[Hpn] A way to get people off life's back roads
William C. Tinker
Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:15:25 -0400
A way to get people off life's back roads
April 19, 2008
FOR most of my adult life I have worn two hats: the first, a hat of
privilege, has come from a long and rewarding career in the business sector;
the second, a hat of a "second-class citizen" has resulted from spending
most of my adult life with a significant disability (quadriplegia).
Early in my career I had the opportunity to test a simple premise: can we
apply the same techniques that the business sector uses so successfully to
achieve its goals to find solutions to complex social problems? Perhaps not
surprisingly, the answer was "yes". In the end the business sector is no
different to any other part of our society. It is a group of people working
together to achieve common goals.
There is one big difference though between, say, Toyota producing cars and
Australia "producing" opportunities for all of its citizens to contribute
and to benefit from that contribution.
Toyota controls and manages its entire business from the research and
development and the arrival of raw materials through to the delivery of the
finished vehicle to the customer at the other end.
That's not the way we deliver social reform. We do it in bits - disconnected
Take people with disabilities for example. They receive initial treatment
for their disability, often in the health system. If they need a carer at
home, they need to seek that from a separate government or private service.
If they need accessible housing that comes from yet another separate
government or private source. Their transport - if it is available at all -
is delivered separately again by the Department of Transport or a private
bus or taxi operator.
The education system has been working hard to provide educational
opportunities for people with disabilities but it doesn't link to the
transport system, the housing system, the carer system, the health system or
the employment system at the other end.
The average person in Australia travels on the "highway" of life. Life is
(mostly) a smooth journey. Not only can they gain access to all the things
they need to lead a rewarding, productive life - housing, transport,
education, work, play - they can move from one to the other on their life
journey quickly and smoothly.
People who are so often excluded from full participation in our society -
indigenous people, people with disabilities, homeless people, migrants and
refugees - travel on the "back roads" of life. Life is not a smooth journey.
Even those who overcome the barriers to participation don't do so easily.
And for many there are just too many potholes, broken bridges and brick
For those people who have been largely left out as we have built our robust
society, their aspirations to lead a decent, rewarding life are often
But this is where the business sector's capacity to produce incredible
things and to sort out incredibly complex problems has so much to offer.
Toyota doesn't run its business as Australia runs the "business" of social
inclusion - as a largely disconnected set of silos. Its left hand knows what
its right hand is doing. Its research and development team talk to its
production team, to its finance team, to its human resources team, to its
marketing team. And they, in turn, talk to each other.
They treat the process of transforming the inputs - raw materials, money,
people, intellectual property - into outputs (cars) as a continuum. As a
If they ran their business the way the world runs social inclusion, they'd
be out of business.
It's not the only solution to building stronger communities, to achieving
our national goals. But borrowing the knowledge of how to get things done -
the systems, structures and processes that make up all successful
enterprises - has, in my view, a great deal to offer in creating pathways
for the millions of our fellow citizens who can and want to make a
contribution to building the society that we all want to be proud of.
Whole of government. Whole of life. Social inclusion. Kevin Rudd and the new
Federal Government clearly understand that big challenges, big opportunities
require big-picture thinking and big solutions. Childhood development from
birth to independence. Integrated health care. The Australia 2020 Summit
itself. They are all big approaches to big problems.
In the end, though, our greatest challenge will not be finding the solutions
but making them happen. We'll do it - we have the will, we have the capacity
and we have the knowledge we need to make big things happen. That's the key
message I'll be taking to Canberra this weekend.
William Charles Tinker,Sr.
New Hampshire Homeless
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.