In this episode, Haley Flaro, Executive Director of Ability New Brunswick shares with us how they have become Canadian leaders within the disability sector and the value of forging strong partnerships with government.

We’ve been able to extend our collective impact in reaching people with a disability. The first year of the agreement, back then I think we collectively serve 20,000 people with a disability in New Brunswick and now we’re up over 73,000. And you know, it’s been really powerful.

Haley Flaro, Ablity new brunswick

Transcript of Interview with Haley Flaro

Jenelle:
Welcome Haley. Thanks for being with us here today.

Haley Flaro:
Thank you,

Jenelle:
Today we’re here with Haley Flaro, Executive Director of Ability New Brunswick, and you can learn more about Ability New Brunswick at abilityNB.ca. I’ve been tracking Haley’s career and the impact of the organization over the past 10 years. Ability New Brunswick has really emerged not only in New Brunswick as a leader within the disability sector and the nonprofit sector, but also as a national leader within your own industry. Can you tell us a little bit about your organization, its mission, and in particular a little bit more about your role?

Haley Flaro:
Excellent. That’s a very kind introduction. So Ability New Brunswick. We’ve been around for over 62 years now in New Brunswick, working with people with a mobility disability. So that includes individuals and families that are impacted of course, but individuals with spinal cord injury, amputation, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stroke I think there are over 200 different mobility disability types in our data management system. So our main goals are to help individuals to be as independent as possible and active in their communities and we do that through a variety of different services that focus on goals from housing to sport and recreation to managing and dealing with the impact of disability.

Jenelle:
Can you tell us a little bit more about your role within the organization?

Haley Flaro:
Yes, so this is my 14th year, I believe. I’ll have to go look at my LinkedIn profile to remember, that I’ve been the executive director of the organization. So essentially my role is oversight responsible for human resources, finance, planning. I also am designated as our director of services cause we don’t have that position yet in our organization. So I oversee the professional development training of our our frontline staff and I also look after our government relations and public policy work with government. So that’s a big component, I’d say it’s about 30% of my role. One of my areas of interest and passion aside from public policy is performance management and evaluation. So that’s one of the skillsets I believe I bring to the organization and there’s always a lens I’m looking through.

Jenelle:
It’s interesting you mentioned the significant amount of time that would be spent on public advocacy. It’s certainly of the reasons I think that the organization has been so well profiled and certainly successful in the impact work that ability new Brunswick’s been able to do is because of the ability to create change and influence within the province. You started to speak a little bit about you’ve also been spending time or will spend portions of your position within performance evaluation. Can you speak a little bit about a specific metric that you feel really highlights the impact of Ability New Brunswick?

Haley Flaro:
Definitely, so to give some context, when I started here 13 years ago we were many nonprofits are still under the same regime, you know, using Excel lists managing data by hand. And it was very time consuming for staff and also very difficult to do true analytics and analyzing of the data. We’ve evolved significantly over the years. So right now in terms of key indicators we keep data tracking obviously of how many people we’re serving by disability type, by region. And, but even by County now and looking at who we’re working with from a data tracking perspective rural versus urban has been very helpful to our organization because when I speak to other nonprofits in Canada, they often say 80% of their service participants or clients are in urban centers. And that’s not the situation for New Brunswick. So that indicator has helped us move our services from office space to outreach, home-based kitchen table based.

Haley Flaro:
The other, you asked for one indicator I’m going to give you two. The other indicator that’s really important to us is our service participant, our client satisfaction. And that goes beyond just saying, how are we doing? How would you rate us? But we ask every year through phone online, we still do the old fashioned mail, self return envelopes, whatever people prefer and we get really high response rates of people giving us feedback on our services and we go beyond just asking, are you happy with us? We ask do we help you reach your goals and to what degree do we help you do that? We also ask information such as, we work with government on changing policies and programs, what are your top priority? So our service participant user satisfaction, our quality assurance program, those indicators have been really helpful in helping us pave our road road forward.

Jenelle:
Can you provide some additional context around those metrics and stats that you’ve provided through an anecdote or a story?

Haley Flaro:
Sure, so that’s a good question. Storytelling is a big part of our evaluation plan at our organization. You know, tell the good stories, the not so good stories, the learning stories and we capture these stories on a regular basis. I think to give you, I guess I’ll give the example of our relationship with government. So 13 years ago we were having a difficult time, you know, leveraging contracts with government that were for a sufficient amount of money to actually help grow and build our services and reach more people. And I guess our increased focus on, on our performance management and data tracking has led to really richer conversations and richer agreements with government for us to deliver services on behalf of them because our services make social sense, health sense, economic sense, and we’ve been able to demonstrate that. So I guess that’s one example of a story about how really focusing on good evaluation, good data has helped us better serve the people who need our help.

