People First is a self-advocacy organization operated by and for people with mental (intellectual) handicaps, with help from nonvoting non-disabled advisors. People First has been in existence for about a decade. Curtis describes "good" advisors as being:
Their jobs, at the local level, are to help members develop group-process, decision making, and self-advocacy skills; train officers for their positions; facilitate liaison with other community groups; and help with public relations. People First philosophy envisages a time when local chapters can function without full-time advisors, using only temporary help as needed.
Advisors are often drawn from agency/institution staffs, especially for new chapters, and this causes concern. Professionals who hold traditional views of intellectually limited consumers may be overly active in their diligence to protect and their reluctance to allow risk taking. This can hinder individual member and chapter development. Also, conflicts of interest arise when advisors must help People First groups pursue grievances against their employers. Such conflicts can only be avoided when members are able to handle such grievance actions without advisors' help.
According to Curtis, only where the advisors meet the criteria listed and will provide leadership without taking control, do chapters grow in membership and competence.
Curtis, Charles. "The Changing Role of the People First Advisor", American Rehabilitation, April 1984.
Rehab Brief. Vol. VIII, No. 5 May 1985. National Institute of Handicapped Research. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202.