By Aidan Dunn, Intern at G.A.P Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York
Like most organizations, the Global Autism Project has a number of principles for our members to follow. I’m not talking about rules or guidelines we have to follow but rather a list of qualities that we hope to inspire not only in ourselves, but those around us. We strive to Cultivate Leadership, Be Limitless, embrace failure, Foster Innovation, Stay Curious, Presume Competence, Celebrate Accomplishments, Promote Transparency, and Make a Sustainable Impact.
Those are some big words and some very pretty colors, but what do these phrases mean and why are they so important in the workplace? Some terms fall into categories. For example, cultivating leadership refers to finding those in our organization who show leadership skills and put them into positions where these skills can be put to good use. This kind of workplace meritocracy is further supported by our principles of fostering innovation to improve our practices and by celebrating the accomplishments of our members both on a group and individual level. It’s not a sink-or-swim worksite though. That’s why we have the principles of presuming competence and promoting transparency. Presuming competence is perhaps better expressed as believing in and trusting our fellow GAP members to be able to do their jobs and do their jobs well. By promoting transparency, we demonstrate that this trust isn’t a one way street. The leadership keeps us informed, telling us what our work is going towards and how things are going on in the organization. Our members trust the leaders, the leaders trust us, and we all trust each other- an ideal workplace environment. Sometimes we do mess up- we embrace failure. Of all the principles I listed above, you might notice that embracing failure is the only one that isn’t capitalized. That demonstrates our opinions on failure. We aren’t proud of it, but we don’t ignore it. If one of us makes a mistake, we have to accept it and our failures to learn and do better next time.
It’s not all about working to the organization’s benefit though. We are encouraged to be limitless- to always strive to do better, to always be curious- to never stop learning, and to demonstrate our individuality in the workplace. We are there for our workplace, and our workplace is there for us.
This leads to our last and most important principle. We want to make a sustainable impact. We aren’t just talking about going green and helping the environment here. We are trying to make an impact on our world. We want the work we do here to help someone’s life. When I was young, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome- a subset of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite this, I never felt marginalized or ignored. I had my family and the people at my school who all knew how to work with autistic students. I credit them for the person I’ve become today. Without them, I feel that my formative years would have been very different, and certainly not for the better. At GAP, we want to bring this kind of understanding and training to teachers around the world so they can in turn inspire the next generation of autistics around the globe. Not only that, but we want to create a legacy so that what we teach will impact whoever comes next.