Community Convergence: Doing Together What We Can’t Do Alone

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

A persistent question begs a persistent answer: What can we do together that we cannot do alone? Myriad possibilities abound for trailblazers committed to ensuring housing, employment and healthcare options are as bountiful for people with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD) as they are for everyone else.  

Looking at this question through a different lens leads us to the compelling concept of “community convergence” of steadfast leaders committed to working and learning together; research, proof points, modeling, funding—and courage; people with all kinds of expertise who know their communities and are focused on improving quality-of-life outcomes for everyone. 

Community convergence is being led by passionate people from across the country and around the world. If you’re reading this, you are likely one of them. 

Humans have been converging for millennia: uniting, sharing, cooperating, learning and supporting—a community acting as one to accomplish common goals for all. This was apparent during a First Place AZ contingent to Washington, D.C., where we were invited to an April event sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and Office of National Autism Coordination to share the work of the First Place Global Leadership Institute, including the award-winning short film titled “Sound Tracks.”  

The program and screening were fine examples of community convergence defined, underscoring what is possible when we come together with a common purpose that makes us stronger, fortifies us to go the distance—and lets us dream bigger.   

Blair Bunting, commercial and fine art photographer; Laura Nadine, violin virtuoso and music educator; and John Schaffer, filmmaker and founder of Wild Asparagus Productions. These remarkable individuals in the film inspired viewers as they each shared experiences as adults living with autism and other neurodiversities.  

Blair Bunting wowed us with his extraordinary lens, transparency and humility as a man who has explored the edge of space (literally!) yet stays grounded through family and his own passion: trains! 

Laura referred to the violin as her “socializing instrument.” What’s your tool for socializing? Consider what talent, skill or passion connects you to others, builds confidence and brings you and others joy, along with that all-important sense of belonging.  

John Schaeffer talked about acceptance and appreciation—and how it shouldn’t be that hard to have someone’s back.  

Our perfectly imperfect experiences building inclusive communities offer endless opportunities to see things differently and problem solve. We can all practice together, giving us the chance to get it right and celebrate successes. This more enlightened process doesn’t happen from the top down but from the ground up—locally, organically and authentically. 

As a community builder and energizer, we invite you to be part of the 13th First Place Global Symposium on October 16, 17 and 18 in Phoenix, Arizona. This year’s theme, "Dimensions,” powerfully expresses community building and belonging defined by who we include versus exclude—a concept so beautifully shared in this blog by Laura Nadine. 

Join us as we explore community convergence on a deeper, more enduring level, acknowledging that not only can we tell individuals with A/I/DD and their families that they can have a home, a job, friends, lifelong learning opportunities and a supportive community, we can show them! 

Get ready to gather with people committed to uniting, sharing, cooperating, learning and supporting—people doing together what we cannot do alone!



In above photo from left: Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO, First Place AZ; Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., Acting Director, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., Former Director, NIMH; Susan A. Daniels, Ph.D., National Autism Coordinator, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and Director, Office of National Autism Coordination; Blair Bunting, Neurodivergent Photographer; Laura Nadine, Neurodivergent Violinist; John Schaffer, Neurodivergent Filmmaker; Tom Ortega, Director, First Place Global Leadership Mulzet Center for Expression; Maureen Casey, Chief Impact Officer, First Place Global Leadership Institute

Share To