For the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta, partnerships and relationships have always played a starring role in the creation of their enterprise. Most CPA’s around the world were created by a group of parents who came together to offer support and services for their disabled children.
The statistics today show that 65,000 Canadians have cerebral palsy, which is parallel to the amount of people with multiple sclerosis.
Janice Bushfield, who is the Executive Director of CPAA and a mother with a son who has cerebral palsy, stresses the importance of instilling a sense of empowerment within people who are born with disabilities, “You don’t always advocate for yourself when you are born with a disability…people with cerebral palsy have gone through life with a disability, so self-advocacy is something that has not been very strong for them.”
Hence the CPAA’s mantra is to empower those with cerebral palsy and other disabilities to be proactive and have a voice in terms of their own health, services and initiatives, in other words to have a Life without Limits.
Presently there is no Canadian Cerebral Palsy Association, so the CPA in Alberta provides the national voice at CP conferences held around the world. In 1990 the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Association collapsed, for reasons that many non-profits suffer; not having enough money or resources to keep operating.
As a provincial member, Alberta took a proactive role and began a clothing donation program which enabled them to make an income by partnering with the multimillion dollar thrift company Value Village. Soon they joined forces with the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Board, collecting recyclable bottles from Alberta businesses and turning them into a source of revenue.
Seizing opportunities has been a powerful method in overcoming adversity for CPAA. When the Canadian Association folded, Alberta members jumped on the opportunity of opening a social enterprise. After introducing their clothing donation bins in Calgary and Edmonton, the CPAA began doing research on Cerebral Palsy Associations around the globe. It was then that they decided to become an International Affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy in the United States, who were also looking at broadening their scope into international work and who had recently partnered with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance in Australia.
At this point the association changed their logo to Life Without Limits, which not only gave the organization impetus to become bigger and better, but also enabled them to carry their voice across the world.
Bushfield finds that looking into what other disabled populations are doing inspires her to be innovative, “It has been interesting to find out that what is happening in India or Singapore or Turkey is the same thing happening here, the same challenges when it comes to cerebral palsy care.”
As a global member of the cerebral palsy community, CPAA has found that collaborating internationally fuels their creative edge. At the same time the Association keeps an open mind when it comes to opportunity, always seeking ways in which to create partners and relationships with other organizations.
“I like to follow Twitter and social media to know exactly what is happening, technology that might advance the organization,” says Bushfield, “I always see an opportunity for a bigger better partnership, especially if they are a global company who can be of benefit to our global community.”
Through international collaboration, CPAA has certainly found a means to be innovative. Yet they still struggle with receiving grants. Bushfield offers this nugget of advice when it comes to dealing with rejection, “work on maintaining your relationships, write them a thank you card and find ways to engage them in your mission.”
Case Study Jasmine Retzer, Student, Mount Royal University