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Libby Ellis is Founder of InCharge, an organisation that exists to assist people with disabilities to be the authors and champions of their own lives.



1. What do you see as your role as changemaker?

I would describe my role as changemaker with the metaphor of a ‘charge’ (which is partly why I chose the word for the enterprise), who ignites possibility and then fans the fire (ensuring people have access to helpful resources, tools and support to make that possibility realised).


2. What change are you aiming to make in the world?

I want a world where it is an absolutely ordinary experience for a person with and without disability to really know each other, and not through some kind of ‘caring’ connection.

When we think about people with disabilities, what do we think of first? Their ‘need for care’? The specialist services and experts who ‘know best’? Is the only time we encounter people with disabilities when they drive past us in white buses or as they move in groups through our shopping centres?

This ultimately describes a life of being a ‘client’ in a system. Such systems cannot deliver the good stuff! It cannot deliver love, it cannot deliver intimacy, it cannot deliver belonging or purpose, friendship, or being an actor in one’s own life.

I have found that people are very powerful when they have really strong expectations for themselves, their life and the systems that support them. They can really change things because they start demanding better of the system. I am so lucky to have witnessed this kind of change and so this also what I want to multiply.

IMG_31853. What prompted you to start InCharge?

In my early 20s I started to see the paucity of my brother’s life compared to mine, from growing up in group homes, attending special school and then a day centre when he left school. Apart from us, he was surrounded by people who were paid to be there. He never chose the people he lived or recreated or spent his days with. Imagine if your only relationships were with people paid to be there? So in this story there is a change process which forms part of my motivation.

Secondly people started telling me ‘now I have a different vision for my life, how do I put it into action? Where do I start?’ I felt driven to create something that aspired to be alongside people in their own efforts at change. Just to highlight the word ‘alongside’ as part of my motivation. I don’t have a disability. I’ve founded a service called InCharge. I am motivated to
figure out how to work in an ethical alliance with people, rather than as so often happens, the so-called ‘expert’ that creates and delivers the solutions without people.

Finally I am a firm believer in the phrase “all means all”. That is, much of the time when there is talk about creating an inclusive society, only some people are considered able to be part of what everyone else does. We tend to think of people with very significant disabilities through a lens of extremely low expectations. We don’t tend to think much more is needed for people than being well-cared for. I once heard this phrase at a conference about employment “if a person can move their finger, then we can help them find work”. It’s important that organisations work from these principles otherwise, once again, we leave many people behind (who have just as much potential as anyone else).


4. Tell us about 3 specific examples of success so far.

a) The Supported Living Network. With the rollout of The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia in 2016, I am interested in creating opportunities for new collectives and organisations that deliver personalised responses and are led by people with disabilities and families. If you’re making change in your own life or in your own family, particularly when you are stepping forth to take charge of your supports and funding, it can be real ‘edge’ work. It can feel lonely and like hard work at times. It’s harder to sustain effort if you aren’t connected with like-minded others. I’ve been very proud of modelling a way like-minded people have found to do this, through supporting the start-up of an organisation called Supported Living Network. Based in Sydney at the moment, they are interested in others benefiting from their model.
b) Connecting Nathan Basha with the School for Social Entrepreneurs. Recently I worked with Nathan Basha to figureout how he could take his vision for his motivational speaking further. I thought Nathan could really benefit from the learning at a place like the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), so we did a lot of work together to make this a reality. Nathan undertook their recent Incubator program with a modified experience.

One of the things we felt Nathan would need is some good mentoring so we found a Fellow of the School interested in doing this. Nathan used government funding he was eligible for to pay the mentor for his time. Even happier to say that the mentor decided to use that money to donate to his own social enterprise. I was so excited when, at the end of the program, Nathan asked this man if he would continue to be his business mentor, and the man said ‘Yes’! What an amazing win for everyone concerned. This demonstrates to me that we don’t always need to create special programs for people. We can think and use resources creatively to support what already exists in our communities.

There is an absolute wealth of stuff in our communities that we can tap into everyday. We need to know how to assist our communities do this because they aren’t used to it.

c) The Ally Project. This is a new initiative of ours we are about to launch in the Hunter Valley, NSW. It is exciting because The Ally Project will enable us to work within the new National Disability Insurance Scheme.  It’s early days but I’m itching for the journey.


5. What are some challenges you face?

If I am to be honest (and sometimes it is hard to do), my main challenge is belief in myself. “Who am I to do this?” can rear its ugly head and stop me. My solution to this is perseverance. I am good at keeping on going. So as long as I haven’t decided to stop and ‘go get a job’, I figure all will be good. Also I think about the challenges, like the one below, and then purposefully put a new question in my mind “If not you Libby, then who?”

There’s also the challenges involved with the new National Disability Insurance Scheme. There’s been little injection of resources and investment in people’s capacity but, instead, a lot of attention on service providers and their opportunities and challenges. A lot of the discourse is about market-share, dollars and transactional relationships. If people are to move from being passive service recipients, then we really need to invest in people — so people can understand this change, what it means and how they can make the most of it . Otherwise it is likely we will have the majority of people purchasing the ‘same old same old’ and thinking ‘Well, this is as good as it gets’.


6. What are some ways you look after yourself, even when you’re busy?

I’m pretty good at not working on weekends unless I have workshops or events scheduled.

I started jogging last year and realised that I needed help and an accountability partner to keep this going. I found someone locally. The days that I go running are really good days – productive, energised.

This spun out into asking another social entrepreneur who lives locally if she wanted to walk with me. We going walking consistently at least a couple times a week in the mornings unless one of us is crazy busy. This is also a great chance to do some really good yarning about common challenges.

I live in a World Heritage Area, so I try and get out and into it! Some weeks I am better at this than others.

On Monday mornings I spend time scheduling my week ahead and this involves popping in some stuff that makes me feel good. Again, some weeks I am better at this than others!


changemaker-multicolor 250x250As Changemaker of the Month you get three things:

1. An opportunity to plug your work

2. A coaching session on a topic of your choice (such as Inbox Bootcamp, Time Management coaching, Self-Care coaching)

3. Donate28 money to spend on self-care / celebration / support



7. So, tell us what you’d like to share with us?

I would love to share The Ally Project. If you know someone in Sydney or the Hunter who has a disability and wants to become more independent and in charge of their life, we would love to hear from them.


8. What training/support would you like?

Some coaching around Efficient Reading and Writing Techniques, especially to help streamline my process when writing proposals.


9. And, drum roll time, what do you plan to spend your Donate28* money on?

I would like to treat the InCharge team to a great meal together. We usually come together in work-mode, so it will be fantastic to come together for celebration.


single-dollar* Donate28 for the month of September

This month, $28 from every Inbox Bootcamp session sold will be put in the Donate28 kitty. At the end of the month, Libby will receive the Donate28 cash. Find out more about Donate28


Feeling inspired? Take action.

Now that you’ve read Libby’s interview, here are three ways you can take action:

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3. Scroll down and leave a comment. What did you find most inspiring about Libby’s interview?