Some things to remember when: Fundraising.

Fundraising

Fundraising is a lot of things, some of which are obvious, some of which aren’t.. some even seem like they’re obvious but are actually very easy to lose sight of.

Not only are projects carried out for a wide range of purposes, but they’re also, of course, carried out by a wide range of people. Often, the only thing that unites these individuals is that they’ve never done anything remotely like it before.

Over the last two years I’ve guided people through this, and while I started as clueless as the next guy, there are now some things I’ve noticed are always true and I think they bear remembering:

IT’S HARD

Whether you’re fundraising for a powerchair, cutting-edge treatments or the capital to launch a new product, it’s hard. It’s exhausting, emotional and takes far longer than anyone wants. What’s more is that, most of the time, no one wants to be doing it in the first place: very few people (and those who do deserve all the credit in the world) wake up in the morning and fancy a relaxing day of cash generation.

We do it because we need to do it.

The point to take away is that no matter how low the lows, keep that good end in mind.

IT’S FUN

For all the doom and gloom of the lows, as all the Race for Life adverts splashed across the TV tell us, there are most definitely highs. These highs don’t just come after you’ve finished a race, though. They’re everywhere and will be different in every project. They’re the cake at a bake sale, the sunshine at a charity picnic… I even once heard of fancy dress yoga. For the boring people like me, they’re even the satisfaction of sending off a particularly well formed grant application.

Sickeningly clichéd as it sounds, for all your focus on the good of the destination, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

bakesale

IT’S VARIABLE

I often get asked how long fundraising for a powerchair might take. People sometimes struggle to believe that the answer to that question really is anything from a month to a year or maybe even more. The truth is, with any major project, there are just so many variables: where in the country is it happening, is it for an individual or an organisation, how big is the organisation, how old is the person. The list just goes on and on.

So, while obviously you should take inspiration, don’t judge yourself too harshly against other projects. Everyone and everything is different.

IT’S UNFAIR

For me personally, fundraising projects tend to arise when a family has a new addition and that new addition happens to have been born with some trait that limits their mobility. In other words, most of the time, it is purely the gods of chance which means it is these families that have the admin of a major fundraising project on their shoulders rather than others. The unfair forces of the universe don’t stop there, though: It will tip it down on the day of your big fundraiser, you’ll apply to a major charity the day after they commit their final bit of funding for the year and your car will definitely break down on the way to an important meeting.

Image result for rainy fayre

It’s important to know, though, that for every stroke of bad luck they’ll be some good news round the corner. And, if nothing else, think of how much misfortune you’ll have gotten out of your system by the time the project’s over!

IT’S REWARDING

This is perhaps the most important point of them all, and the most talked about. There’s not too much I can add here other than by saying, even as someone who’s only linked through work to the beneficiaries of my small fundraising efforts, it is, without a shadow of a doubt one of the best bits of my job.

I’m jealous of the people in our organisation who get more of it and feel bad for those who have less of it.

IT ENDS

As you start, no matter how far in the distance the end may seem, remember the moment of triumph does come eventually. Whether you want to celebrate with champagne or just a deep breath out, you should take the time to be proud of what you’ve done.

After all, the world is a better place because you’ve done it.

Seth

Parents who Pioneer

Interior room with a cot in retro style

In this post, I want to tell you about a little boy born with a disability to pioneering parents.

His parents had started their family fairly late – his mother was an artist who had studied at various impressive art schools, and his father had been an overseas journalist before returning to the UK to ‘get a proper job’. Their little boy arrived after a long and difficult labour, and he was born with a dangerous congenital condition which, without surgery, would mean he couldn’t survive. At six weeks old, they fought to get him the latest surgery to save his tiny life.

When it later became apparent that he also had an unrelated long-term disability, the medics and experts recommended that he should be placed in specialist care and that the couple could then go and have another baby who wouldn’t be disabled. His parents told the experts what to do with their advice!! There were disagreements amongst the wider family about what was best.

His mother took him to a ground-breaking therapist practicing near their home in London, his father included him in all family activities and bought him the kind of bicycle that he could ride, his grandmother contacted a school which would take him and integrate him with non-disabled children. They joined with other families of children with this same disability and formed the first parents’ support charity for the condition.

