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Adopting Person-Centered Practices: A Case Study

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Research Summary

At-a-Glance

Person-centered practices can play a key role in helping people with disabilities make informed choices about working and create goals to meet their employment goals. However, person-centered practices have not been adopted consistently across the vocational rehabilitation profession. A shift from system-oriented decision making to person-centered practices can be difficult because they often require a change in organizational culture and attitudes. This case study used an episodic and continuous change model to help a vocational rehabilitation agency adopt person-centered practices statewide.

Key Findings

  • A diverse range of attitudes about organizational change, including resistance, exists in agencies.
  • Leadership buy-in and support is required for organizational change to succeed.
  • Intentionally planned, short-term episodic changes are the springboard for organizational transformation.
  • Continuous change incorporates and reinforces the lessons learned during the change episode.
  • Adoption of new beliefs and attitudes about person-centered practices ultimately come down to individual decisions by staff members to adopt the new attitudes.

    Put it into Practice

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    Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

    • Develop a cohesive, educational communication plan across all levels of the organization.
    • Provide organization-wide professional development.
    • Commit to wrap-around support.
    • Engage with self-advocates, families, and community partners.
    • Conduct a kick-off episode in-person to set successful communication dynamics.
    • Evaluate episodic changes to identify opportunities for continuous change.
    • Use Communities of Practice as an ongoing learning tool and to foster continuous change:
      • Recruit proponents of person-centered practices to build a strong community foundation, but include staff with diverse points of view.
      • Train members in the stages of organizational change to give them insight and potential strategies.
      • Reinforce and promote use of lessons learned from episodic change.
      • Encourage staff to try new strategies within the Community, evaluate the strategies’ effectiveness, and adjust as needed.

    More About the Research

    This case study includes an overview of the episodic/continuous model of organizational change, with detailed information about how to implement each type of change.


    Learn More

    Gunty, A., Van Ness, J., & Nye-Lengerman, K. (2019). Be a change agent: Tools and techniques to support organizational and individual transformation. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 50 (3), 325-329.

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