One goal of the Now and Next program is to identify potential peer leaders and to recruit and train them into the NANA Peer Facilitators team. This ‘leadership pipeline’ not only allows Now and Next to continue to be led by enthusiastic and impassioned parent peers, but also offers opportunities for parents to re-enter the workforce in ways that are flexible and are meaningful and relevant to their current life experience. Our Peer Facilitators have naturally taken on leadership roles relevant to NANA, both within the Now and Next program, and as an adjunct to it: for example, one peer facilitator has taken her interest in the NDIS to become Plumtree’s leader in NDIS pre-planning; another facilitates the Circle of Security Parenting program; another writes blogs, grant applications and a variety of other texts for and on Now and Next; another using her theatrical bent to film and edit vlogs of interest to the group; and yet other facilitators (who are fluent in languages other than English) run Vietnamese, Korean and Arabic Now and Next groups.
These Peer Facilitators have become the public face of Now and Next. Not only do they attend conferences of relevance to NANA, but they are also invited to present at conferences. For example, two facilitators will talk about Now and Next at the 2017 ‘Belonging Matters’ Conference in Melbourne this year. Facilitators have joined Plumtree’s management to accept awards for the Now and Next program (like when we won the ECIA NSW/ACT Excellence Award for Outstanding Family-Centered and Culturally Responsive Practice), and have represented the NANA during Plumtree’s meetings with our local MP.
Perhaps most importantly, our Peer Facilitators are the driving force behind NANA’s activities: it was the Peer Facilitators who convened, organized and ran NANA’s enormously successful inaugural conference, ‘for families, by families’, earlier this year (on which, read more here). It is the facilitators who will ensure that a 2018 NANA Conference transpires. And it was the Peer Facilitators who marked Plumtree’s transition to the NDIS by arranging and directing an afternoon session on the NDIS for the NANA, including a presentation by a plan manager and a Q&A Panel on the NDIS.
The activities of NANA are not confined to its trained Peer Facilitators, however: the talents and skills of Now and Next alumnus are utilized in diverse ways. For example, one alumnus produced the design for an activity within a Now and Next session on Signature Strengths (stemming from Now and Next’s positive psychology foundation); another produced all the graphic design for the NANA 2017 Conference; another created a stunning eBook to document this conference, and yet another will begin writing posts for Plumtree’s blog when it is launched later in 2017. In this way, NANA is a genuine network: each alumnus can offer his or her skills and gifts to promote our common, collective interests and goals, and NANA encourages active citizenship of its network. NANA represents the grassroots of a social movement to build the capacity and leadership of parents of very young children with disabilities and developmental delay. This movement starts in the Now and Next program, but it is only with NANA that the movement can be sustained and grow.