Never, in the months leading up to
Patchwork Hub’s first post, could I have imagined that our first post would be
published in this context… When I’ve been pitching our social enterprise at
competitions in recent months, at meetings and at events, I normally start by
highlighting that our model of work is broken. I argue that just because a
person’s circumstances remove them from the workplace and from being able to
work in a conventional workplace, that person does not lose their skillset,
determination or desire to contribute and earn money. I talk about how current
efforts are based around trying to fit people into the workplace rather than
creating a workspace that fits these individuals.
With COVID-19, businesses are rapidly
improving their implementation of flexible or “working from home” policies. I
hope that the one positive that might come from all this is an acknowledgment
that flexible and remote working works. Such a realisation can help bring back
into the workforce a currently invisible talent pool.
How we started
had a clear career path laid out in front of me. I had graduated from Oxford
University with First Class Honours and had just run a summer school access programme to bring
students from “disadvantaged” backgrounds to university, the very same access
summer school that I had attended, aged 17.
I had received a full Kennedy Scholarship for postgraduate study at
Harvard and from the outside looked all set to be whatever I wanted to be,
wherever I wanted to be it.
chronic health conditions changed how I could work. Despite great efforts and
sacrifices, I could not sustainably work
a conventional 9 to 5 office job. Despite the privileged networks I was now a
part of, I could not find an easy way to work flexibly around my health.
Despite workplaces making efforts to become more inclusive, current efforts
were all based around trying to fit people into the workplace rather than
creating a workspace that fits the individual. This made me think, what if I
created a business which does exactly that? Create the workspace around the
when this personal idea coalesced into a driving motivation was during an
ME/CFS advocacy meeting in the United States Congress. I sat around the table
in Senators’ offices hearing stories of high-achieving and highly skilled
individuals who had been forced to stop work because of their illness.
Globally, there are millions missing from the labour market, as there is no
accessible or sustainable way for these people to find or continue in work even
though they may be physically/mentally able to do so. A person may be
housebound and only able to work a few hours a day, but oh boy, can they be
productive and dedicated in those hours! It often surprises people to learn
that the disabled self-employed’s skillset is specialised in the three most
highly skilled occupational categories. This is not to mention the untapped
potential of those who have not been able to continue working or skilling
themselves because there was no accessible way for them to do so.
thinking about the potential of creating a fully accessible platform through
which users could connect with employers, training and support, facilitating a
different way of working. Creating a one-stop shop for somebody unable to work
a conventional job to connect with opportunities which would suit them and
allow them to live and work sustainably. Creating a one-stop shop for
businesses to improve their inclusion through finding talent and connecting
with training and support.
The more I
began working on this founding idea, the more convinced I became of its
potential. I came back to the UK and have been working non-stop ever since. The
chronic illness community holds some of the most inspiring and hardworking
people I’ve ever met and given the opportunity, I know they will be assets to
the clients they work for. In light of the growth of remote working and
task-based jobs, I feel strongly that a socially responsible and inclusive
business should be one of the first to market and I am determined that
‘disabled’ people are integrated into the future model of work, front and
centre of the change, rather than a separate category added on at the end (as
is usually the case!)
no reason why a social enterprise, which contributes the majority of its
profits to its social mission, should not also be a scalable tech startup and
market leader but there are many reasons why it isn’t often done. The barriers
to entry are that much higher for disabled-led enterprises but I truly believe that
a shift is beginning to happen. Now is the moment for Patchwork Hub.