Margaret Mead had it right when she said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Often when I hear literary quotes they sound nice but most do not exemplify real life. That is not true of the aforementioned quote. This is a call to action.
I have been lucky enough to see many instances in my life where small groups have made big changes. One such initiative is the formation and growth of the Global Network of Entrepreneurs with Disabilities (GNED). In a little over a year GNED has developed from a call for support over an Internet discussion forum to incorporation as a nonprofit in the bricks and mortar world.
This is a unique start since people usually engineer their online presence after an organization has been created and in many cases running for several months if not years. But in my opinion this reverse engineering is only a small part of the uniqueness of this organization.What makes GNED unique is its commitment to the betterment of people with disabilities worldwide through the innovation of entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur with a disability myself, sometimes it feels like supports that are supposed to assist me with employment endeavours work against me. It is in these times that I am grateful for the peer support I have received from my colleagues at GNED, but even more than the peer support is the message that people with disabilities can run businesses and do so successfully.
The message is a powerful one. One that the rest of the world has yet to hear but because of the work of GNED the world will come to know the capacity of people with disabilities to help themselves and others over time.
It is my hope that after hearing this message the working lives of people with disabilities as contributing members of societies the world over will be forever changed for the better, as this may serve to increase independence and encourage personal autonomy for people with disabilities.
Prior to April 2010 the prospect of making it in business as a person with a disability was isolating. The isolation left a year later, with the work of GNED. My involvement makes isolation not an issue and I feel a part of something great. Greatness is sometimes overrated but perhaps the greatest thing that GNED can hope to do is to inform and change the conversation when it comes to employment of people with disabilities from one of charity to one of the capacity for contribution to economic diversity.
The conversation needs to change and as people with disabilities we must remain committed to be shepherds of that change for a lot can be achieved through patience and perseverance. If GNED has taught me anything it has taught me to love my work again with a renewed purpose and sense of accomplishment. As GNED grows I'm hoping it can be of similar inspiration to others worldwide.