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Achieving change through inclusive and person-centred support for persons with disabilities

‘How can we make sure that support services respond to the individual needs of persons with disabilities and help them live included in the community?  What kind of training & learning is necessary to make this happen?’


The New Paths to InclUsion Network brings together organisations of persons with disabilities, service-providers, universities and research centres from fourteen European countries and Canada whose common aim is to achieve change and support organisations to deliver community based and person-centred services for people with disabilities.

The Network builds on the legacy of the European project New Paths to Inclusion Network (2009-2011) which helped to advance Person Centred Planning and Practice in support services across Europe.

New Paths to InclUsion Network is a European project bringing together 20 organisations, service-providers, universities and research centres from 14 European countries and Canada. Their overreaching objective is to facilitate the development of inclusive and person-centred support services for persons with disabilities empowering them to lead self-determined lives within their communities.


The Network aims to find new answers to its guiding questions:

“How can we make sure that support services respond to the individual needs of persons with disabilities and help them live included in the community?  What kind of training & learning is necessary to make this happen?”

On this basis, the project seeks to equip organisations, service-providers and persons with disabilities with the knowledge, values and skills necessary to make sure that citizens with disabilities can actively participate in education, work, leisure, life and relationships in their community.



  • Persons with disabilities have the RIGHT to person centred support that enables them to live in the community.
  • The European Union and most Member States ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    By doing it, they committed to making sure that persons with disabilities can get the support they need to live independently and take part in the community.
  • A high proportion of disability services are still provided on an institutional basis, in care homes which are isolated from the community.
  • The transition from institutional to community-based care requires organisations and carers to re-think the way support services for persons with disabilities are designed, organised and delivered.

When working with people with intellectual disabilities, providing information in accessible formats is a cornerstone of all activites. Therefore, John O'Brien translated the Theory U Process in easy-to-read language, to facilitate the understanding of all people involved in the project, regardless of their disability. 

To see the whole accessible explanation of Theory U, please click here.

Here is a short summary of the main points of the document, in an easy to understand format.

Theory U is not just about changing things 
for people with disabilities. 
It is a way to build a better world for everyone.

etrPeople with intellectual disabilities
have found their voices.
More and more people
are not happy with the way things are.
They are beginning to say what they want in life.
They want to be included in community life.
They say, “A good life gives us real choices.”

  • I want to choose my own home. I want to choose where I live, who I live with.
  • I want real job with the support I need to be successful, use my abilities and earn money.
  • I want to learn along with other students my age.
  • I want to get support from people I choose.

In many places, the help that people need 
comes inside boxes. 
People’s choices do not fit in the boxes.
Help in boxes takes away choice
and makes it harder to be included.

There need to be big changes. 
If services just do more of the same 
people will not get the choices they have a right to.
The way people get the help they need has to change.
Theory U shows us new ways to change things.
Services know how to make more boxes.
More group homes. More day programs.
More special schools or special classes.
Services act like a computer.
They download what they already know to make more boxes.
Theory U says:

  • Stop downloading.
  • Go to places and meet people who can help you learn. When you get there, observe, observe, and observe even more. Look around, talk to people, listen deeply [sensing].
  • Find a place to be alone where it is quiet. Be still. Let go of old ways. Let new ways come to you [presencing]. Quickly try a new way of doing what came to you. See what works and try again, better [prototyping]




Our focus in this meeting was crystallizing: identifying the seeds we want to plant through the multiplication courses, the prototypes of which we will test in 2015.
Some Network members observe that the path to inclusion grows steeper as they bring their learning from the project into their work lives. A deeper understanding of inclusion reveals more conflicts between practices that serve inclusion and common practice and more areas in which person-centered work is poorly supported by the organizations and systems people rely on.

To find out more, please click here. 

Creating New Paths to Inclusion is important because the current resting state of our system of organized assistance leaves too many people in settings that limit their freedom and leave them out of diverse opportunities to participate in community life and act as contributing citizens in personal collaboration with others who are not supported by ID services. Shifting this situation requires learning by making deep change in a field that is defined by three related intentions.

To find out more, please click here. 

The New Paths for Inclusion Network has organised a series of conferences and workshops in Vienna early November. Participants had the opportunity to discuss person-centred planning and meet many activists and change-makers.

On 4 November, the New Paths for Inclusion Final Conference, the last conference of the project, has given project partners and interested participants the occasion to share their conclusions on  the best ways to make sure that support services respond to the individual needs of persons with disabilities and help them live included in the community. 

November 5 was designated as the Network Day, organised in collaboration with the German speaking Network on Person-centred Planning. Members and non-members of the German speaking Network had the chance to meet, exchange ideas and network with different organisations.

The Large Group Workshop “Learning with Pathfinders and Their Partners” withTheory-U experts Beth Mount and John O’Brien was held on 6 and 7 November. Pathfinders are persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want more in their lives. In this workshop, participants explored how pathfinders and their partners are co-creating self-directed journeys to social inclusion. Participants discussed ways to identify what assists people’s diverse journeys to social inclusion and what it takes to make necessary organisational changes.