Sounds familiar, right? Sounds modern and newsworthy?

He was born in 1938. The surgery was basic by current standards and only available if you paid. The disability was cerebral palsy. The therapist was Berta Bobath. The support group is what we now know as Scope. He is my uncle, now approaching his 79th birthday – those battling parents were my grandparents. He is now retired, living independently in sheltered accommodation. He receives his occupational pension and thinks back on his life with joy.

And here is what I know from seeing it from the other end of the story:

•Parents will always fight for their child to get them the most up-to-date, and best, solutions.

•Grandparents have always been an important part of the armoury, for both wisdom and energy.

•Professionals will always offer the habitual solutions for problems they haven’t yet solved.

And here is what I’ve learned:

• A few people will always think outside the box, and they will band together to change the world.

•Integration lasts a lifetime.

•Things can always be better.

Ruth

What does your colour choice say about you?

3Bootlids
A selection of SnapDragon and Dragon mudwings

For many of us, trying to choose a colour for a product can be a rather agonising process. This is especially true for a Dragon, as we offer a practically unlimited colour choice. Then again, for some people it’s exceptionally straightforward. We all know that one person who refuses to buy anything that’s not the same garish colour as their favorite croquet team or some sort. “Too clashy?” “Too chintzy?” “Too monochrome?” are all insignificant trivialities for these colour monogamists. Even if you’re not one of these chroma loyalists, most likely you do have a favorite colour. The Dragonmobility office is no exception: we range from Dan’s rather somber maroon to Gerry’s ‘brightest’ orange. But do these choices reveal anything about us, and if so, what?

FavCols
The Dragonmobility Team’s Favourite Colours. Can you guess who’s who?

As with most things, we can turn to our favourite online deity. ‘Psychology Today’, proclaims (seemingly with zero external sources) that; “People who choose black as their favourite colour are often artistic and sensitive” and “those who love red live life to the fullest and are tenacious.” Let’s just say I’m unconvinced.

However, colour undoubtedly plays a huge part in our everyday lives. It impacts us all, at a subconscious level. Studies have proven that, for instance, we discern the flavour of food and drink based on their colour. In one such study, even when participants were explicitly informed that the colour of the solutions provided had no useful information regarding the flavour of the drink, they were unable to ignore the colour and accurately identify the taste (Zampini et al, 2007). It’s certain that we associate colours with flavours, but is it possible that we associate colours with thoughts and feelings as well?

colorful foods
We closely associate colour with food. Via foodinsight.org

Well the short answer is yes, we do. Colours have been shown to evoke clear emotional responses (Boyatzis and Varghese, 1994). For example, children, in particular have been shown to respond with positive emotions to bright colours. In the same study boys were shown to be far more likely to respond positively to dark colours than girls.

When adult colour preference is modeled through the application of a ‘mean hue preference curve’ (just roll with it), we can begin to interpret common colour inclinations. The model shows that average female preferences raises steeply to a sustained peak in a ‘reddish-purple region, while the male preference is shifted towards blue-green (Hurlbert et al, 2007). No doubt our culture construct of gender specific colours plays its part in this.

However, these studies, interesting as they are, are limited in their usefulness. This data is used extensively in many design fields. The aim being to use colour in order get consumers to relate to a product in a certain way. For example, companies will use silver/grey colour schemes to identify with balance and calmness. What the results don’t do is provide any link between individual personalities and colour preference. In fact, no academic source seems to be able to do so.

Colour preference has been shown to be independent of age, demographic and education (Sliburyte and Skeryte, 2014). At the end of the day, the only thing we can say with any certainty is that people like colours strongly associated with things they like (Palmer and Schloss, 2010). In this sense our uber croquet fan’s colour virtue should be applauded: they follow what makes them happy. I’m not going to lie: there would have been a time, as a product designer, where I would have been mortified by the suggestion that I change a carefully chosen colour scheme. Since joining Dragon though, I’ve found it hard not to celebrate each and every dragon that leaves our shop floor. Colour preferences make us who we are. At the end of the day our favourite colour is just that, it’s something that brings us joy. That’s why we should cherish them and that’s why we let you pick them.

