Following Talk with Action

Can Do initiative stays local in efforts to improve lives of persons with disabilities Late last year, Minnesota began forming […]

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Can Do initiative stays local in efforts to improve lives of persons with disabilities

Late last year, Minnesota began forming a new network to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

The DHS launched the CAN DO initiative (Collaborative Action Network Developing Opportunities) with a series of meetings in October and November, in which more than 500 people from around the state met to think creatively about how to change our current systems for the better.

At these meetings, participants did more than brainstorm; they developed action plans to address local priorities, such as employment, transportation, and transitioning from school to adulthood. The local action plans are focused on what can be done locally without major legislative changes. Specific ideas to emerge included:

• Help local employers and business owners understand the benefits of employing people with disabilities

• Improve service delivery through use of assistive technology

• Make sure people with disabilities and families have the information and assistance they need

• Form coalitions of providers to establish direct-support training for staff

• Ensure that schools, counties and vocational services begin transition services early enough for young people with disabilities

• Improve the quality of services

CAN DO differs in many ways from previous initiatives that have addressed the needs of people with disabilities. First, CAN DO focuses on turning talk into action. Needed actions are defined—and action plans are created—at the local level by people who attended the action conferences and who will actually do the work. In some cases, that work means connecting with other community members who didn’t participate but who can contribute to the success of the action plan.

CAN DO is also unique in that no single individual, organization or governmental entity “owns” the CAN DO process. Each action team establishes its own goals in line with its own local expectations.

The CAN DO Action Network is not a one-time thing. Regional action conferences will be repeated next year. In addition, each action team will report quarterly on its progress. This on-going communication will help monitor and motivate effective collaboration across the state. It is a process that welcomes surprise. Already, action teams have moved forward in productive and unexpected ways.

Organizers see leadership and participation as critical to CAN DO’s success. One of the key next steps in the CAN DO process is the work of expanding the participation of people with disabilities and their families, both in the existing action teams and during the 2008 conferences. Steps will also be taken to build leadership capacity for individuals who took responsibility for action teams.

For more information about the process and projects, and to find out how you organization can get involved, please visit the CAN DO project Web pages at

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