Activities: design research, intrapreneurship, business modeling, systems mapping

Team: Azmina Alimohd, Barbara Fang

Partners: Jewish Community Center; Margarita Korol

With 500,000 teens and young adults with autism entering the workforce within the next decade—how can job training programs prepare for a shift towards the freelance economy?

The Just One Job training program, located within JCC Manhattan, creates job opportunities for capable and dedicated young adults with disabilities by placing these young people in supportive environments and matching their skills with employers’ individual needs.

Constrained by state funding, the training program reached out to DSI to explore new revenue-generating business models that could help expand the program and push forward their mission.

After conducting rapid design research, we uncovered that many of the young adults within the J1J program had skillsets fit for the freelance economy—they were designers, programmers, researchers, and technical writers—but lacked the operational skills needed to manage a freelance business on their own.

This insight lead to the design of Upward Collective—a creative collective that trains and supports young adults with autism in providing desired freelance services. The DSI team worked with staff members of the J1J program and developed a business model that fit within the existing job training program.

Upward Collective was designed to generate revenue by helping freelancers become associated with a reputable organization and building low-barrier project-to-project relationships with clients who desire freelance services.

Understanding the Users. We conducted interviews with staff and members of the Just One Job program and observed how they worked with thier job coaches.

Balancing Multiple Needs. The Upward Collective program was designed to generate revenue and become self-sustaining, while also meeting the needs of three main user groups.