Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
A microboard is not a tiny piece of wood and it has nothing to do with a computer gadget either. What a microboard is, is a small (micro) group of committed family members and friends (board) who join with a person with a disability to create a non-profit community board. A microboard is formed when a small group of committed, unpaid individuals volunteer their time and knowledge to help plan, develop and maintain the ongoing services necessary to support one person with a disability.
Each microboard supports one person with a disability and that person is the central focus of the microboard. Every decision reflects the person's goals, dreams, needs and desires and uses person-centered planning and thought. The microboard also helps the wider community of citizens, service providers and business people to have a relationship with the person, and to benefit from their contribution.
Membership of a microboard is strictly a voluntary endeavor. The microboard focuses on the well-being, wishes and dreams of the person with a disability by supporting their relationships with family, friends and community. In addition, microboards may manage some funding, so they may pay for and manage individualized supports and services for a person who needs them to live fully in the community.
A person-centered plan is created using the PATH process. Board of directors training begins, as well as assistance with formal incorporation procedures and organizational structure.
The biggest benefit a microboard offers the individual with a disability is that the individual has control over his or her own life with supports from a nonprofit organizational structure run by those who know and care about that individuals wants and needs the most.
The elements of a microboard include:
• Membership of 5-7 family members, friends, and acquaintances who are
committed to knowing the person and having a reciprocal relationship with
• Builds bridges between the person with disabilities and the community
• Assumes the person with a disability has the capacity for self-determination
• Demonstrates regard for the person’s safety, comfort, and dignity
• Provides the person with disabilities flexibility and more control to achieve desired goals and dreams
• Manages essential support services, such as transportation, medical care, job search or small business creation, supervising a direct support professionals and personal attendants in the home, etc. – creating a vital “circle of support”
• May become an HCS provider for the person with disabilities
• May become the successor guardian or trustee of a special needs trust
To be successful, board members are required to carry out the work, and new members are often added as the individual's needs change. The successful microboard must have clear support for managing received funding, an effective action plan for maintaining official organizational records, and a positive working relationship with funders. Every microboard has a financial officer familiar with the budget and understands the overall goals and objectives of the individual with a disability and his or her family.
There are five simple steps to developing a microboard. They include:
1. Schedule an information session where basic information about Microboards is presented to the individual and his or her supporters.
2. Create a person-centered plan using the PATH process.
3. Identify your Board of Directors.
4. A Board of Directors training is provided in addition to assistance with incorporation and organization.
5. The microboard will begin helping the individual carry out their PATH.
A variety of local and national conferences offer workshops, training and continued opportunities for microboard members to network, brainstorm and share ideas during breakout sessions.
The first large-scale application for microboards was developed by Vela Microboard Association in British Columbia. Vela stands as a good example of a type of ‘underlying structure’ for developing and sustaining dispersed person-centered solutions.
In the state of Georgia, they have Georgia Microboards Association, which helps each microboard plan personal and individualized services and supports through a unique, person-centered planning tool called PATH. PATH means "Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope". The Georgia Microboards Association is funded in part by a grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
As the result of microboards, particularly in Canada, it became possible for the person with a disability to change their housing, for instance, without losing their service support. Even more importantly, it made it possible for people with disabilities to switch service providers without losing their homes, their jobs, or the social spaces they occupied in the neighborhood and community.
Microboards have even been a means for people with significant disabilities who have difficulty finding employment to create a small business, or microenterprise, in their own home and tailor it around their abilities, talents and support needs, while using the funds from the small business to help manage their daily care, transportation, therapy and other needs to be a part of the community.