The Autelligent Laboratories project is a message of hope and empowerment, to create jobs for people on the autistic spectrum. You may have heard or seen me mention before that a project like this needs the help and support of certain kinds of people, specifically the very super-social people that Malcolm Gladwell called "connectors, mavens and sales men" in his book the Tipping Point. These kinds of people are, not to put too fine a point on it, NOT autistic people. These people are actually naturally (genetically?) the opposite of autistic people. One of the biggest reasons why autistic people have so many challenges in life is because we lack the large social support networks that other people have (and that these people have in spades). Unless we're already living with our parents (which hasn't been an option for me in many years), we're pretty much on our own when we lose a job. And as much as Craig T. Nelson claims he didn't receive any help when he was down and out, this isolation is just not true for the vast majority of people. When the average person loses a job, they've got dozens of friends in their network to help them find their next job.
So it's no secret that I've been looking for new ways that we can spread our message of hope and empowerment for people on the autistic spectrum. Specifically I feel we need ways to spread this message that will give the average person incentive to share our story, even if they don't know a single person with autism. I'd been trying to think of avenues in which this might be possible and one avenue in particular that I've been thinking about for several weeks is to get churches involved. It's a scientifically proven fact that people who attend church regularly live an average of almost eight years longer. We don't know exactly why this is, but my guess is that it's because their social networks are stronger. We need that kind of social capital.
Something else I've been searching for is a way that we can get our story in front of people on a daily basis. For this we would need some context in which people might see our message during their daily routine, such as when they brush their teeth or just as they're leaving the office in the morning. There's a company called Toms who are a great example of this: they give away a pair of shoes to a child who needs them for every pair of shoes they sell. If you've bought shoes from them, then every morning when you put them on is an opportunity to think about the child who now has a pair of shoes thanks to your purchase. And any time someone asks you about your shoes, it's an opportunity to share that story.
So what if we could get both of these ideas together? What if we could get collaboration with a special group of people who share our desire to make the world a better place and they could help us spread our message in a way that reminds people of our story every day? And then Twitter showed me the answer in a news article from the New York Times about a company in Wisconsin called LaserMonks. They're monks who sell toner cartridges for laser printers, how cool is that? Yeah, you're right, it's not really cool - but it's definitely unexpected and that's actually kind of what we're all about with the AutLabs project. Just like we as autistic people tend to find our own ways of doing things, we as a movement are also keen to find great unusual ways to move our project forward.
In addition to the toner, I noticed that LaserMonks also sells coffee. How's that for perfect? Not only are they the kinds of people I was hoping to involve in sharing our story, but they have the perfect way to remind people about our story on a daily basis. I think statistically something like 482% of the population drink coffee religiously (except for myself, because I'm not part of the population and because I have an ulcer). In fact the average person deprived of their morning coffee is in such a severe addictive withdrawl that they'd be willing to do the most unspeakable things to the cutest of lolcats for a cup. (Why else do you think they buy it at Starbucks?) So naturally I think, sharing our story over their morning cup of coffee is a great way for us to start the day.
With that in mind, I've sent the following email to the LaserMonks and am now eagerly awaiting their response.
We're interested in a collaboration with LaserMonks for the purpose of solving a real social ill. Last year I received a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and discovered that the unemployment rate for people on the autism spectrum is a little over 80%. This is unacceptable to me, so I set out to change it.
In Europe there is now a very successful, profitable, 5-year old Danish company called Specialisterne who've been hiring people with Asperger Syndrome and putting them to work for market rates as software testers with clients like Microsoft. Until now, nobody had been promoting this idea in North America. So a few months ago I started promoting this business model at a new website. http://www.autlabs.com
We aren't (at least yet) a charity, so I'm not seeking funding from LaserMonks. But it seems to me like LaserMonks would be a good fit to help us share our message of hope and empowerment for people with autism. What I'm envisioning is a small one-page insert with some information about autism and the AutLabs project that could be included in outgoing shipments of one or two of your products like the Benevolent Blends Coffee and/or the Soybean Toner. Please let us know if this is something that interests you, and if so what we would need to contribute to cover your costs.
S. Isaac Dealey, Facilitator