Friday 27 May 2011

Bids and Savings

With the 'scrum meeting' system now in place, this week at Autism Works has felt more 'task focused'. With this comes a stronger feeling of sense of direction as well as a good balance of interaction between team members and working unsupervised. Two of our scrum meetings this week have had to be done via Skype with Peter having to spend time at home recovering from illness. Fortunately, he is now better and back to work.

This week, I have started working on another funding bid and to aid putting across a strong case to attract funding to autism works to assist with employee support and training costs, I have also been doing a literature search on cost savings and autism. One of the points that I have so often been putting across in bids or when promoting Autism Works generally focuses on how paid employment for adults with ASC, including Asperger's Syndrome, enables independence and becoming equally-valued members of their community. What this research focuses on though is how unemployment of adults with ASC has detrimental overall economic effects to society generally, including on the public purse.

Research conducted by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (2009) suggests that while adults with ASC miss out on potential earnings through lost employment, the national cost of supporting adults with ASC amounts to £25 billion. These costs span all areas of public sector expenditure in terms of benefits an expensive care packages in addition to the high costs it can bring to families in relation to out of pocket expenses. However, the research also stresses that significant investment in supported employment is needed to address this. By putting across how Autism Works can potentially make a significant dent in this figure as well as the 85 per cent of an estimated 500,000 adults with ASC who are currently unemployed, this will hopefully attract investment

Already, I am seeing the benefits of the scrum meeting system as I am feeling much more focused on my tasks as well as how it is aiding more working interaction of team members, which also appears to be helping Grayson, our Testing Manager, continue to settle in. Grayson's ten years' experience of working in the software testing industry developing and delivering training that leads to industry-recognised qualifications is adding an extra element to the funding bid applications, where we are able to show where funding can be used effectively. That the ISEB (the qualification required to be a software tester) is widely-recognised across the IT industry, this prepares future Autism Works employees not just to work as software testers at Autism Works, but also with other IT companies.

Elsewhere, in a two weeks' time, we have our marketing intern Sumanjeet Sandhu starts her ten-week placement with us. Studying for an MSc in E-Business and E-Marketing at Newcastle University, Sumanjeet will work with us to help build our marketing strategy, including using digital marketing tools. be sure to watch this space to see how this develops.

Friday 20 May 2011

Building Momentum

After a period of chronic forgetfulness, I can now say that I am near fully re-adjusted to the demands of Autism Works, which has come at just the right time, especially as we are highly likely to be extremely busy over the next few weeks. On a positive note, Grayson Cobb, our new Testing Manager, appears to be settling in very well in his first week with the company. Elsewhere, we have also appointed a marketing student from Newcastle University to work with us on an internship basis for ten weeks to help develop a marketing model, in particular utilising the social networks more.

This morning we have had our first team meeting since Grayson joined us. Though we all know what we would ideally like to achieve in terms of providing sustainable employment to adults on the autistic spectrum, what we have agreed that we need to do at this stage is to set about how we will achieve this. To help build momentum towards this, we are working towards developing a culture of collective responsibility, knowing our individual responsibilities as well as our responsibilities as a team, which will provide consistency as well as aid decision making.

With Peter taking much responsibility for the business development and decisions and the finances largely being within the realm of Karl Hardy, there have often been many inhibitors within my tasks, particularly with the financial information needed. Where collective responsibility will help is with decision-making without too much need of relying on a seeking a second opinion or being blocked by an inhibiting factor. This will also help me to avoid excessive procrastination, something which I was talking about at a mindfulness conference I was speaking at this about how mindfulness practice, by just being here and now in the present moment, enables one to focus on the task in hand avoiding procrastination.

Right now, in this moment, I am continuing to work on funding bids. With Grayson on board, this presents me with some help when applying for funding bids. Part of Grayson's duties and responsibilities is to allocate costs for training and employee costs, which will make it clearer for me when filling in funding application forms, particularly when answering questions such as how much funding are we to apply to for as well as what we will use the funding for. To have such clarity will be of great help to me. To keep on track of where we are, we have arranged to have 'scrum' meetings each day, to tune in the past and future to the present, enabling us to review recent activity, look at where it has us in the present before looking at the next step, rather like converting third downs in a game of America Football until reaching the ultimate aim, scoring a touchdown!

Be sure to watch this space as momentum continues to build.

Saturday 14 May 2011


Welcome back to adventures with Autism Works!

After a fantastic trip to South America, during which I took in some of the most spectacular scenery I can say I have ever seen, I have come back to some interesting changes at Autism Works as well as a slight disappointment.

My trip to South America was spectacular not only in the full sense of the word, but also in variation of different landscapes and climates, as well as experiencing some of the strongest winds I have ever known. Patagonia initially appealed to me after happening to see some footage of Simon Reeve’s Rough Guide to the World television series on the BBC and it looked so spectacular with its mountains and glaciers. I was told that I would be ‘blown away’ by some of the sights in Patagonia, including Mount Fitzroy in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park and Chile’s magnificent Torres del Paine National Park, and I literally almost was on at least two occasions! The ultimate highlight though was seeing a condor in full flight soaring across the Andes. I hope to go back to South America again in the not too distant future, after I have learned a little more Spanish, or in the case of Brazil, Portuguese.

Coming back to Autism Works, I learned that, unfortunately, we didn’t get any funding from the Department of Health Third Sector Investment Fund to which we submitted an application last Autumn. However, the positive news is that we have now appointed our Testing Manager, Grayson Cobb. With six years behind him as a Testing Manager and a total of ten years’ experience in software testing, Grayson has tested software for a number of major companies on a self-employed contractor basis, including two years at the National Institute for Health Research. In his new and potentially exciting role at Autism Works, Grayson is eager to bring high-profile software testing contracts to the company as well as developing confidence in our first software testers due to be appointed in the coming months.  

Before taking time off work to go trekking, I had been used to it being just Peter and myself sharing our Grey Street office, but now, our workforce, both paid and unpaid is slowly expanding. In addition to Grayson, we have also had some input from Dan Cottrell, a young man recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome currently experiencing the frustrations of not being able to obtain employment, despite having a degree in Internet Computing. However, Dan has very kindly been coming into Autism Works where he is putting his web-development skills to good use in helping to rebrand the Autism Works website – but on the look-out for an improved site over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, after struggling to adjust to coming back to work, I am working on three funding bids and we are also taking on a student intern to help us with marketing activities. After being away for almost a month, coming back to Autism Works almost feels like starting a new job, but I am looking forward to working with Grayson and continuing to work with Dan, to whom we are grateful for his contribution thus far with the website. I’m sure you’ll be impressed when it goes live!