A full life for all people with a disability

The International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) works to achieve the best possible outcomes for people with a disability. We bring together and connect disability leaders and people with lived experience to help spread innovation and best practice to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

We are linked with the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL).

Read our Leadership Principles and Framework here 
View our infographic here


IIDL is a global collaboration:

Australia, England, Northern Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, USA and Sweden.


Global network

A Global Network

Members have access to a knowledgeable global community of mental health leaders, professionals, experts and ambassadors for change.

  Support system

A Support System

Our members design and create their own networks within our global community, ensuring unique perspectives, best practices and learning is shared openly. We organise leadership exchange events for our members to meet, get to know each other and share experiences.


A Creative and Safe Space

IIDL has developed mechanisms to support members to convene and connect to promote innovation and best practice, cultivate ideas and find positive solutions.

  Global network


Our members support themselves and each other to find and learn new ways of improving the lives of people with disabilities.



About Our Leadership Exchange

The Leadership Exchange is a week-long learning event which is held every two years. We are currently exploring new formats such as regional events, virtual sessions and a range of other ways of connecting our members easily across the globe.

Knowledge transfer among IIDL countries includes the Leadership and Regional Exchanges, and the promotion of workshops/training/education, research, support of learning collaboratives and information dissemination between Exchanges.

We encourage each leader involved in the Leadership Exchange to make the most of their learning experience by continuing connections and discussions in the months between the Exchanges. The intent is that the benefits of such a collaborative effort will cascade down to all staff and service users. Potential avenues for collaboration include joint programmes and service development, staff exchanges and sabbaticals, collaborative service evaluation, managerial, operational and clinical knowledge sharing, research and peer consultation.

  “We encourage each leader involved in the Leadership Exchange to make the most of their learning experience by continuing connections and discussions in the months between the Exchanges.

About International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL)

The International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) is a separately funded work programme within IIMHL that works to achieve the best possible outcomes for people with a disability. To date the countries that are now members of IIDL are Australia, Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Scotland and the US.


Our history, governance, and structure

IIMHL was formed in 2003 by Fran Silvestri through a partnership between the US, England and New Zealand. It was originally designed to be about leadership and knowledge exchange for service provider organizations. Over time, IIMHL has become focused on topic, partnerships, services and what it means to show leadership.

In 2006, disability leaders set up a work program to develop the International Initiative for Disability Leadership. It is part of the wider IIMHL organization. The intent was to offer disability leaders the same opportunities as IIMHL affords mental health leaders. 

A joint IIMHL/IIDL Board has been established and there are two separate Sponsoring Countries Leadership Groups (SCLG) to oversee and inform the work and strategic priorities for IIMHL and IIDL.

A small virtual international IIMHL office is led by Stephen Appleton, President/CEO. A team of four part-time contractors provide administrative, communications and operational support for IIMHL and IIDL, including support for the website and database. If you have any questions please contact Erin Geaney, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who will direct your query to the right person.

  IIDL Logo


Disabled people, families, service providers and policy makers have independently been focusing on identifying evidence of best practices and service delivery that will enable disabled people and their families who support them, to live personally meaningful and socially valued lives in society.   However, there has been little investment in understanding how disabled people’s networks, provider organizations and policy makers, essential to enabling these outcomes to be achieved, can develop effective leaders. Such leadership includes the ability to locate, understand and adapt excellent organisational practices and develop robust organisational and managerial skills.

The absence of resources and supports for key leaders in Disability internationally hampers them, their organisations and communities from obtaining and adapting the skills and processes identified as most likely to enable people to live meaningful, valued and socially inclusive lives. With greater support for developing and demonstrating leadership, the Disability sector could develop services based on best practices and innovation and could, in turn, mentor future leaders.

Such leadership will not appear just because it is needed.  It will require a proactive effort to keep our current leaders renewed, relevant and challenged. In addition, this initiative is a means for identifying and recruiting new leaders as little has been done to prepare the upcoming generation for the leadership challenges.

National policies and directions have often been focused on clinical practices rather than leadership and innovation as key functions to assure that relevant and effective services and supports are delivered.  Many countries now realise that service sector leadership is vital to the success of community-based services.  To succeed in attaining good lives for people in community the service provider environment will require leaders who have the ability to promote and support much needed change in the delivery of disability services.

A key feature of this initiative is the opportunity it presents for disabled people, families, policy makers, funders and providers to work in a collaborative manner towards common goals.  Enabling leadership across all of these respective roles to support each other to provide the best possible life opportunities for disabled people and their families.

The direction of such change is not just limited to practice within any individual country, but to enable member countries to become part of an international movement.  National polices and directions established and developed in one country can be enhanced by changes occurring in others. The role of a leader in maintaining awareness of all changes is a daunting task.  It often leaves leaders without a network for personal support or organisational assistance to advance changes needed within the environment.

This exciting initiative aims to offer support and technical assistance to sector leaders by assisting them in promoting and engaging in change in the field by:

  • Providing a support network through partnership with other leaders equally interested in being agents for change from around the country.

  • Identifying and sharing the best in service design and delivery.

  • Linking leaders and innovators together to build a base from which best practice can be showcased within member countries.

With the objective that such an international leadership initiative will broaden national policies and service developments with an emphasis on evidence based practices.


The Need For Such an Initiative


The absence of resources and supports for key leaders in disability services world wide hampers them, their organizations and communities from obtaining and adapting the skills and processes identified a most likely to support people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

The lack of support to develop and demonstrate leadership limits the competence and skills of sector leaders in developing services based on best practice, innovation and the mentoring of future leaders.


Overall/Outcome Objective of IIDL


People with Disabilities and their families want to have personally satisfying everyday lives in the community.


Point of IIDL


To influence and support policy makers and communities (deliverers), towards making this happen through challenging practices, thinking and visions that are outdated.

We want to be an international leadership forum that raises awareness, improves personal leadership, and shares ideas on innovative and best known (optimal) practice.

This means:

1.  Establishing international leadership exchanges, between key people in countries of similar economic and cultural development, that:  

  • demonstrate and share knowledge of innovative and effective practice;
  • encourage and support the use of effective vision, thinking and practice;
  • help develop sustainable influential leadership;
  • generate ongoing international networks of leading practitioners;

2.  The ongoing provision of information around what is seen to be working and new ideas. 

Structure - This initiative will develop under the umbrella of and in partnership with the well established and successful International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.  (IIMHL)  www.iimhl.com.   The International Disability initiative will operate with a small steering group to set direction for and oversee the development of this initiative. 

Membership - Membership is primarily intended for leaders within the disability sector or disabled community. Please complete this form if you are the chief executive of a disability service agency or a community, consumer or family leader. You are also eligible to be a member if you are a policy analyst/developer/promoter in a leadership role in a government, educational institution or other non-government or private organization.


Core Programmes


  • Leadership Exchange:  The matching of key Leaders and Executives in the sector to build networks for organisations.
  • Forum for the international exchange of best practice initiatives occurring within member nations.




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