Jenelle:
It sounds like it’s certainly been helpful in ensuring that you’re successful in building your relationship with government and in the service delivery as well. Speaking of service delivery, I think it’s commonly known that Ability New Brunswick often works as a collective and in collaboration with adjacent organizations. Can you highlight the impact of this collaboration with either a stat or an anecdote?

Haley Flaro:
Excellent. So or another really good question. The we work as part of many networks and committees. I think I’m personally on 22 in the province, but one that I would highlight would be the New Brunswick Disability Executives Network, which is a group of 10 provincial disability organizations and the executive directors of those organizations. So generally we all have alignment in our roles. Our roles might be a bit different individually, but you know, there’s a public policy development, government relations, HR, finance, planning. So there’s a lot of symmetry and we’ve been doing some collective, we worked together in about 2011 to submit a proposal to government to enhance our capacity as a sector to deliver services to people with a disability. It runs as the second highest rate of disability in Canada at 26.7%, not including those in long-term care, homes or on first nation communities.

Haley Flaro:
So a disability lens is really critical in New Brunswick when looking at policy planning and services. And we have been able to really extend collectively by having common indicators, having common goals. We’ve been able to extend our collective impact in reaching people with a disability. The first year of the agreement, back then I think we collectively serve 20,000 people with a disability in New Brunswick and now we’re up over 73,000. And you know, it’s been really powerful. We’ve also been able, as a collective to track our policy, everything from the number of policy briefs we’re preparing and response to current policy issues, but also to track the degree of change we’re seeing in policies, which has been really incredible to see our impact that way. It’s really motivating and empowering and it helps us focus our energies.

Jenelle:
Wow. That’s really neat to see that it’s not only been successful on the national landscape in driving required policy changes, but that locally, even within the province it’s enabled you to scale significantly in the amount of lives that you’re impacting through reach, that jumped to 73,000, 7,300.

Haley Flaro:
73,000 collectively. So that sorry if I said 7,300, no, 73,000 people collectively. And that was with the same amount of funding that we were getting year to year as a collective. But we were using it smarter. We were using it better. We were collaborating and sharing resources more. So it was really incredible for us to watch that impact grow.

Jenelle:
It’s a really neat example of showing when you are leveraging several organizations that are delivering upon similar indicators looking or being able to identify what the collective impact is and measuring it towards the objective or the goal. So goals for this year, want to know what are the big goals that you’re working on as an organization and or as the national collective and how are you tracking those?

Haley Flaro:
Excellent. So for Ability New Brunswick we always have lofty goals and our goals and focus for this year guided, we’re very lived experience guided organization. We are guided by evidence, but the voice of our service participants, people that won’t believe disability is so important. So we have a few goals that are really key for us in terms of program service development. There is a big push from our population on expanding our capacity and reach and providing peer support programs and that’s not the traditional sit around a table and talk. It can be online, it can be one-on-one matches. So someone that, a family where maybe the spouse just had a spinal cord injury and want to talk to another family that has built an accessible home so they can learn from their key learning.

Haley Flaro:
So that’s a goal for us and there’s a lot of you know, information that we need to be evaluating to help us develop training programs, to help ensure we’re reaching people. On the policy front, accessible transportation is a big focus for our organization. New Brunswick has a significant lack of accessible transportation, especially in rural communities, which means we see a lot of people turning down jobs or not going to school or missing medical appointments. So one of our big indicators as we work on improving access with different rural community groups and municipalities will be to see how our service participants are reporting better access to transportation, so that’s really key.

Haley Flaro:
As our New Brunswick Disability Executives Network we’re focusing it’s a climate of impact, you know, looking at impact and results and we’re really trying to strengthen as a collective in that area. So we know that the employment of people with a disability is very important to our organizations and there’s a significant untapped labor market of about 15,000 people with a disability that have the potential to work right now; that’s latest stats Canada data for new Brunswick. So we’re trying to better track data around education and employment and moving beyond just how many people have we helped get a job or help to go to postsecondary education. But are they staying in those positions for multi years? Is there upward mobility in those positions? How many jobs shadowing opportunities have we set up? Cause we know they really help individuals with a mobility disability develop workplace skills. How many people with a disability have we help find summer jobs? So we’re going to be looking at that data as a collective much with a big lens over the next year.

Jenelle:
That’s really neat and glad to hear that you’re moving beyond and have been for quite some time, but that you’re really focused on not just your outputs, but also your outcomes over the next year. Keen to follow your success and see how you guys make out on those this year within the province and across the country. So thank you so much Haley, for being with us today and speaking with our audience. Again, if you’re looking for more information about Ability NB, you can reach them at abilityNB.ca. Thank you.

Haley Flaro:
Thank you so much. We’re really proud to be a partner with RIDDL as well, and you’re really elevating our work. So thank you.

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