Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Our Consumer Place supports Consumer Developed Initiatives (CDIs).

At Our Consumer Place, we reflect on what consumers have done in the past, what consumers are currently doing, and what (we hope) consumers will be doing in the future.

We believe consumers can be more than "involved" or "participating" in structures that have been created by other people - we believe consumers can be actively leading the way! This is a cultural shift, and is already happening all over the place, on both small scales and larger scales (especially overseas - New Zealand is an especially good example). But, unfortunately, it isn't happening everywhere. Even when this cultural shift is happening, it isn't always clearly articulated and we believe that clarity is important, so we developed the term "Consumer Developed Initiative" (CDI) to describe the kinds of groups and projects that we actively support and promote.

We are aware that acronyms may be off-putting for many people, so we don't use this language all the time. It is, however, at the foundation of everything we do, even when we use vague language like "stuff consumers are doing" or "projects, groups (etc) controlled by consumers" or any of the other ways we describe what we do!

When we were originally funded, we were funded as a "Consumer Delivered Service." This language is what is often used by the government funders, who no doubt believe this to be a progressive step towards an important cultural shift - consumers leading the way! We are pushing this logic further with the term "Consumer Developed Initiative." Here's our thinking:

Why have we chosen to describe activities that Our Consumer Place seeks to support and build using the word 'Developed' as opposed to 'Delivered'?

The word 'deliver' is what the postie does with a package. She delivers something to someone. But that "something" is already defined - usually the postie didn't actually create the package herself! That something already existed before she came to work, the same as a whole lot of other things that can be wrapped up as a whole - a package - and given to someone.

Delivery is also a one-way action, without any necessary involvement or action by the recipient. Many of us have experienced services that have been 'delivered to us'.

Now, just because consumers are doing the "delivering" doesn't mean that consumers have been thoroughly and thoughtfully involved in creating the package. Also, consumers sometimes act a bit like services acted towards them - being the experts, and "delivering" a service to other consumers. This is understandable, as we all tend to model what we do on what we've experienced ourselves, but we don't think it's the best way to move forward.

By contrast, 'develop' suggests something new, something original. Develop implies the creation of something that has not existed before. It suggests involvement of many, with many discussions, debates, exchange of opinions, all contributing to the process of producing an 'end something' (end product) that is original.

Why have we chosen to describe activities that Our Consumer Place seeks to support and build using the word 'Initiatives' as opposed to 'Services'?

Similarly, services already exist. Services quite often are something that someone else (usually professionals) have decided would be 'good for us' or would be of 'benefit to us if we access them', or of benefit if 'we get with the program'. If we continue to replicate what already exists, then this is as good as it gets. Is that really good enough?

Let's explore the word 'initiative'.

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

Initiative (Judgement) - Noun - The ability to use your judgement to make decisions and do things without needing to be told what to do.

Initiative (New action) - Noun - A new action or movement, often intended to overcome a problem.

There are many aspects in this explanation that we like. "To use your judgement", "to make decisions" and "do things without needing to be told what to do" are examples of ideals we all hope society would uphold in interactions with us as people.

The second noun meaning, "a new action ….. intended to overcome a problem," also carries great ideals as we dream of a world of how it could be rather than as it currently exists. All of us have seen many problems with the world, and aspects of services, as it currently is, that need overcoming. Some of us have ideas of ways these problems could be overcome. These are initiatives.

Undoubtedly there will be much debate, discussion, and diverse opinions as to what is and what is not a 'Consumer Developed Initiative'. This is the way it should be. We at Our Consumer Place don't profess to know everything and we "get it wrong" as often as anyone else! But here are a few things we'd like you to consider and make up your own mind about.

Is a consumer run drop-in-centre a consumer developed initiative? Drop in centres have been around for years, and whilst it is true that very few have ever been run and controlled by consumers, is this really a new initiative? Or is it just more of the same, just in different hands? What would make it truly consumer-developed?

Is a consumer run arts class, or a pottery class, or wood working group a consumer developed initiative? Many of us have experienced institutional services and their programs and some of us were even exposed to the degrading environments of sheltered workshops for the so-called disabled. Is any one of these considered to be a consumer developed initiative, simply because they are now run by consumers? What would it take for it to be truly consumer-developed?

We feel sure that you all will have your own opinions about these things that we raise. We would LOVE to know your opinions.

An initiative of Department of Human Services, Developed & Managed by www.ourcommunity.com.au