DSAIA: Better & Better. Together.

Wed, October 16, 2019 2:35 PM | Anonymous member

Today's guest blogger is David Forney, see below for full biography:

As a retired marketing communication consultant who worked with some of the biggest companies in the for-profit world and as a former board member for DSAIA, here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately

Down Syndrome Affiliates In Action (DSAIA) presents an interesting dichotomy --best practices AND experiential learning.

DSAIA opens the door for members to current, well-developed and sophisticated programs and processes that they can apply to sustain and improve their organizations – the best practices.

Access to those assets, however, is essentially experiential often accessed when two or three – a group – of leaders gather to share insights gained through experience at the Leadership Conference, on a Topical Call, in a Leaders’ Circle or on a webinar. Or, when members connect with DSAIA seeking others who have launched similar programs or dealt with a similar, yet unique situation.

I think most would agree those natural, open exchanges are at the very heart of DSAIA’s appeal.

If you have experienced that, it’s obvious, however, it is not obvious to everyone, unfortunately. And that means we have an opportunity to more clearly and consistently communicate this unique property to less-engaged and prospective members.

The first value expressed by DSAIA is “We model nonprofit best practices.” It is important to recognize that there are two pieces to that – “non-profit” and “best practices.” It’s that dicotomy again. While the latter, perhaps, suggests an aggressive, formal, buttoned-down persona, the former asserts the warmth and care typically associated with human services organizations.

It might be argued, in fact, that DSAIA came into being because our organizations had matured to the point where we realized that as important as heart may be, raising funds, managing staff, developing programs and managing all efficiently also demanded businesslike discipline – those best practices.

So, implicit in that dichotomy is the need to find balance between those two, potentially conflicting, poles. So, the pieces parts start to come together as follows:

1. Mission: We are about Down syndrome – it is our raison d’etre. Ultimately, all that DSAIA does is focused on improving the lives of people with Down syndrome, their families and those who support them.

2. Vision: We are focused on helping local and regional Down syndrome organizations develop organizational capacity.

3. We are intent on achieving our vision and mission by helping members access both classic, professional expertise and – importantly – the practical, experience-based knowledge of their fellow members.

Where improving the lives of people with Down syndrome is what we do, networking among peers and harnessing best practices are, principally, how we do it.

4. DSAIA leverages the scope of its membership to: a) Open access to resources which would otherwise be beyond the reach of individual DSAIA member while b) helping members reduce a wide range of routine expenses. By pooling our resources we bring in leading experts while negotiating quantity discounts on material purchases.

5. Increasingly, DSAIA is applying digital technologies to enable remote learning while providing a widely distributed membership with opportunities to gather and exchange ideas (eg. Leadership Circles).

6. We have established and maintain an archive of materials, encompassing everything from bylaws and procedures manuals to walk promotions and tee-shirt designs which may be accessed on line and used by all DSAIA members.

Again, I’m an old ad guy so I think in tag lines that encompass what we do, who we are and while many of you think automatically in multiple hashtags and memes, the line I think really sums up this marriage between the heart of DSAIA and the best practices it brings to all of us is this:

Better & Better.


What do YOU think?

David Forney, our guest blogger today, is dad to a 41 year old man, Mack, with Down syndrome. He is also dad to a lovely young lady, Catherine, who is mom to the most wonderful humans in earth, his two grand daughters, Madeline (10) and Amelia (5) His spouse is Kathleen McDonnell-Forney — retired (sort of) ED of the DSA of Minnesota, past treasurer and President of DSAIA and just retired member of the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Board. 

Forney is a copywriter by trade who became a creative services executive and graduated as the vice president of editorial and client services of a leading graphic design firm with an international clientele.  Clients have included Herman Miller, Steelcase, Baker Furniture, Steinway & Sons, Formica, Potlatch, the French Government, Infiniti, division of Nissan and Northrop- Grumman.

He attended Northwestern University, graduated from the University of Minnesota and has recently returned to his alma mater since retirement to pursue the arcane topic of early Medieval art.

He is also a past DSAIA board member and was a board member, secretary and communication director for the NDSC where he conceived of and managed the We’re More Alike Than Different campaign.

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio


Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action started as a conference bringing together outstanding leadership from Down syndrome organizations around the country. Learn More

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