The Final Conference was a truly inclusive space of learning where everyone, partners and participants, have deepened their understanding and practice how we can nourish social fields and co-create New Paths to Inclusion. We are delighted that everyone went home with a bunch of seeds that they have collected as well as ideas on what they can do to cultivate social fields where those seeds might flourish.

As we slowed down and gave ourselves time to listen, reflect and think, many of us noticed how much of our attention is directed to keeping up with the demands of a very full to-do list and how little time we make to listen to people with a different perspectives or think in a typical week at work. We also noticed how our thoughts about inclusion are charged with feeling. 

To find out more, please click here. 

Inclusion Europe organised the Policy Seminar "Putting citizens at the centre of politics", final event of the European project New Paths to Inclusion Network, on 19 November 2015 at the European Parliament. The seminar was the occasion to learn from success stories of person-centred planning in a large number of countries and settings. Partners from the New Paths to InclUsion Network shared the good practices they collected during the project, proving that person-centred planning is an effective tool in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.




Find below the PowerPoint presentations of the speakers at the event:

What is person-centred planning - Oliver Koenig, Queraum

Using person-centered planning in implementing the UN CRPD on a regional level - Stefan Doose, Ostholstein Regional Authority

Participation as the key to creating inclusive societies - Magdi Birtha, Inclusion Europe

Promoting independent-living in Croatia - Slavenka Martinovic, COO Validus and Bozidar Kobasic

Supported decision-making through person-centered approaches - Milena Johnova, Quip 

Policy Recommendations  - Aleksandra Ivankovic, Inclusion Europe

In November 2015 the New Paths to InclUsion network reached a turning point, marked by the completion of a cycle of the Network’s support from the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union. Partners gathered in Vienna to exchange stories of change, reflect on their learning and harvest seeds of possibility. Later in the month, a smaller group joined parliamentarians and officials, self-advocates and family advocates in Brussels to report on the policy implications of the past three years’ work.

To find out more, please click here. 

The New Paths to InclUsion Network project has enabled participants from different countries, organisations and social systems, to share experiences. New Paths to InclUsion Network has underlined the interdependence of the three keys to inclusion: implementing person-centred support and organisational learning; community inclusion and development; inclusive trainings and learning.

By enhancing the individual learning of participants on inclusion, methods of person-centred planning and person-centred thinking have been successfully implemented. Self-advocates’ views were heard, which was essential for organisational change. Indeed, the learning experience in an inclusive group was of the utmost importance for change of attitude towards inclusion. Learning together despite the different views on problems or achievements has provided a good example of how society could develop towards inclusion.

Theory U and Sensing Journeys were also used as great tools to facilitate community inclusion and development. It only strengthened participants’ beliefs in inclusion by showing them that, in all participants countries, people face exclusion and need strong (self-) advocates.

Project partners were introduced to inspiring ideas, innovative regional and local projects and great opportunities. They have already started to spread these innovations within their own organisations and countries, as part of the path to inclusion.

Take a look at the research report

Those who create new pathways to inclusion have chosen to attend to a call from the future. Now, too many people with disabilities lack the opportunities, accommodations & individualized assistance that will make it possible for them to choose to participate fully in the life of their communities. Changing this demands creative work by people with the courage to join in discovering new ways.

Those of us who gathered in Sesimbra have many different roles. We are advocates, family members, teachers, researchers, managers & organizational change agents. We are linked by the various parts we play in New Paths to Inclusion, but our commitments to inclusion express deeper interests that arise from our own personal & family lives & from convictions formed in our work lives. We aimed to draw on our whole collective experience of inclusion to inform the project’s next steps.

We came together at the time when the project begins to turn from a primary focus on gathering knowledge to a focus on developing & testing ways to reliably share & extend what we have learned. Taking time for shared reflection at this turning point gave people who have been engaged in different aspects of the project the opportunity to support each other in making sense of our collective experience. Our purpose was to deepen & enrich our personal & collective knowledge of pathways to inclusion by listening to one another’s reflections on experience, clarifying our own contributions to the work of inclusion & sketching the application of our learning to the three areas of project focus:

• Transforming the structure & culture of services to increase the capacity to support inclusion in a person-centered way.

• Connecting to community life in ways that offer people opportunities to act as contributing citizens.

• Creating learning environments where interested people can co-create inclusion by engaging in common projects where everyone shares responsibility. The project is designed as an exploration of Theory U, a way to guide social innovation through shared observation of the social field, attention to the highest future possibility in that social field, & learning to actualize that possibility through rapid cycles of prototyping. Accordingly, we guided most of our time together with practices drawn from Theory U. For a better understanding Theory U & a guide to the specific steps in the practices we tried, begin with a visit to

To find out more about the event in Sesimbra, please click here.