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Make a Connection, Make a Difference - Project Report

Make a Connection, Make a Difference - Project Report

Author: Tautoko Support Services/Monday, 9 May 2016/Categories: News

Project Goal: To encourage businesses in Palmerston North to welcome the talents and contributions that people living with disability bring to the workplace.

Overview

Tautoko Support Services offers disability support services across the lower and central North Island and the Nelson/Marlborough regions. Through our service ‘Options’, based in Palmerston North, we provide individually tailored services to people living with disability across five regions.   Options’ main purpose is to support disabled people to take the lead in their own lives as they connect to new opportunities in the community where their talents and contributions are valued.

Our project, sponsored by the Making a Difference Fund was to challenge Palmerston North businesses and organisations to think creatively about how they can become more inclusive and welcoming, in a way that enables reciprocal relationships to be developed with disabled people.

This was done by working with people supported by Options to come up with their own campaign, which consisted of a video presentation, highlighting local positive stories of disabled people and businesses working together.  Individuals support by Options also outlined ways in which businesses could connect with them in order to assist them with their project or employment goal.  The presentations were offered to businesses and organisations.  The resources continue to be used by Options to support and encourage businesses and employers to see the benefits of inclusive practices.

Primary Project Objectives

  • People supported by Options develop their own presentation to change attitudes and behaviours toward disabled people, with a focus on inclusion in the workforce.
  • Develop resources to change employer attitudes around including disabled people in their workforce and encourage inclusive practices in their business or organisation.
  • To create new opportunities for people supported by Options to connect with a business or organisation.

Anticipated Benefits

  • An increase in positive relationships between disabled people and business community members.
  • Palmerston North local business community become more aware of ways that they can be more responsive and welcoming to disabled people. 
  • Disabled people are viewed as having a great deal of potential in the workforce.
  • Positive stories are collected and shared.

Milestones/Activities

  1. A focus a group was held to identify common themes :
    1. People want better customer service-to be spoken to in a respectful manner, and to be seen as equals.
    2. While paid employment was the goal, volunteering was also a something they felt they could offer.
    3. Several people wanted a person to mentor them regarding an interest they had, or help promote their micro business.
  2. A video was made with businesses who had formed positive
    reciprocal relationships with disabled people telling their story.
  3. Identified where people’s talents and goals could be welcomed.
  4. Employers and businesses were offered the chance to be involved in this project. We tapped into individual staff networks, business networks and participated in employment and transitions expos.  We also promoted the project with the Community Services Council, Palmerston North City Council and at the Economic Well-Being Hui.
  5. We used a variety of strategies to connect people and to promote their talents and skills such as: facilitating one-to-one contact with businesses, providing a short video presentation and telling individual stories. 

Success Factors so far

  • Disabled people have taken a key role in the project.
  • Growth of confidence in the people involved in the project.
  • New connections have been made between project participants and business community.
  • Video produced and offered to businesses and video clips on Options’ website (www.options.org.nz).
  • 500 postcards produced and being distributed.
  • Promotion of the project through; Options’ website, the local FLAX newsletter, local expo’s on employment and transition.
  • Individual businesses contacted.
  • The project has become part of Options operations. Information postcards, video clips and stories are currently being used to promote inclusion in employment throughout all services.

What worked, what didn’t work so well

  • Unfortunately we were unable to tie the project into local business awards.
  • We spent longer than anticipated working with people we support and employers to develop the video. 
  • Larger businesses often did not see a need to make any changes in how they currently did business.
  • Owner operated or small businesses were generally more open to making a personal connection than a larger organisation. They were able to spend time asking questions and getting to know the person, and were more likely to offer work opportunities or mentoring.
  • Linking people with businesses who shared similar interests worked well.
  • Contacting businesses personally worked better than emails or letters.

Next Steps

  • We will continue to develop the project to promote opportunities for people living with a disability to enjoy the benefits that come from working or making a contribution to their community.
  • We will promote the project through local media.
  • We will continue to offer disability and employment awareness presentations to local businesses.
  • We will explore how we can further build on this project by linking in with other projects on employment. 

 

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