Learning from the Danes – building back better (fifth in a series)

Monumental change requires a mindset that is wildly different from the status quo. Otherwise the momentum of an outdated approach will ensnare us.

This mindset influences what we aspire to, the values we hold dear, the way we conduct ourselves and treat others. It’s more than an outlook. It’s a discipline requiring gentle tending and constant nourishment. And it has the power to change habits, attitudes, and beliefs.

I first encountered the power of mindset to change lives when I was introduced to the principles of normalization shortly after my daughter Liz was born. Normalization asserts that the daily lives of people with disabilities should be as normal as those who do not have a disability. Normal rhythms, routines, experiences, expectations, choices and lifestyle.

Normalization was legislated in Denmark in 1959 thanks to Danish resistance hero Eric Bank-Mikkelsen. It was ground breaking and breath taking. It resisted the prevailing belief that people with disabilities should be segregated and institutionalized. It argued in favour of equal rights and living in the community.

Fast forward almost three decades to Liz’s birth. By then the principles of normalization had been translated into English and had migrated to North America. Where it influenced John F. Kennedy who established the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. (Kennedy’s sister Rosemary was diagnosed with an intellectual disability.) From there it spread throughout North America and beyond.

Where it eventually found me.

Normalization gave Liz’s mother and me a frame of reference to counteract the dismal future suggested by doctors and outlined in textbooks. It rocked my world. And enabled Liz to confidently rock hers. Since then she has broken all the rules in a rule book she never bothered to read.

One life among millions changed forever.

I recently joined fellow Canadian Diane Roussin of the Winnipeg Boldness Project and other thoughtful speakers from around the world at a global conference hosted by the Danes. Its called “Step into System Innovation.” It was billed as a festival of ideas and insights. And it was.

If you want to rock the world a little bit more click here for free access to all the recorded sessions.

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