Angus

Zampini M, Sanabria D, Phillips N, Spence C. (2007) The multisensory perception of flavor: assessing the influence of color cues on flavor discrimination responses. Food Qual Prefer;18:975–84

Boyatzis, C. J., & Varghese, R. (1994). Children’s emotional associations with colors. The Journal of genetic psychology, 155(1), 77-85.

Hurlbert, A. C., & Ling, Y. (2007). Biological components of sex differences in color preference. Current Biology, 17(16), R623-R625.

Sliburyte, L., & Skeryte, I. (2014). What we know about consumers’ color perception. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 156, 468-472.

Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2010). An ecological valence theory of human color preference. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(19), 8877-8882.

Premature thoughts on Fatherhood…

happy family father and child on meadow with a kite

A few weeks ago me and a few friends (all of us 24 year old men without kids) were talking about children. Specifically about whether and when we might want them. This was all going pretty much as expected: the broad points of view, from the broody to the depressingly distant, were all represented. That is until I surprised the floor by announcing that my attitude on the subject was softening.

To those who know me, the fact that this elicited a raised eyebrow will come as no great shock. While I’ve never been as fervently anti-child-rearing as some others my age, it’s fair to say that it’s never been a high priority of mine. So, their surprise was something I was expecting. What did catch me off-guard was their shock at my reasoning.

“Well, at my work you kind of end up meeting a lot of cute kids” I said, trying to de-raise some of those eyebrows.

“At work?” one of them asked with a hint of puzzlement.

“Aren’t most of the kids at your work ….” the other ventured, trailing off finding himself unable to use the word ‘disabled’.

Is disability in children really so unthinkable that the idea of being around disabled kids making someone slightly broody enough to stop a conversation in it’s tracks?

I should say in defense of my friends that they’re both lovely, caring and compassionate people. Just people who’ve been so flooded with stories of ‘inspirational’ families heartbroken at their stricken child that they can’t see what I see.

I’m lucky that in my work once in a while I get to see a child take their first steps (on wheels), I’ve seen the very communicative bond that develops when a parent has to arrange a kid’s legs in order to sit on the sofa, I’ve seen kids so comfortable in themselves that not being able to control their own limbs is a hilarious game, I’ve seen just how bright having to contend with the laws of physics can make someone.

To me then, it seems completely natural that being around these kids would, at the very least, make me reconsider my position on having children.

The conversation continued.

Having seen all these things, there are moments when I find myself thinking that (if I do want kids), not only has knowing these disabled children made me a little broodier, I don’t actually mind the idea of having a disabled kid myself.

“You can’t say that!” a friend exclaimed, seeming to think I’d wished some curse on the as yet unborn.

Now, I appreciate the naivety of my position and I don’t mean for a second to talk down the challenges that I know families with disabled children face, but I couldn’t help being a little annoyed at just how negatively they view it.

They didn’t understand.

What frustrated me was they only seemed to take the negatives: initially they didn’t believe me that in many ways it’s just like raising any child. I conceded that there are differences, but they would only believe that these were harrowing burdens. In trying to convince them that there were pros as well as cons I may as well have been trying to convince them that up was down.

Am I really so bizarre in thinking that it really wouldn’t be the end of the world to watch my child take their first steps in a wheelchair? Have I massively missed the point of all I’ve seen over my two years doing what I do?

In any case, for now this is all academic and, I’m aware, horribly self-indulgent. For now I’ll stay quiet in the knowledge that if/when the time does come, for all the things I’ll be woefully unprepared for, there’s at least one thing I’ll go into parenthood on the lookout for. And, If you’ll forgive the daydream, I’ll muse on shocking a doctor by responding to a child of mine “needing wheels” with a calm “cool”.

Seth

Daddy’s Home

PigeonChase

Some years ago, just after I had presented an academic paper on early mobility at an international symposium, a well-respected researcher accosted me, wide-eyed and excited: “Where did you get all that data about disabled children’s development?”. I had to tactfully admit that, as disabled children are also human children, the key source for a lot of my paper’s data had been my GCSE Child Development textbook…

For a girl heading for a career in corporate finance law, and with the (still not quite abandoned) intention of getting an MBA, a GCSE in Child Development was not the obvious choice. But in the work I do now it has been more useful to me than the second foreign language, or the triple science award, could ever have been.

