The Winds of Change Blow in from Chicago

18 Schlegel Villages ambassadors return from Pioneer Network Conference

By Kristian Partington

As she was heading to her hotel room at the end of her second full day of The Pioneer Network Conference at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, Shannon Lucas heard a woman she didn’t know call out her name.

“Shannon from Schlegel Villages,” the woman called out. “Today was awesome – you guys just made me so engaged and I just love everything that you guys do and it makes me empowered to know that an organization cares so much.”

Shannon simply thanked the woman and reflected on the fact that Schlegel Villages has a big role to play in society’s changing views on aging. She was part of a panel from across Schlegel Villages that spoke about the power of engaged, self-directed teams in the positive growth of an organization. Schlegel Villages director of education and program development Jessica Luh Kim led the panel discussion alongside Chris Perna, the CEO of The Eden Alternative, and the hope was that those who heard the session would see that if given the right tools and the right environment, teams of self-directed people with residents’ needs and desires at heart can be at the front of positive change.

 “We talked about the key things that we did as an organization before we started rolling out Neighbourhood Team Development, as well as our successes and some real life challenges that we’ve been experiencing in the roll-out,” Jessica explains. The team members on the panel then shared their experiences, warts and all, and that was the “bread and butter” of the presentation.

Culture change, in any realm, is never easy, and the beauty of The Pioneer Network conference is that it provides an opportunity for those who want to be part of the change in the elder care sector to learn from the experiences of others.

Schlegel Villages, Jessica says, was proud to present three different sessions – the panel discussion she helped guide; a discussion led by Wentworth Heights recreation director Heather Luth on “Neighbourhood Time,” a more spontaneous approach to leisure and recreation; and a look at the journey of Erin Meadows resident David Kent through the lens of well-being.

On top of that, the 18 participants were immersed in culture change discussions over four days, sharing their enthusiasm with each other and new friends while bonding over a shared sense of purpose.

“It was just fantastic,” says Coleman Care Centre’s Donna Black. “There was so much to learn and a lot of fun and camaraderie.” For Donna, the conference helped her realize that she’s part of an organization that truly is headed in the right direction, and she’s eager to continue to work towards positive change in her village.

“It was a real honour and I can’t wait to share everything,” Donna says.

That, says Jessica, is why the organization invests in the effort to send a team of ambassadors to this conference every year. The empowerment they feel sparks new ideas and initiatives that serve to enhance the lives of residents, “and it’s not the formal leaders,” Jessica points out. “It’s our team members who can be leaders too, because leadership is about behaviour, it’s about being advocates and champions for something.”

Eighteen new advocates and champions have returned home from the windy city – it’ll be interesting to see what emerges in the time to come. Stay tuned . .