LONG STORY SHORT:
Help me make a sustainable difference to all Neurodivergent people out there! Following my application to study social entrepreneurship in the U S of A at The Watson Institute I was the one they chose (out of 500 people!) to award the ‘European Impact Fellowship’ which is a full scholarship worth over £21,000.
The Watson Institute is a revolutionary new model of higher education for social entrepreneurs. The course pioneers’ new ways of thinking and learning business skills which will allow me to grow The Dyslexia Employment Academy at Exceptional Individuals.
Whilst this is an amazing opportunity, it is sadly not financially viable as I am not able to afford the flights, living costs and insurance.
Therefore, I am asking for your support. I am raising £3,500 to cover flights and living fees for my 4-month semester starting in August 2019 at the Watson Institute in Colorado to study social entrepreneurship. Through your generous donations I will be able to grow and develop the Dyslexia Employment Academy as a sustainable, long-term and impactful venture that will make a lasting global impact.
Who Am I:
Hi y’all, my name is Nat and I am a local business leader, social entrepreneur & have been a trustee of multiple charities. I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and mild autism at a young age and have used my learning differences to empower and campaign for people on the autism spectrum and any kind of different way of learning. In the last 3 years I have trained over 2500 individuals with a range of diverse conditions in communication and confidence, whilst building a foundation for them to grow their understanding and find meaningful employment.
At 27 years of age I am the Head of Community Investment for Exceptional Individuals, the first employment partnership for neurodivergent people. I dedicate my time to bettering the lives of people with neurodiversity around the UK and have created an academy which is aimed at talented neurodivergent job seekers to find meaningful employment.
Growing up I was always considered an under-achiever in terms of academic success. I knew that I was not dumb, slow or less-equal than my peers, I just thought in a different way. I have spent the last 7-years working towards a better society for people with (dis)abilities, using my life experience to support gifted people with unique mind-sets. With an amazing team I have created an empowered community that is proud to be neuro-diverse. Through the Dyslexia Employment Academy, they have acquired a set of brilliant skills that any top employers would be lucky to have.
Like the people we support I have neurodiversity (or a ‘disability’ as some may call it), and use this unique positive experience to make the world a more inclusive place, one person, one day at a time.
Creating neurodiversity confidence workshops was a huge step for me, to move from a person who was ashamed of his dyslexia and autism at a young age to a person that is proud of it. I would not change the way I think for the world and I hope that I can instil this ethos in as many of the 700,00 estimated autistic and 6.3 million Dyslexic people in the UK as possible.
The support from our neurodivergent team gave me the encouragement to take my passion a step further and become a campaigner for others with learning differences on a global scale. I became a trustee of multiple disability and youth charities, and trained others both nationally and internationally with neurodiversity to become youth workers. I am currently celebrating my new role of Head of Community Investment at Exceptional Individuals with the launch of our very own academy for people with dyslexia and autism.
Here is a selection of some of our success so far:
What is neurodiversity?
There is a great deal of variation among human brains and human minds, and this variation is called neurodiversity. All people think differently – not just because of differences in culture or life experience, but because their brains are “wired” to work differently. The most common neurodiversities are Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism, Tourette’s and OCD.
What is Exceptional Individuals?
Exceptional Individuals: We are a social enterprise and the first employment partnership for neurodivergent people. We believe our economy is missing out on a valuable asset. Despite their proven ability, entry to the job market can be a daunting task for applicants with neurodiversity, we support organisations and individuals overcome any unconscious bias around hidden disabilities and understand the key barriers and highlight the key advantages of a more inclusive workplace.
What is the Exceptional Individuals Dyslexia Employment Academy?
As a person who is neurodivergent, I learnt how to harness my dyslexia and make it my USP. In my role at Exceptional Individuals (EI) I have been able to use this lived experience to develop a series of fantastic workshops designed to get jobs for people with a different way of thinking.
Thanks to feedback from the EI community and support from the DWP and various other agencies I have spent the last year piloting these workshops with fantastic results and demand.
- 94% of attendees left the workshop feeling more confident about their learning difference
- 100% of attendees felt their understanding of neurodiversity had improved
- 91% of attendees said they would recommend the workshop to a friend or colleague
The workshops have now been refined into a 6-week programme in which participants gain the skills and tools they need in order to get into work
The next stage for the Dyslexia Employment Academy is to grow, sustain and then become international!
Watson is a revolutionary new model of higher education for social entrepreneurs. They pioneer new ways of thinking and learning and encourage new ways of learning, trailblazing and innovation and contribute to solving the toughest challenges facing the world.
As a Watson scholar I will receive weekly mentorship and coaching sessions, training in the hard skills and frameworks to take my ideas to the next level, and a community of peers that will last far in years to come.
The Semester Incubator will be at the Watson Institute’s campus in Boulder Colorado located in Chautauqua Park. The Watson Semester Incubator program is designed to equip the most promising members of the next generation with the skills, tools, and network they need to tackle world’s toughest social, economic, and environmental challenges.
What will I learn:
During the 4-month intensive program, I will learn the following skills that I will bring back to my role at EI:
- How to create a step-by-step methodology to rapidly and systematically validate the Dyslexia Employment Academy’s business model.
- Training in the process of building and strengthening an effective team that can pioneer new innovations and markets
- Testing my cost assumptions, developing a fundraising plan, creating an investors deck, and measuring impact metrics specifically to garner funder support.
- Framing solutions so they expose injustices and speak truth to power, incorporate positive psychology, and create better models and systems.
- Learning and applying entrepreneurial skills and mindset alongside a global community of like-minded and diverse peers.
- Connect with a powerful network of mentors and social entrepreneurs such as Jerry White, a leader of the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Tom Chi who helped invent Google Glass and the self-driving car; and Erin Schrode, the youngest person to run for U.S. Congress.
Why support me?
Whilst I am very humbled by the scholarship, the additional costs of travelling, rent and living for 4-months amounts to approx. £5,900, which is more money than I am able to afford at this stage of my life without an income. With your support I will be able to accept this once in a lifetime opportunity and study at The Watson Institute in August.
What's my motivation?
Throughout my life, I have grown up with a great awareness of the massive inequalities in the world around disabilities. Born in Hampshire, UK, I could never accept the link between disabilities and low aspiration. Despite the financial disadvantages my family and I faced, I still did not give up.
Through my mother’s unwavering emotional support and my determination, I was able to strive towards higher aspirations which ultimately led to many opportunities as a result. I was able to show the world what my abilities are but, unfortunately with stereotypes, this is not always the case with neurodivergent people who are often discriminated against. I now have a job that I love that allows me to work in a way that best suits my brain. I have now chosen to dedicate my life to facilitating other neurodivergent people and to ensure that they have similar opportunities and meaningful jobs that they love without feeling a sense of alienation and struggle in a neurotypical workplace.
As a neurodivergent person, I have had both first-hand experience and wider exposure to the unintentional discrimination towards neurodivergent people in the UK. By looking into it further I have become acutely aware of the continued stigmatisation and, in many cases, exclusion on a neurodivergent background in the workforce. For example, a recent study that Exceptional Individuals and the government collaborated found out that 75% of managers do not understand neurodiversity and 73% of people do not disclose their neurodiversity as a result of this.
My aim is to use what I have learnt at the Watson Institute in Colorado and utilise this knowledge to help expand and develop Exceptional Individuals Dyslexia Employment Academy, which will ultimately help individuals, companies and the country as a whole become more inclusive and understanding around the advantages of a different way of thinking.