Summer 2018 Newsblast

The Summer 2018 Newsblast is here! It’s been a busy couple of months with the Annual General Meeting, the CommuniTEA Infusion season starting, and the official release of the 1.5 hour MyCompass Planning Citizen Action Lab Experience. Read on to learn more about these projects and more!

Calls to Action

Schedule a MyCompass Planning Lab

MyCompass Planning is a secure, web based, planning tool that helps people with disabilities chart the course towards all things good in life. This platform is used at Skills Society to provide a way for people with disabilities to plan, strategize, and communicate with their supports, allies, and family. You can read more about MyCompass Planning here.

One thing we’ve found that can be tricky for people with disabilities and their supports is identifying meaningful goals. To support the process of generating ideas for meaningful goals for folks at Skills we’ve tweaked the “Think Tank” Citizen Action Lab process. Team Leaders and Managers can now request a 1.5 hour MyCompass Planning Lab that brings key people from the individual’s life together to explore and ideate promising possibilities!

Email Paige at to book your MyCompass Planning Lab today!

Book a Block Party with CommuniTEA Infusion

CommuniTEA Infusion is up and running in full force for the 2018 season. We’ve already been out to 13 events this summer – block parties, festivals, pop up yoga in the park and more! Booking the tea van for a block party or other neighborhood event is a great way to build community and create space for social connections to emerge. You can read more about the tea van here .

Don’t miss the chance to have the CommuniTEA team out for a block party at your place this summer. Book now by contacting Paige at!

Values in Action: Building & Sharing Knowledge

Erin Shares her Experiences with MyCompass Planning

At Skills, when exploring the usefulness and impact of a tool or project, it’s important to us that we capture multiple perspectives, including those of the people we support.

Erin and one of her supports looking at her MyCompass Planning page

By uncovering the perspectives of the people we support through interviews, we gain valuable insights. Often the voices of people with disabilities are left unheard and assumptions are made about what they are able to share and what they think. At Skills, we know people with disabilities have many important insights to share and we work hard to incorporate those insights as projects are tweaked and carried forward.

Here’s some of what we’ve learned from talking with the people we support:

  • Many people with disabilities have a desire to share their experiences with others if given the opportunity
  • Folks that want to share have lots to say about their experiences and often hold key insights that are unique to their situation or circumstance
  • The engagement process sometimes needs to be adapted to make it more accessible to people with disabilities. Adaptations might include things like:
    • Breaking questions down into smaller parts
    • Having a support person present to help provide additional context
    • Inviting the person to show you what they are talking about (for example have them show you their MyCompass newsfeed on a device rather than just talk about it)

Erin was interviewed by our partners Lift Interactive this past year about her experiences using one of the tools we’ve been part of building, MyCompass Planning. We later had the opportunity to chat further with Erin about her experiences sharing her story with Lift Interactive. Erin reflected on her experience during our chat and commented:

“It was interesting to be videotaped and interviewed, to be on a video to share with everybody what MyCompass is all about.”

Erin was excited to share her experiences with MyCompass Planning. She felt it was important to share her experiences so that others could benefit from the knowledge she had:

“So other people who are new to Skills know what MyCompass is about so they know what to put in there [the MyCompass platform] about their lives…because I’ve been on MyCompass, I’ve commented, and I’m actually on it all the time.”

Erin also expressed that sharing her story felt good. She liked that it was a new experience and was grateful to have had the opportunity:

“It’s interesting, I’ve never been asked to do that kind of thing [an interview] before.”

We are grateful for Erin, and others like her, who have had the courage to share their experiences and insights with us. They have taught us a great deal not only about the value and utility of some of our tools and projects but also about how to best include people with disabilities in design and evaluation processes.

Moments of Gratitude

Shining a Spotlight on RBC

RBC has been supporting Skills both financially and through volunteering since 2014. In that time, they have donated $25 000 to the CommuniTEA Infusion Project, $6000 to the Little Italy Community Garden, and contributed over 150 volunteer hours!

One of the gardening groups who worked on July 11th to plant three gardens with people supported by Skills.

A New Planting Project

This spring, RBC was eager to support us again, this time with a new idea – brightening up the flower beds at the homes of people supported by Skills! On June 27th and July 11th, 4 volunteers from RBC, the CommuniTEA Infusion team, and people supported by Skills worked together to plant beautiful gardens. RBC made this possible by not only providing manpower but also financially contributing to the cost of watering cans, pots, soil, and plants for each of the 6 participating homes.

We are grateful for our strong relationship with RBC and their ongoing support of our work. They continue to step up to the plate with whatever we ask, making new and important opportunities and experiences available to the people we support.

Skills in the Community

Skills is proud to offer supports to residents with disabilities living in the Melcor Welcome Village (YMCA) using an innovative service model (read more here). One challenge that has emerged in supporting the residents at Melcor is access to recreational programming. Although Melcor already provides family oriented programming a gap seemed to be programming that was both accessible and affordable.

To address this gap, Skills has teamed up with the Welcome Village (YMCA) and Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts to offer a no cost monthly art program (with free childcare!). The program is generously funded, in part, by a $6000 grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation that Skills applied for.

We are excited by this opportunity to collaborate, bringing our knowledge and skills to the table to provide all the residents at the YMCA Welcome Village with an opportunity to have some fun and experiment with artistic expression.

Sector News

Self Advocacy Federation Summit

Are you interested in self advocacy? Join the Self Advocacy Federation for their 2018 summit in Alix, AB on October 1-3rd. Cost is $50 for AACT members and $100 for non members. Click here for more info.

Improv Workshop Series with Rapid Fire Theatre

YEG Dignity 2018 (read more here) invites applications from people with disabilities who would like to be part of developing a performance to be showcased on Global Dignity Day on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at the Grindstone Theatre from 5pm-8pm. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to participate in 6 workshop sessions with Rapid Fire Theatre at the Artspace Housing Co-Operative. For more information and to apply click here.

Recent Highlights & Learnings at Skills

Community members in savasana at one of the CommuniTEA Yoga Fusion events.

CommuniTEA Yoga Fusion

For 4 Tuesdays in July we offered inclusive, pop up yoga in the park as part of a neat collaboration between RootEd. (a local community building initiative see more here), the CommuniTEA Infusion team, and Randi Tajcnar (yoga teacher extraordinaire and past Skills employee). Each week community members gathered to move their body, get their zen on, sip iced tea, and share in conversation.

Annual General Meeting

Brandon and his supports presenting on their MyCompass Planning experiences at the Skills annual general meeting

On June 25th, 2018 we hosted the Skills Annual General Meeting bringing staff, board members, community members, and the people we support and their allies together to share learnings and successes from the past year. Paige and Larry did their Pecha Kucha style presentation on CommuniTEA Infusion and community belonging and Brandon and his team shared their experiences with MyCompass Planning. More on Brandon’s story here. More on Paige and Larry’s Pecha Kucha here.

Patterns & Principles

Paige and Larry, Co-coordinators of the CommuniTEA Infusion Project giving their pecha kucha style talk at the Skills annual general meeting

As part of the annual report this year (click here to see full report) the Skills senior leadership team – Bev Hills, Shawn Depner, Linda Marchand, Sandi Pesklevis, Karen Huta, Pat Conrad, and Ben Weinlick co-authored an article titled the “Patterns and Principles We’ve Learned that Support People in their Endeavor for the Good Life”. You can check the article out here.

If you’d like to see something you, or someone you support is a part of, in the newsblast send a note to Paige at

This Newsblast was compiled by Paige Reeves, Co-coordinator of the CommuniTEA Infusion project and PhD student at the University of Alberta.