We did a survey of our members and asked them to tell us what their priorities were? What they thought the European priorities should be? and whether or not they thought Inclusion International’s policy priorities were the right ones? We got very interesting feedback. Broadly our members in Europe were happy with the priorities. There were some differences between their national priorities and our European priorities. One of the surprises was that at the national level they didn’t rate the development of self-advocacy as a strong priority but saw it as a European priority for us to work on, so that is quite interesting.
We used it (the survey) to ask them what big events were happening in their countries that would be of interest to others in Europe? What they thought was happening in Europe that they would be interested in so that we could get more engagement and more activity happening. We now have countries bidding to host Europe in Action and bidding to host Hear Our Voices, which is the conference we run every second year for self-advocates by self-advocates. So that’s great! and also to host board meetings.
Other developments this year that we are very pleased about is we have re-instituted Directors meetings. The representatives who come to our board, to our conferences and events are not always directors of the organisations and they are not always the most powerful people in our member organisations. We used the conference in Slovenia to encourage and warm people up to come and then had a Director’s meeting in Brussels at which we shared the results of the survey we had done. We had very frank discussion. Its really good to get that feedback on what’s working and what we need to improve. I think its really made us much stronger. It was fantastic to see, as I am sure all the other regions see too, the real strength of our movement in the commitment of the people leading the organisations and the strength of thinking and reasoning. The power that we have in that was very very reassuring. It was a really good event.
Other big issues are EPSA, our network of self-advocates is growing in power, really making demands of us, holding us to account, taking responsibility and doing work as powerful members of Inclusion Europe on a more equal basis than I think would have been the case in the past. On the downside we have problems with support for EPSA because our members are not wiling to pay to send self-advocates and their supporters to meetings. So getting people together is harder than ever.
The other thing that I think might be interesting is the work that we are doing with strategic partners. In Europe there are so many networks doing so many things. Who should we really engage with? We have had to prioritise that and say ‘here are the things that matter, here are the bits of the European Commission we need to prioritise. Here are the organisations we need to prioritise and what are we going to do with them?’