For the third transnational partner meeting we came together at the beginning of March 2020 in Toulouse (following the first partner meeting in October 2019 in Leeds, and the second meeting in June 2019 in Helsinki). We were roughly at the half-way point of the project and had plenty of data generated in our research activities and co-creation workshops.
The main activities to discuss during this meeting were the co-creation workshops we ran with autistic students, careers advisors, employers and academics. There were 14 of them spread across Europe, with more than 70 participants overall. The aim of the workshops was to actively involve people in the design of project outputs to ensure that these were fit for purpose and acceptable in tone and presentation.
In late 2019 we created a hefty guide (nearly 100 pages) which helped partners plan and run the workshops, and to collate data. Marylou Planchon, a Design Thinker from Toulouse, was instrumental in creating and illustrating the guide (which will be covered in more detail in a future blog post).
Bringing it together
Our meeting in Toulouse was the opportunity to share the results and findings from all these activities. We explored numerous examples of good practice that people had told us about. We tried to identify universal patterns and ideas. We dissected these into challenges and solutions: what challenges do students or professionals encounter, and what solutions have been put forward by the people with lived experiences and with professional expertise?
Using this approach, we identified 27 key challenges and associated solutions. Then we mapped them against the intellectual outputs of the project:
- An employability toolkit for student
- Training materials for carrier advisors
- Good practices guide for employers, careers advisors, academics and higher education managers
In a future blog post we will explore these challenges and solutions in more detail.
Having local guests is a tradition for the IMAGE partner meetings: our hosts from University of Toulouse invited two guests to talk about their experiences of autism and employment: Anthony, an autistic PhD student from Toulouse, shared his experience of studying, working and doing research. He provided a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of his journey and the role effective (and not so effective) support has played along the way. Second was Julien Davadan, an autism job coach. In his role, Julien works with autistic people, families, employers and universities. He generously allowed us an insight into his approach and into the challenges autistic young people can face.
During 2019, partners were busy collaborating on scientific papers. Several papers have now been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. More are in the pipeline.
It is great how the IMAGE project can foster these collaborations and motivate people to use the time spent together at conferences, bi-lateral meetings and project partner meetings for writing. The following papers have been accepted for publication, with more to follow. In a future blog post, Henri Pesonen from the University of Helsinki will talk a bit more about how the IMAGE project enabled these publications.