In the early 1990s, something motivated me to venture into a new enterprise. At this time, I thought I had so many good ideas to support people with a disability to do what they wanted to do and achieve what they wanted to achieve. This came from an initial 12 years’ experience in education (secondary schools), with the Intellectual Disability Services Council (IDSC) and Strathmont Centre, a large residential care institution in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. In this environment, it was hard to get those around me to say YES rather than NO to new ideas and new ways of providing improved supports and choice. In retrospect, I got one NO too many times and that was the key motivation for me to set up CBS Inc. It wasn’t that those saying NO didn’t mean well, but it was logically difficult for people to change the way they do things after long periods of the same.
I did have some allies, business and friends who believed in my ideas and who were supportive. These ideas were clearly aligned to a strength based model and a focus on positive interactions we had and could have more of, if we planned and collected information differently. By working with the people who wanted to interact together, to say YES often and plan on people’s strengths – more success followed. We would record these positive experiences to drown out the overwhelming focus on documenting the negative experiences in the lives of people with a disability. It was literally flipping the coin and focussing on the other side. I spend much of my time teaching our staff and clients to do the same, or reminding them of this. I have always taken the lead for our two day workshop called “Knowing CBS Inc.” that focusses on our culture, values and core activities. Since the beginning, every staff member who is at CBS Inc. has completed this workshop.
Coming from a teaching background that included physical education, outdoor adventure and recreation, a more holistic strengths based approach came easy to me. Some people and organisations become attracted to this and partnerships developed. This was well before Positive Psychology was widely known in the community. Simultaneously, the State Government was undergoing a process of partial privatisation of services and deinstitutionalisation. The latter process was the planned movement of people with a disability from institutional living to suburban supported home living and this was slowly gaining some momentum. It seemed the right time to negotiate the movement of the small Leisure and Adult Education Team I was leading while at Strathmont Centre into the non-profit Community Bridging Services (CBS) Inc. This enabled our small team to support clients who were moving into the community from a community setting.
After three years of planning and negotiating with a supportive committee, CBS Inc. was formalised in September 1996, with advice from the IDSC and TAFE SA Gilles Plains Campus. The culture and values of CBS Inc. have not changed over this period and we have continued our original core business of recreation / arts, further education and open employment. Regular employment seemed to fit the logical adaption of the strengths based model and the modern approach to employment in areas of interest. These are the core pillars for CBS Inc. with the addition of blended social enterprise businesses and has advanced our success today. There are so many people who helped so much along the way and all have contributed in their own way to CBS Inc. today.
Founder and Executive Director, CBS Inc.