The story of a changing world and how to keep telling it

What the newsletter covered in 2021 and why I need your help

Hey Debriefers,

We're about to head into our third year! The short story is that I need your help to keep going.

Update: based on kind response to this newsletter, I now have a way for readers to support the newsletter on a monthly or one-off basis. Thank you!

I hope you all had a good international day of persons with disabilities. I was at home with my own personal and professional disability drama: a broken lift, and writing up an assignment on inclusion in public works.

Keeping up with what's going on

Alongside my own goings on it was good to follow the drama of the day: social media was full of updates from around the world on #IDPD21 with new research, advocacy, and our community coming together.

Last year, this is what started the newsletter: the desire to stay up-to-date with all the interventions that were going on. I was struggling with all the news that came across my desk (or, let's be honest, my social media habits). Sharing it gave me the chance to process and was useful for others.

This year I went through thousands of news items and reports to curate guides for disability news in February, March, April, May, a little break in the middle, then again in September and November. All being well there will be another by Christmas.

Understanding how it happens

“One good thing leads to another”, as a colleague on my current assignment me about their inclusion journey. As I shared links I started adding more analysis from my side to process things, and deep dives on certain subjects with the interview series.

I'm thrilled to have been able to share these conversations with you. As well as there being so many fantastic people working on disability rights, so much of the good stuff goes on in discussions behind-the-scenes, which you only have access to if you're already in the know.

This year we heard from Stefan Tromel on the way he works to get colleagues to take action, and about how he promotes employment of disabled people. My understanding of health and disability was changed by the orientation in this conversation with Ant Duttine. It was an absolute treat to meet Her Abilities prize-winner Bernice Oyeleke and get to know her background and activism.

Back on employment issues Caroline Casey got real about her own disability and how that's part of the change she's making in the private sector. For years I've heard critiques from disabled people in Bangladesh about how they're treated by NGOs: so I am perhaps most proud to share Misti Ashrafun Nahar on these concerns. And the last newsletter was with Jennifer Madans on data, and what the 15% means. It turns out to be the most-viewed of the year (understand data does help with the numbers).

What it adds up to

Keeping this overview on disability news has shown me how the world's crises affect persons with disabilities and the creative, cunning and extraordinary ways our community is changing the world.

I came into this as a policy nerd, more fluent in UN-speak than how to tell this story to a wider audience. We don't always take a step back to appreciate the bigger picture we're part of. As well as helping colleagues get their work done, I hope that this newsletter can be a small contribution to telling the story.

A personal take

We are rightly giving more attention to who gets to tell what stories. Knowledge comes from people: for better and worse my experience and privileges will shape what I share. One of the reasons I write this in a personal way is so that you can see where it comes from. I don't pretend to a universal view.

I've been a disabled person all my life, and spent the last 10 years working on this in the international system. I'm a policy nerd so I share or write reports that are too long, and it's a perspective that keeps an interest equally in the what, how, and who of change. And I'm in my apartment in England — with a hopefully-soon-fixed elevator — claiming to tell the story of the wider world.

“International” isn't as objective as it sounds. The “international system” is a euphemism for organizations still oriented too much to the Global North.  My curation of news still features excessive news from the US and UK, and only briefly steps into content not written in English. I'm trying to get better at that. I made sure to feature people from the Global South in my interviews, and need to do that more.

A personal commitment

By the end of the year, the time I've spent on this newsletter will be the equivalent of two months full-time work. I'm a freelancer, and what started as a side project became the biggest single project that I did in 2021.

I count myself very lucky that Center for Inclusive Policy has been giving me support since last year. This year, that support covered about 50% of the time I spent on curating news, and the rest of that, and all the time on interviews, was my voluntary contribution.

Much as I am happy to contribute my volunteer time, I need your help to keep this up sustainably. I'm excited to do more, and have great ideas about how I could extend the content, but it's not sustainable if I always have to balance my time on this against my fully paid work.

How to keep going

I've been shy about raising this: I need money. For renting the apartment in England you see (or who knows, a place I can actually get in and out of). Maybe I shouldn't be shy about this: you know that media creators in all sectors have been struggling with funding.

One of the common solutions is a paywall, restricting content to those that pay for it. I will never do that on this newsletter. I want to make a resource that's available to a community of readers that stretches from people with fancy jobs in rich countries to people in grassroots organizations in less-rich countries.

I've started by asking for money from organizations working on disability. I've pitched three of them whose work I admire and have shared on the newsletter. I'm thrilled that one of them has already come back and committed to support. I’ll share more about that in the next edition.

I am telling these organizations that if everybody gives a little bit we can keep this going as a resource for the public good. I also told them that I would ask, you, readers, for support. Yes, I'm talking about your money, but not just that. I would only want those of you who are better off to support financially. Support comes in various forms and everyone can help.

Here's how you can help

I should say thank you to all of you who do help already. You read the newsletter, you share it on twitter, you give me advice and you've gotten me this far.

Here's how you can help me go further:

  • Update: you can contribute directly on a one-off or monthly basis.
  • Please share the newsletter to the disability-curious in your life. I would love to hit 1000 readers this year (we're at 960).
  • Let me know where you read this from and how you use it. Sharing testimonials from the readers will help potential funders see how it has impact.
  • For those of you working for organizations with money… if I didn't already pitch you, shame on me. Let me know if I should.

My first goal is just to be able to keep up doing what I'm doing, and that would be no small thing. Beyond that it would be great to establish this resource with more frequent updates, a better archive to browse through, and more analysis and interviews. If we start to dream I'd be able to commission articles from places we don't cover enough. If we’re really dreaming I would establish this as a charity dedicated to sharing knowledge on disability rights and inclusion and directed by the people that use it.

There's lots to do. The world is always changing for disabled people, and I want to help people with information and understanding to make these changes for the better.

Thanks for being part of the journey,