Stash Your Plan in the Cutlery Drawer

Posted on March 24, 2017
By Al Etmanski

Imagine a restaurant review that focused exclusively on the cutlery on the table. “What about the meal?” you would ask. Indeed.
Knives and forks aren’t the meal. They are merely a means to a hopefully delicious end. Sadly, in the social justice world there is too much focus on tools and processes.

spoon cutlery tool plan -558126-edited.jpg

The biggest culprit is “the plan.” The disability world has been seduced by variations on the individualized plan for more than three decades. Similarly one of the big debates in the anti-poverty field is whether a poverty reduction plan exists in a given province or jurisdiction.

Plans attract a disproportionate share of resources and consume too much of the time and energy of good people – advocates and public servants included.

Even the best-laid plans are seldom implemented. They are often a way to delay or avoid action. During the process, political priorities can change. Often money has not been allocated for implementation.

In other words, advocates still have to advocate. Committed public servants still have to convince their political masters to allocate resources.

Next time you are invited into a planning process, ask the organizers for the money instead.


Use this money to:

  1. Pursue implementation of the ideas you already know are necessary and have been proven to work. In other words, trust your judgment and experience.
  2. Rally people who have been marginalized, excluded and dispossessed and together decide on the next set of action priorities. In other words, strengthen your base of support.

Plans are the tools of people who want to preserve the status quo. They are not the tools of people seeking to advance social justice.

To prepare a meal worthy of a restaurant review you have to become a creator.

That’s why the creative ingredients of imagination, confidence, discipline, flexibility, ingenuity and good old-fashioned community organizing will achieve justice faster than any planning process.

So stash your plan in the cutlery drawer if it’s not there already.

It’s easier to change cutlery into food than it is to change a plan into social justice.

This blog was originally posted on Al Etmanski's blog.
To view the original piece and read more from Al, please visit his website


Systems Change, Social Justice, Cities Deepening Community

Al Etmanski

By Al Etmanski

Al Etmanski is the President of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) and has been a leading advocate for people with disabilities and their families in Canada for more than two decades. He is widely recognized as a visionary thinker in areas of social policy, community development and individualizing services for people with disabilities. Al is an author, advocacy consultant and social inventor who specializes in finding innovative, non-governmental solutions to social problems.

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