WHO is Pioneer Network?

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Joan Devine
Director of Education, Pioneer Network

When someone asks me what Pioneer Network is, I typically lead with something from the Mission and Vision statements. I tell them we are an organization that has been in existence for 20 years, founded by a group of dedicated and innovative pioneers who saw the need to change the culture of aging. I share with them what our Mission statement says, that we are a not for profit organization that “advocates and facilitates deep system change and transformation in our culture of aging.” I tell about our vision to create “A culture of aging that is Life-affirming, Satisfying, Humane and Meaningful”. And then I tell them about the word “network”, and how that is the key to the work we do. We do not promote a defined model for change. What we do is to serve as a network that brings together people and organizations with similar beliefs, fellow “pioneers” and “kindred spirits”. We are the “network” where ideas can be shared, visions can be realized, and voices can be heard.

The WHAT says a lot about Pioneer Network, but what I have come to realize in working with the Pioneer Network is that when I really look deep into WHAT the pioneer network is, just as with your organizations, the answer I find is really WHO the pioneer network is!

In my role as Director of Education, I have the privilege of working with so many incredible people who are Pioneer Network. No doubt most have heard stories of the pioneer network founders, who provided the initial vision and framework to the organization, and who continue to provide inspiration. And of course, there are those who do the work to keep the operations going day to day, my fellow staff members and the board of directors. But what inspires me, and keeps me going are the people I hear from every day. They, too, are Pioneer Network. Individuals who in their daily work and in their lives, are making a difference and keeping the mission, vision and values of Pioneer Network alive and growing. Some are looking for the answers to how we change the culture of aging, and others are the guides who are finding those answers and sharing them in order to further the work of the movement.

In my work for the 2017 conference, one of my tasks, compiling the biographies of all the conference guides, became a labor of love and discovery. And all I can say is WOW! If these incredible individuals who are guiding our educational sessions at the 2017 conference are representative of WHO Pioneer Network is, well, it’s pretty impressive!

Our guides include Elders, like Barry and Debra Barkan, founders of Pioneer Network, the Live Oak Regenerative Project and Elder Guild, Jeff Jerebker, a national leader who has spent his career revamping what LTC management could be, David Kent, a former educator who is now president of the resident council in his community, and Lorraine Pasadino, an active senior in her community who describes herself as a “passionate crusader for culture change”.

There will be stories and lessons shared by staff closest to the Elders., including CNA care partners who will join Sue Misiorski in a conversation about recruitment and retention, and staff nurses joining Anne Mahler and sharing their insights into how to engage LTC nurses in culture change.

Our guides come from many different professions and backgrounds. They are nursing home administrators, nurses, CNAs, dietitians, educators, researchers, gerontologists, culinary specialists, social workers, life enrichment specialists, marketing specialists, consultants, pharmacist, case managers, therapist, journalists creative artists and more.

I discovered some guides whose job titles alone are an indication that change is in the air. Titles such as Chief Innovation Officer (Nancy Fox), Director of Cultural Transformation (Angie McAllister), Culture Change Coach (Susan Moser) and Family Caregiver Turned Advocate/FCTA (Kim McRae).

Many of our guides started, or have experienced along their journey, what it means to be in the role of family care partner.

The diversity of this group extends to our geography, with guides coming from all across the US as well as Canada (Melanie James and the team from Schlegel Villages), Great Britain (Carolyn Baker and Ann Marie Harmer) and Australia (Sanet du Toit). Although we come from great distances, we didn’t have to look far to find a story to inspire. From our host state, Illinois, we find Guide Leslie Pedke who will be sharing her community’s journey “Through the Looking Glass” where staff experienced first-hand what it is like to be a resident in a nursing home.

The guides for our 2017 conference are a reflection of WHO Pioneer Network is, and I invite you to learn more about these incredible people on our website. But don’t forget to also look in the mirror. There, too, you will also see a reflection of WHO Pioneer Network is. Pioneer Network is each and every one of us, and is reflected in the work we do each day as well as in the incredible stories and lessons we have to share. In the words of one of our Founders, Barry Barkan, “That’s what it’s all about!”