Project Type: Governance
Region: Scotland
Partner: The Robertson Trust
With a shared vision for the future and renewed ambition, Hope for Autism is energised for the challenges ahead.

HOPE for Autism was set up in the 1990s by a group of mothers who were unable to access the help they needed for their children in North Lanarkshire. HOPE is now the most experienced autism charity in the region, providing vital help to around 160 families. This includes evening groups for children and young people, and services for their carers such as 1:1 group support, free training, social nights and parents’ group meetings.

Hope for Autism bouncy castle eventHOPE reduces the risk of isolation by providing a safe controlled environment as a first stage in moving towards integration in the mainstream local community. This allows children to learn handle the challenges they face, which in turn increases their confidence and leads to better family relationships. For many families the service is a lifeline, as one parent explains “When I think back to last year I didn’t know where to turn, I really did think I’d lost my son. It was heart-breaking as his emotions were all over the place. Since joining HOPE our lives are completely different and I hope my son is a credit to the organisation.”

Following a period of change and uncertainty, CEO Pauline McCartan recognised that it was it was vital to ensure the long term stability and sustainability of the charity and that this would require a shared view of the future, effective working practices and agreed priorities. She therefore approached The Cranfield Trust for support, following a referral from Scottish funder, the Robertson Trust. 

Cranfield Trust Project Manager, Jane Whitworth, approached volunteer Denise King to work with HOPE, as she knew that Denise had a strong understanding of the voluntary sector, as well as fantastic facilitation and strategic planning skills, so she would be a great match for the organisation.  Denise quickly engaged with both staff and trustees, identifying the need for not only an action plan, but also strategic monitoring, helping the charity’s board members to establish key priorities. Pauline explained:

“Denise was a breath of fresh air and she worked with the Board at a time when we had a number of new members. She helped them look at their skills and what they wanted for HOPE, which enabled us to review our objectives and to implement a board monitoring programme.”

By the end of the project, concrete results had emerged, with an agreed and realistic strategy, but Pauline felt it would be worthwhile to build on this clearer strategic focus by bringing together everyone involved (Board, staff, sessional workers and volunteers) for an exchange of information, ideas and good practice that could act as a catalyst for the future of the charity. Jane therefore suggested that the Trust should provide a follow-up project to facilitate a one day workshop, again working with Denise who was more than happy to continue supporting such a worthwhile organisation.
The resulting workshop was a resounding success, with Denise able to break down complex strategic issues into ideas that were clear and straightforward to implement. This meant that everyone was fully behind the new strategy, with a renewed sense of ambition and agreement. Pauline commented:

“The day went very well and Denise did a tremendous job facilitating. Making everyone feel comfortable so they could be open, honest and share their views, thoughts and ideas. To be honest it went beyond my expectations. So many things came out in the activities that we can work on that will improve how we work together and we can re-look at some of what we are doing, introduce some new things and enhance our processes.

Thank you and the Cranfield Trust so much for your support. It has been invaluable to me and to HOPE.”

For her part, Denise was also delighted with all that was achieved and was particularly impressed by “the shared passion for the cause from all participants and the commitment and contribution from the large team of young staff and many sessional workers.” Summing up the day, she says:

“It was good to work with them again building on previous experience as I already knew the charity and some of their challenges - it helped them too as I was a familiar face. It was such a great match for my skills and experience with this small, growing charity and the mutual benefits of working together made the assignment very rewarding.”     

The door has been left open for The Cranfield Trust to provide further support to HOPE should they need it, but for now the organisation is focused on the future, ready for the challenges that their agreed vision will bring. As Pauline says: 

 “Our partnership with the Cranfield Trust has been invaluable in helping our organisation focus and move forward. Having external facilitation was the magic component. Thank you Cranfield Trust." 

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