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Cornell University. ILR School. Employment and Disability Institute

Course 5e: PATH
Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope
Planning Positive Possible Futures

PATH is a creative planning tool that starts with the end in mind. The work begins with a visioning process that focuses the person with whom planning is being done on identifying his or her dreams. These ideas and thoughts ultimately become known as the "North Star." During this initial step of the process the person is asked to speak about the ideals, values, passions, hopes and dreams that they hope to realize or provide some direction in their life. The remainder of the planning process moves from the North Star backwards to an outcome of first (beginning) steps that are possible and positive. The process relies on the support of others who are concerned about and committed to assisting the focus person move toward his or her desirable future.

The second step is to choose a time in the future that is just beyond the comfortable reach of predictability, such as a year or two from now, or maybe six months from now. The facilitators then help the group to engage in a backward thinking process by coaching them to talk about the outcomes related to the vision that will have already occurred when one looks back to the projected time frame. This articulation of what has happened creates the GOALS for the focus person.

Step three focuses the group in the current reality. A snap shot of the current picture of the person's PRESENT is the purpose of this step. As indicated in the graphic below, the picture of the "now," (on the far left of the diagram) is as far away from the picture of the North Star, (on the far right of the diagram) as it could possibly be. This space creates a dynamic tension between the two. This tension is useful in helping the group figure out what it will take to move from the Now toward the North Star. The remaining five steps will culminate in the development of the action plan.

Step four surfaces an assumption that is deeply embedded in the core of the PATH planning process: no one can do this work alone. Consequently, thinking about who needs to be included is an important step of the PATH. People and/or entities that will be helpful in moving the process forward need to be identified by name and strategies for inviting these people into the process must be part of the overall plan of action.

The fifth step is about what the group will need or to have or to do that will keep them strong and allow them to do the hard work that it will take move forward as a team. Additionally, the needs of each individual member must be identified so that a network of support can be cultivated and contributions at a personal level can me made and sustained. This is an important discussion and one that is often overlooked in traditional planning forums.

Step six looks at the strategies that can be used to move the work forward. The facilitators will again focus the group through backward thinking. This time the "future" is much closer, such as 6 months from today if the group has been working within a timeline of one year. Step seven is a repeat of the sixth step except that the time is closer yet, such as 3 months or one month from today. Crucial to the seventh step is increasing the degree of specificity of the strategies to including who will do what, how, when and where.

The final step, step eight, is the first step. This is an action that can be taken right now. It may be as simple as making a phone call that will start the ball rolling. Whatever it is, the step must be identified and someone must be willing to make the first move. A helpful strategy is to assign a support coach to whoever is responsible for making the first move to be available to the person within the first day or two following the planning process to support the person as he or she takes the critical first step.

PATH - Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope

Two people, a group process facilitator and a record facilitator always facilitate the PATH process. The record facilitator often uses graphics in order to create a visually appealing record of the process. Whether graphics are used or not, PATH is always recorded in a format that allows all of the participants to see and/or be a part of what is happening. The facilitators need to remember to focus their facilitation in a way that the individual with whom the planning is conducted is central to the process while creating a safe and open environment that includes the other team members. Trust and confidentiality are two key issues that must be addressed and reinforced throughout the process. The focus person approves of all of the content for the record to insure accuracy, meaning and relevance.

For more information contact:
Jack Pearpoint
Inclusion Press
47 Indian Trail
Toronto, ON M6R 1Z8
(416) 658-5363