Possibly because I was myself a child in powered mobility, I have been able to see past the novelty of a toddler in control of a chair (“Babies Drive Robots” is my favourite tabloid-esque, clickbait headline). Instead I can connect the mobility with the normal developmental milestones that every child needs to access.

As well as the infinite variety of small behaviours that a toddler can and must go through for their development such as (to name but a few):

  • Pulling pans out from the kitchen cupboard (hand-eye coordination, understanding sound, the beginnings of engaging in family tasks);
  • Touching the radiator, and learning not to touch it (sensory development, discipline, cause and effect);
  • Posting the gas bill down the back of the fridge (fine motor skills, shape, responsibility),

there are a few major and significant landmarks in development which indicate that a child is grappling with, and mastering, big intellectual leaps.

My favourite of these, at first glance sounds fairly minor, but it’s huge! It is going to the window to wait for someone who is expected. Often it will be Daddy coming home from work. Think about it from the mind of a little person who is figuring out how the world works…

First of all, our toddler has comprehended that Daddy exists even when we cannot see him. You, an adult, think this is a given; but it was news to you once, too! Earlier in brain development, a baby only believes in people they can see. Once we’ve grasped the new concept, we consolidate it by acting on it.

By trying out the ‘Daddy is somewhere else’ hypothesis, this little brain can build on it to reach the conclusion that ‘somewhere else’ is connected to where we are now. Daddy will come into view on the driveway before he comes through the front door. First, our toddler supposes that the space outside the window is always connected to the space inside. Daddy always comes around the same corner, so the next piece of the jigsaw is that wherever he comes from is always attached where we cannot see. Now the imagination can conjure a ‘somewhere else’ place, even though we have never seen it. We’re getting truly existential here, but these are all concepts that adults know and use, that they didn’t have when they were born.

Next: outside and inside are separated by the window, and we can see through the window even though when we touch it it feels solid. When you haven’t seen the phenomenon before, transparent things are weird. Try it now – look through a window. Everything looks the same but different, right? You, who have been looking through windows your whole life, can tell the difference. Before you were two years old, you worked this out.

And here’s another thing that you now take as given, that you once learned: the progress of time. Our toddler has wanted Daddy to come home since breakfast-time. We have been to play at Tiny Toes, napped, had lunch, been to the shops, picked up the older kids from school, but it’s not until after we’ve watched Furchester and eaten tea that it is worth looking out for Daddy. He will be home before bedtime. After, before, since, until, breakfast-time, bedtime – these are concepts that we learn to understand through experience.

Going to look out of the window is not just the indicator that your toddler has reached all these cognitive milestones – it is how they consolidate the thought processes. And tiny humans, even the disabled ones, learn like every other human. “Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand.”

The Start of It All

learning

It’s mid April in 1981. We have two children, a daughter who is seventeen months old and a son of four months. Lou and I are really happy, the children are our pride and joy and my work as a consulting design engineer is going well. Our only worry, that the girl was pushing herself up but has stopped doing so, is being checked out by a doctor. He has told us not to be concerned while he investigates what could be happening … “it’s probably OK”. The door bell rings and the doctor is there. He says he was visiting the hospital round the corner from us and had some news so he thought he’d drop by. A consultant. Making a home visit on spec. We ask him in … too polite to be scared yet.

Tea is made and the doctor spends two hours very gently explaining that the news he has is not good but, despite appearances to the contrary, the sky has not just fallen in. He names what he thinks it is not … Werdnig Hoffman Syndrome … “but don’t look it up because I’m almost certainly wrong”. Looking it up means going round to a library, no internet, so harder to do than nowadays.

It was good advice, the eventual diagnosis, Intermediate Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is also hereditary but less lethal.

Still drinking tea, still chatting, and he says “she’s going to need wheels”. He can’t remember saying it but he did; I know, it’s a major thing in my life and I was there. So now I’m a practising design engineer trying to find the thing which will help my daughter … I expect to find it, the thing that some other dad has made to help his kid so that I can help mine.

It’s not there.

