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The Role Of Voluntary Organizations
On the other hand, depending on government as a major source of large scale financing can lead to an unhealthy and inhibiting dependency on agencies which our societies should feel free to scrutinize and criticize. After all, you should not bite the hand that feeds you. To a lesser extent, any collaboration with government can become an impediment to a well developed association program when such collaboration in fact can be the power to "persuade" the association to concentrate on certain programs to the neglect of others. A similar danger would flow from the imposition of rigid standards that might be needed in a large bureaucracy, but which are inappropriate for a voluntary association that should be free to be flexible.
I commented earlier on the significance of words in our work, and that of course relates to terminology which has become outdated and which rightly causes anger and despair among persons who live with a mental handicap -- I am sure that the panel of self-advocates we listened to yesterday morning could have given us some telling examples.
In closing, let me state quite clearly a bias I have with regard to the function of our societies. It is my belief that their task is to obtain services, not to provide them. Obtaining services quite frequently will involve one or more demonstration projects which may well last for several years, whether it is a program for severely and profoundly handicapped children, some innovative vocational training, or examples of new living arrangements in the community, for those who cannot or should no longer live with their family. And there are, of course, those important services which are inherent in the functioning of our societies, such as parent-to-parent counseling, continuing education of the public, and legislative action.
I am well aware that any proposal that will result in curtailing the income of an association will meet with much resistance. As always, the role of the International League will have to be to distribute relevant information about existing model programs, to provide workshops and seminars where these issues can be discussed in detail, and to make available position papers which will aid the leadership of national and local societies in charting their future.