Updated: Feb 19
Our world changes fast and so do our needs. And as our world is going to keep changing, it becomes crucial for deaf organizations to see the need for change as an opportunity to re-imagine deaf communities.
For organizations such as NGOs, educational institutions, and private businesses that serve deaf people, change is often necessary. Change can give new perspectives and create a sustainable impact in deaf people’s lives. But there is a hard side of change that we need to take into account. Organizations’ decisions crucially affect communities, and therefore the quality of life of the people they serve. The degree of influence is high, and due to that all internal organizational decisions require careful attention especially if we consider that the barriers deaf people face in their daily lives are very frequent compared to other groups. If the organizations' transformation is not successful, deaf communities can become even more vulnerable.
“All internal organizational decisions require careful attention especially if we consider that the barriers deaf people face in their daily lives are more frequent compared to other groups. If the transformation is not successful, deaf communities can become even more vulnerable"
Implementing change has attracted many researchers’ attention around the world. Due to this it has now become clear that there is not a single approach that can be applied at an international level. On the contrary, there are a varied array of factors that we need to take in consideration when talking about change. The needs, the circumstances, the political priorities and the expectations for improvement differ among countries and across sectors. And this applies and to deaf organizations as well.
But are there some common practices of effective change? The answer to this question is there's no single factor and a variety of factors contribute to a successful transformation. However, it is common that local and national governments, businesses, and communities are of the most significant factors affecting organizational change. Keeping these factors front is essential. Such elements are important however, avoiding failure in deaf organizations who attempt a change requires first and foremost to take into account:
the needs of the local communities and,
the qualities of the leaders who lead the change
The needs of deaf people and their leaders
One of the most important stages in driving successfully change in deaf organizations is to understand in depth the needs of deaf people. Change requires knowledge, proven-based facts and measurable outcomes. The first step to change is to identify the problems, the struggles, the barriers, the solutions and the appropriate strategies. But to identify the problems and design sustainable solutions for deaf communities we need at first to invest in research. Unfortunately, there’s very limited research in deaf communities around the world. Most organizations who serve deaf people are applying a more “one size that fits all” approach without taking into account the complexities of the various issues that deaf people face. In order for deaf organizations to change their services and products successfully it is essential that they invest in research.
"Most organizations who serve deaf people are applying a more “one size that fits all” approach without taking into account the complexities of the various issues that deaf people face"
The second significant part of driving successfully change is the people who lead the deaf organizations. Among other qualities such as good relationships, decision making, evaluation, communication, and adaptation to change it is crucial for the deaf organizations’ leaders to have:
A clear vision: a clear statement of what the problem is and then how things will be better when the situation has been changed is of a paramount
Respect and empathy for deaf people: change is an emotional progress that requires deep understanding of deaf people's needs, their struggles, their history and their expectations from their leaders and the society at large
Commitment to deliver the promised benefits
An in-depth understanding of the complexities of the local and national political and economic systems, and organizational structure
High expectations for themselves and those who serve
Nowadays, deaf organizations in order to survive and address effectively the challenges of the new century they need to be prepared well to adapt to new approaches. They must continually restructure and adapt to political priorities’ changes, develop technological advances, conduct community researches, choose leaders that can empower the voice of deaf people, but most importantly improve their expectations for their impact in deaf people's lives. Our communities need people who will set the bar high. We need leaders who will allow deaf people to see themselves in the future. With the right people we can walk on the right direction. Together.
International Development Specialist
in Deaf Education & Empowering Deaf Communities