From 1996 to 2001, the Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) at the University of Southern Mississippi operated a pilot project to train Mississippi community leaders to become more effective advocates for the disabled and chronically ill.
- Investigators developed an eight-part curriculum designed to help participants acquire leadership skills and knowledge. Topics were: the history of the disability movement; the elements of "inclusive" education; federal and state laws covering the disabled; and networking, team building, and other skills essential to affecting public policy.
- They conducted a series of eight two-day workshops.
- In addition to the workshops, project staff provided technical assistance to workshop participants to formulate public policy or form local coalitions. Participants also received the project's Leadership newsletter and periodic updates on current legislative issues, and many of them were linked via an e-mail listserv to encourage discussion and information exchange.
- Thirty-seven participants—including consumers, parents, and service providers from across the state—completed all the workshops.
- Project staff reported that knowledge of disability issues increased among workshop participants.
- After the workshops, many of the participants served on IDS regional or statewide advisory groups, and most have remained active in their own communities.