I’m really angry. “Why can I not buy a wheelchair for an eighteen month old child? … because they couldn’t drive it! … Why could they not drive it? … Because they’re only eighteen months old! … Has anybody ever tried it to see if they could? … No! … Why not? … Because they’re only eighteen months old! … WTF?”

So now I’m a design engineer who’s angry and can’t buy the thing his daughter really needs. What next? So I build the machine which got christened ‘The Yellow Peril’ after the nick-name for smoked haddock in our family … Ruth, our daughter, had insisted it should be painted yellow. She learned to drive it in a few weeks which pleased the large number of my engineering friends who had been hugely helpful in getting it designed and built (CCL I can not thank you enough, nor Rog, Paul, Steve, Roger, Alan, Dave, and many, many others for their input and encouragement). I should also mention that the prototype was built and Ruth started to drive it by mid August of that year … didn’t get painted for a bit, though. I might also say that they were taking bets as to just when I would be admitted to the local mental hospital … I may have become a little single minded!

Then I was going to build a red one.

Sam, Ruth’s brother, had driven the Yellow Peril once … I know, I have film of him doing it. He did ‘Round and Round Backwards’ really rather well. I never got to make it for him though as he fell foul of one of the things which can get you when you have SMA, a sudden chest complaint which turned into pneumonia and stopped him … it took one day.

So now I’m an angry design engineer and there’s other kids who can’t get the thing they really need. What am I supposed to do next?

Dan

Life in a family business… with the wrong second name.

FamilyPhoto
The Everard Family… or some of the Board plus Alice depending on your perspective.

 

18 months ago I joined a Family Business. For those who aren’t familiar with Dragonmobility, I joined one of the most ‘family’ family businesses there is. It’s warm, friendly, intimate… and most importantly, more than a little idiosyncratic. While I could go on for pages and pages about Dragon – it’s dynamics and characters – I think I can make far more use of myself sharing my general experiences of the joys (and some of the pitfalls!) of working in the unique environment that is family business.

Why You Should

Genetic Telepathy

I didn’t know at the time, but when I was interviewed it was by a mother and a daughter. For the first 15 minutes they hid it well: calling each-other by first names, referring to demarcation lines between their roles and blessed with an overall professionalism. Quickly, though, it became clear that there was something else at play. There was an eerie level of joined up thinking. There was an ease and clarity to everything, which I now know comes from a literal life time of sharing ideas together. It was only at this point (clever me!) that I started to notice the physical similarities in the people sat across the table from me. This is something I’ve continued to find at every level. You would be hard pressed to find strategic discord at Dragon.

Life Under A Wing

It should be made clear that in a true Family Business family/company cohesion never ever feels exclusive. Here, never do the staff sit around complaining of how we’ve been shut out of decisions taken over a dinner table. And that’s because pains are taken to welcome each and every one of us into the fold. Without meaning to sound saccharine, whether it is through dinner with the chairman and his wife or gossiping with the sister who’s unexpectedly dropped by, we’ve all been given our place in the family. This adds an extra level to all aspects of company life: professional development becomes more important, HR becomes more compassionate and respect stops being a line on the company’s mission statement and starts just being part of life. This is a huge part of what makes working in a Family Business so special.

The Frankness

It’s no secret, though, that families have arguments. However, I would challenge anyone to find a disagreement between a Chairman and a Managing Director that can be resolved as quickly (or as suddenly loudly!) as when the pair are father and daughter!

Things to look out for

I’ve got my own dad!

No matter how many times you tell people, or no matter how glaring the lack of physical resemblance, people are going to mistake you for one one of the family. Get ready for a lot of “Oh God, I thought you were so-and-sos son/daughter”, “Is your dad around?” and “So are you the youngest?”. Flattering as these comments are, you’ll soon get tired of telling people you have your own set of parents who work in entirely unrelated fields.

Your Daughter’s driving me mad

Once upon a time I sheepishly and tentatively broached a very Family Business issue with my boss. How, I asked myself, do I tell her I’m slightly annoyed at the Technical Director when he’s her dad? To my relief she laughed and said “Try complaining to your dad about your Sales and Marketing Director when she’s his wife”.

Tragedy equals tragedy cubed.

