Since the NEA officially launched as a Community Interest Company in April, we have been overwhelmed by how quickly the Association has developed into where we are now. Here are some of the highlights:
I was proud to speak about the NEA's work at the ADHD Foundation's annual conference, Neurodiversity: A New Paradigm in June at Liverpool's stunning St George's Hall. It was the first big event I'd attended where there were so many people like me in the one room (and also the most nerve-racking!). Everyone felt excited, joyful, tearful and energised throughout. It will definitely be a regular event for us from now on.
In the summer, we won a £25K investment from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to put a group of twenty neurodivergent entrepreneurs through our coaching, mentoring and training programmes. Not only will we work with the group to identify and achieve their business aims, but they are also invited to share their feedback with the Combined Authority to make changes to future business support. This is the first programme of its kind on a regional level that we know of, and we are very grateful to the Combined Authority for their support and genuine engagement. The group will meet in person for the first time in January, and we are already loving working with such a fantastic set of professionals. Join our mailing list to keep updated on how we will be rolling out this programme in other regions next year!
In the autumn, we became a registered Social Enterprise, committed to reinvesting the majority of income back into the organisation so we can best celebrate and support our neurodivergent entrepreneurs & business owners. Without our community, we would be nothing so it's only right that they reap the benefits as we grow. Next year, we hope to be in a position to offer bursaries and grants to cover our monthly membership fees, ensuring that nobody is prevented from accessing the NEA's services and community because of money.
In September, I presented at the International Enterprise Educators Conference at the University of Surrey, alongside Dr Lorna Treanor of Nottingham University Business School. We were very pleased and surprised to win the award for Best Session in the Supporting Start-up, Growth and Scaleup track. Lorna is the founder of the Charter for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and we are proud to be an early signatory. We are now working with enterprise educators to find and share best practice resources for supporting neurodivergent entrepreneur students to remove barriers to finance and support. Read more about the outputs from our session and the call for resources here.
September also marked the latest stage in our ongoing work with the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University. Led by Dr Katerina Nicolopoulou, the research project considered entrepreneurship through a neurodivergent lens, with the September two-day event bringing together expert speakers from around the world. Read Katerina's summary here.
With Lorna and colleagues at Nottingham, we are busy planning for a first-of-its-kind conference on neurodiversity and entrepreneurship in April, bringing together entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers. More details about speakers, sponsors and registration will be released in January.
In the autumn, I also spoke at the Mastering Diversity conference in Cardiff, led by the inspirational Bernie Davies, and, closer to home, at the launch of Bradford's bid to become a neurodiversity-friendly city. To have something like this happening on my doorstep is brilliant news.
NEA membership is now open for entrepreneurs/business owners, academics, and supporters. For more information and to take up membership, please visit our website. We will also be launching organisational membership in the New Year, featuring training programmes and accreditation.
And finally, Charlotte Valeur is joining us as our Patron. If you don’t know Charlotte, she’s an absolute powerhouse in business and neurodiversity, and we’re delighted that she’s coming onboard to support what we’re doing.
We have already done a lot and 2024 is set to be even bigger! Huge thanks to everyone who has been part of the journey so far, and particular thanks to Charlotte and our amazing Head of Coaching & Training, Claire Butcher.
Very best wishes to you and yours for a peaceful Christmas and New Year.