatever follow up would be most appropriate. We hypothesize four steps. We honed this in our work at CLASS. We, you know, we’ve shared this of other agencies, other organizations. I’ve talked about this for the last 20 years, at conferences and gatherings and really urged people, to consider these four steps in the intervention that’s offered through disability services or a specialized services.

Al:                  Number one is really begin to find what makes people similar, right? What does your son or daughter have of interest that would align with other kids? What are they excited about? What do they care about? What are they intrigued by? What are they passionate about? Right? So finding the affinity becomes the first step. Okay. We do this in our work at CLASS where we, when we meet somebody new, we don’t want to see their records because the records are all about what they can’t, what their problems are. That’s from the micro model. What we want to do is just know who this man or woman is and what do they care about? What did he like? Right? So, step one is finding someone’s affinity. Step two is beginning to think macroscopically. Where in the community do people gather who like music, art, matchbox cars, video games, you know, golf? Whatever the affinity is, where’s the match?

Al:                  And think about this like a bridge, right? So, my cousin Carrie likes photography. If I could find a place where people gather who like photography, that creates a bridge to someone else who has something in common with Carrie right from the jump, right? Right in the very first step. Now, recognizing when people cross that bridge and go to that community, they, you know, they’re differences will be observed, right? People will see what makes them different and there’s going to be some backing away, right? So what we have to do is literally strengthen the person’s similarity by understanding step three, which is really what are the expected rituals, patterns, and behaviors of that community group, that photography club, that golf league, that matchbox group. What do they do on a regular basis?

Al:                  Now, you understand this regularity of exchange does create rituals. If people are regulars, if they gather on a regular basis, they begin to carve on expected behaviors. We think of your own family this way, at a holiday or, you know, at a gathering. What are the kinds of rituals? You know, is this the, just at a wedding this weekend, my nephew Antonio got married and, you know, we went to the wedding, I’ve been to hundreds of weddings, right? So, you think about the rituals that occur in a, at a wedding, right? Where, you know, yeah, they, you know, they cut the cake and you know, the guy always, you know, puts the woman’s nose or the woman puts the guy’s nose and the cake and then, you know, the garter and the throwing of the bouquet and, you know, the dances between, you know, the first dances between, you know, the partners and then, mom and dad dancing with their son or daughter, you know, I mean all that stuff that’s ritualistic because, you know, this is what we do at weddings, right?

Al:                  So, the notion of understanding if I’m going to help Carrie, get into a camera club or if I’m going to help, you know, my buddy, Roy, get into a golf league, then, you know, I’ve got to prepare them a bit for what’s going on, what they’re going to be held accountable to, because you see those rituals and those patterns create more similarity between people. Now, think about churches as ritualistic, right? And I’m Catholic. So, when I go to church, the very first thing I do is make the sign of the cross. As I walk into the church and doing parts of the mass, we make the sign of the cross. And everybody does that in the church. Everybody, right? It’s another bridge of similarity between me and the fellow parishioners, congregants of this church.

Al:                  So, the notion of really not just identifying a matching community but really analyzing it, understanding what’s expected there. And then the last step, is the notion of the gatekeeper. I know a lot of you guys who may be familiar with some of my work, we talked a lot about gatekeepers and a gatekeeper is somebody already indigenous to that community, who has some influence who other people look up to. And if that gatekeeper can be aligned with the newcomer, the newcomer’s value begins to rise a bit because the gatekeepers already valued. And if I aligned Carrie with that gatekeeper, then Carrie’s value starts to go up, not as high as the gatekeeper, but high enough for other people in that community to say, “Gee. You know, that woman looks strange. But she’s with Joyce and we like Joyce. And so, she must be okay. Right?”

Al:                  So, that notion of aligning value becomes another strategy for relationship building. And all of this stuff we’ve got to think about. We’ve got to dig into it because the traditional micro approaches, “Let’s fix the disability”, that just doesn’t do it. And I think most of you listening or watching, you know, that. You know that traditional methodologies have just not delivered the goods. They often, people haven’t helped people get jobs, houses, rides and friends. And so, if we know that that’s the most important thing in life, then we need a new paradigm. It has to be a macro paradigm and it has to be framed by relationships. And so, you know, looking at the watch, and I’ve been droning on here for, you know, close to 50 minutes.

Al:                  Know that I could probably go on for the rest of the day because I’m passionate about this and I really feel that these concepts are important. But let me just thank you. I know Genia was telling me that we’ve gotten really a great response to this series, not just this talk today, but to Janet Klees and all the great work she’s doing and the characteristics that she’s going to articulate in her session coming up in just a couple of weeks. So, but you signing up for this really shows your hunger for this cornerstone piece of relationships, how it is absolutely so critical. And I think the more we begin to think about it and, you know, visualize possibilities, the better advocates we’re going to be. I know that Genia will tell you a little bit more about, you know, how you might get more information from some of these strategies.

Al:                  You know, I have my website and you know, there’s some books that I’ve written, more articles that are out there. But I just really want to thank you for taking time. I know how busy your schedules are and you know, how crazy life becomes for us and yet you took some time today to just pause a minute and think about this. So, I’m going to thank you and I’m going to kind of sign off or at least be quiet and let Genia takeover with either whatever questions or how we might want to proceed. So, thank you so much. Really, really appreciate the opportunity to share these ideas.

Genia:            Thanks so much for joining me for Al’s presentation on Social Capital in the lives of people with disabilities. Al’s live presentation was followed by a question and answer period. Next week’s podcast episode is with Janet Klees. That is also a recording of a live presentation that she provided, hosted by Good Things in Life that included a live Q&A. If you are interested in attending live presentations, interactive with experts on the topics relevant to people with disabilities, then you can find information at goodthingsinlife.org/events. I hope to see you next week.

Thanks for Listening! 
Resources & Links Mentioned: 

Al Condeluci’s personal website 

Interdependence Network 

Al’s Condeluci’s TedTalk 

Robin Dunbar Theory of 150.   

Somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love: Examining levels and sources of social capital among people with disabilities, Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 2016  

Al’s books, INTERDEPENDENCE (1991,1995,CRC Press), BEYOND DIFFERENCE (1996, CRC Press), CULTURAL SHIFTING (2002, TRN Press) ADVOCACY FOR CHANGE: A MANUAL FOR ACTION (2004, ANCOR Foundation Press) THE ESSENCE OF INTERDEPENDENCE (2008, Lash Publishing) TOGETHER IS BETTER (2008, Lash Publishing), SOCIAL CAPITAL: The Key to Macro Change (2014, Lash Publishing), and the MACRO CHANGE HANDBOOK (2015, Lash Publishing) have won praises and awards for their thoughtful approach to culture and community and are now used at many colleges, universities and in-service settings.  His books are now available through Lash Publishing website www.lapublishing.com (919-562-0015), at www.classcommunity.org, or www.alcondeluci.com.   

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Special thanks to Al Condeluci for joining me this week. Until next time! 


Genia Stephen

Started young with a sister with a disability, amazing mentors and a strong mother with a vision. Now a mother to two sons, one of whom has a disability, a midwife to many, and an activist with a mission to band together with families to joyfully pursue the good things in life. Genia’s a registered midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care (student), Speaker, Presenter, Podcast host, and founder of Good Things in Life which offers resources, courses and networking opportunities for a community of parents with a shared vision of the good things in life for their children with disabilities.

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