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Innovation and Ethics: Donna Thomson gives Opening Keynote Speech at FICCDAT Conference

June 8, 2011

Recently, I heard the British social innovator Charles Leadbeater say “Your vantage point determines everything you see”.  Let me begin by telling you about my vantage point.

With those first opening lines, Donna Thomson, McArthur author (The Four Walls of My Freedom) and disability activist, grabbed the attention of hundreds in attendance at the opening of the Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology (FICCDAT) in Toronto.

In her keynote address Donna touched on her own experiences caring for her son Nicholas, who is disabled with cerebral palsy; what the climbing life expectancy in Canada means for Nicholas’ care; and how this aging population growth will impact us all.

Fundamental change, or radical innovation, nearly always necessitates the turning upside-down of power relationships. 

A powerful thought, and one that Thomson exemplified through the work of Adam Kahane, Dr. Doug Eby, and particularly through the inspiring launch of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN.)  By asking the question “What is a good life?” this group determined they could no longer rely on government alone to care for people with disabilities and instead chose to rely on each other: family, friends, neighbours, community members. You can read their full story here

FICCDAT brings together social and health services providers, government policy makers, researchers, family caregivers and persons with disabilities. As their keynote speaker, Donna had the challenging role of laying the framework and setting the tone for the conferences.  Her affirmative and encouraging closing remarks left delegates inspired and eager to discuss these issues during their conference sessions.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  And the worldwide recession, combined with the demographics of aging and an explosion of technological innovation, provide us the seeds of real, positive change if choose to sow them.  And that vantage point is full of hope and possibility.  

The paperback edition of The Four Walls of My Freedom will be published this fall.

FICCDAT conference runs June 5-8 at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto.

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