Social Lessons from Transformation: Starfire Council

Sometime in 2007 or 2008, Tim Vogt, who directed an award-winning agency serving people with disabilities, had his journey interrupted years ago by a visit from three people who were unknown to him who got up and spoke at a local conference he was attending.

Peter Block asked: “How come every story about Cincinnati is about its problems? We have thousands of beautiful stories out there, and all we talk about is what’s wrong with the city and what’s wrong with the people who live here.”

John McKnight said, “Beware of people who profit off of other people’s problems.”

Judith Snow, the keynote, then said, “There’s no such thing as disability. It’s a social construct.”

Tim initially shrugged off what felt like undeservedly heavy critique of his and his coworkers’ “precious community work.” But something stuck about those three provocative questions:

  • What are you doing if you’re profiting off of other people’s problems?
  • What are you doing if you’re going around labeling people and limiting their lives?
  • What are you doing telling stories about what’s wrong with everybody?

In this session from the recent Asset-Based Community Development (un)Conference, Tim and his fellow innovators Bridget Vogt, Carol Combs and Danyetta Najoli share their story of how their organization transformed away from group-based services to individualized services.

You’ll hear what deep lessons they learned about entering into partnership with people instead of using them as clients. And how that led to learning about how to heal culture, rethink the role of family, strengthen democracy, and address racial, economic, and environmental justice.


Going Further:


About the Lead Author

Tim Vogt
Tim Vogt is Executive Director of Starfire, a Cincinnati, Ohio, organization which offers programs that address the needs of teens and adults with disabilities. Read Margaret Rahn's story to learn how he and his wife, Bridget, became community connectors by baking a plate of cookies.

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