It is important to recognize that network maintenance is a continuous process that is critical to the network’s success. Various techniques can be used to do this; it would be helpful for you to consult with some of the members you know and trust to determine the methods you use.
Building the HUN
We have discussed recruitment strategies in the previous section: Outreach to Potential Members. The network does not need to be large in order to start working with consumers. A small group of interested and invested members can help get the process going.
It is important to remember that not every network member will participate in addressing every usability problem. We discussed earlier how some members may be “activated” to address specific problems. These are the individuals whom you and the consumer identify in the Home Usability Plan. We will provide more information about the Home Usability Plan in the next section (Step 3: Implement).
HINT! Consumers can and should bring their own resources into the network. Work with the consumer to identify friends or family who would be able to help, as well as any additional organizations they have ties to that could provide support. These organizations, if interested, could be brought into the broader network to help another consumer in the future.
Growing the HUN
Recruitment is an ongoing activity of the CIL facilitator. You will probably find that you can always use more hands, more resources and definitely more money. This means you and others need to continue to spread the wings of the HUN. You may have started out with people and organizations to provide Assistive Technology or make minor modifications, but as the HUN grows, larger usability issues will come up, like the need for a ramp. In this case, you may need someone with construction skills to partner with someone who understands accessibility requirements.
While it is always wonderful to find someone who can raise money, it is also important to include someone who can help get publicity for the positive outcomes that occur—you want to let the community know what great possibilities are available. Success stories are another way to recruit not only additional consumers, but potential HUN members.
Maintaining the HUN
If you take care of the members, the members will take care of the HUN. This includes consumers who benefit from working with the HUN. When someone gets assistance from the HUN, you might ask him to be a peer for a new consumer. Or, he may bring other skills to the HUN and start participating in HUN meetings.
At some point, you may want to develop a web page for your HUN. You may have someone in the CIL who knows how to do this for the HUN and can help with outreach, publicity and maintenance.
Some tips to keeping a group like this moving forward include:
- Keep people informed and in the loop: maintain rosters, share contact info, send out periodic emails to check in.
- Celebrate success: often people take their success for granted, but as has been said here several times…celebrate, publicize! You deserve it and it helps the group grow.
- Keep busy: if there are no consumers needing assistance there is no need for the group. So you and others need to identify consumers to keep the HUN engaged.