At any company it’s awful when a director’s brother is sick. While the human side of any story like this is obviously the most important, it goes without saying that a company will suffer three times as much when the brother is another director’s uncle and another’s brother in-law. This can be something that’s tricky for staff to navigate: do you carry on regardless or do you go risk grinding day-to-day running to halt.

All said and done, if you get the chance to be a part of one of these unique organizations, take it. Put in the most simple terms possible, it has more benefits than costs. Even the costs are endearing in their own way and you’ll quickly find yourself letting them slide. In other words, no one minds spending when you’re spending on family.

 

Seth

A Designer at Naidex…

NaidexCrowd

Another year, and another successful Naidex for Dragonmobility. Personally, this was my first time at the event and it was a great opportunity to see so much of our industry under one roof, albeit rather a large one!

First and foremost, it was a pleasure to see a number of familiar faces and Dragons. It was also a pleasure to meet new faces we look forward to welcoming into our community.

As a design engineer by training, I’m not too embarrassed to say that wandering the hall did offer up the occasional mini nerdgasm. So many great products to look at, so many interesting conversations to be had. This line of work can, occasionally, feel like a never ending battle against the same design conundrums that refuse to go away. I have always found that expos are a great cleanser for this, an opportunity to appreciate innovation and seek inspiration. In this sense Naidex had its hits and misses.

There were a number of companies that I was particularly admiring of. In terms of innovation, Aergo and their adaptive support seating stood out as a really neat concept. At Dragon we take huge care with our bespoke seating, ensuring each client is seated exactly to their own, individual requirements. We know this can change considerably as each client grows, so a view to adaptive seating is critical. I believe that Aergo have landed on a solution that could have great potential to improve the comfort of wheelchair users.

From more of an engineering ‘fanboy’ perspective, Loopwheels hit the mark perfectly. We all take the humble wheel for granted. Genuine advances in this area are few and far between. Loopwheels are attempting to break the mould with a shock absorbing wheel that seems to be a great product.

In terms of powered mobility, there seemed to be a trend towards exhibiting all conquering, all terrain, mobility vehicles. Whether it was mud, stairs or even the Sahara desert, there was a product to overcome the problem. These machines are quite a feat of engineering. However, in terms of practicality, for all their prowess over tricky obstacles their bulkiness limits their use. Yes, whizzing across sand dunes would be fun, but it would be frustrating not being able to get behind a desk once your done. The purpose of these machines seems to be to offer ‘something different’ rather than offering any real improvement to the lives of disabled people.

It is true that powered mobility has appeared to struggle to catch up with the technical advances of some other industries. The practical and engineering challenges have meant that the historical essence of the powerchair has endured. And this is quite clear at Naidex, it can be a little tough to distinguish between the market leaders. This is one of the reasons we are so proud of our elevator, a fairly unique design and distinguishing feature. Having said this, there were companies that are putting great looking products in the marketplace such as Genny mobility, whose products are powered by Segway.

NaidexStand17

As with many exhibitions these days, away from the stands there were a broad variety of seminars. Speakers ranged from Paralympic athletes to parking experts. Particularly engaging for me was a talk on brand management and protection by the chief marketing officer of Wildbore & Gibbons. The speaker emphasised the importance of branding through customer experience and community, an approach we are always keen to employ and improve here at Dragon.
Overall the the experience of Naidex was very insightful. However, it can be challenging to project the full culture of a company in such a controlled environment. This can be frustrating for consumers as well as exhibitors. In anycase, the show definitely highlights the reaches of our industry.

Angus

We’re off!

So, after much flexing of creative muscles, frustration at online templates and a few arguments about fonts, Dragonmobility’s blog is here!

We hope this will become a place for us to share the insights/blow off steam that we’ve built up after years in our industry. We want it to be a place where you, our clients, colleagues, supporters and friends can get a better picture of how we think and can also share your own experiences.

To begin with, posts will come from Dan, Ruth, Seth and Angus, giving a full(ish!) picture of the range of perspectives, skills and challenges we have here. As we settle in, though, we’d love hear more from you, really giving this something from every corner of Planet Dragon.

Anyway, here’s to a happy blog and a closer company and community!

Seth