This page has a shared timeline of some of the major events in the ATHENS Initiative, founded by the 2Tango organization & Neurodiversity Foundation.
To test our latest build of Together App, spearheaded by Kees, we organized a workshop in a weeklong youth festival and test the app with about 50 youngsters, eager to ‘get to know other’. Our second ‘live’ test, got so much usefull and practical feedback, we immediately went back to work to improve the system. Getting ready for a Valentines Day launch!
After Pride Day itself, we evaluate each element, to see where we can improve and grow next year. This edition, we invited Roos van Moesbergen as well, who lead the ‘Divergent Interviews’ series, released on June 18 2020.
After the 3rd dutch edition of the Neurodiversity Pride Day, we tabulated a rise of 400% in comparison to last year, all the growth coming from the virtual events and the easier way for persons to join in. Also the partnering with other organizations, lead to a sizable uptick in participants.
The Neurodiversity Education Academy is a place where you can take free courses from selected and/or requested experts, that support you in your understanding of neurodiversity, in the classroom, workplace or family situation. In the future, the academy will also host paid trainings and courses.
After months of preparation, the day of neurodivergent pride is happening: Neurodiversity Pride Day! With more activities, more speakers, more participants, more reach, more partners, everything ‘more’, even in Corona times. With about 1500 participants joining one or more activities (mostly online), we are superhappy to be able to celebrate our pride, with so many more amongst us than last year. Let’s triple that, next year!
In a first time for us to join a podcast, Diantha of the Neurodiversity Foundation rocked it, and shared a lot of information. You can still listen to the podcast on Spotify, in dutch language.
Our facebook page got its 500th follower!
The technical project, leading to Family Signs App, had gotten a big boost when the first message was send with ‘true privacy’. According to GunDB, the Athens Initiative was the very first, worldwide, to make this new approach happen. And yes, we have been sharing that….
Leading the innovation, was Omotola Bolarin.
Due to the Corona Virus, we cancelled our physical locations in the Netherlands. However, we keep in contact via zoom! Boardmeetings, Developermeetings, Pridemeetings, Zoom it up!
Due to Corona, many of the activities of Autism Awareness Day were altered or made virtual. As a foundation, we send out positive messages to other organizers. In times like these: we should stand strong together; With 1,5 meter social distancing applied!
‘Gezond van Kop tot Teen’, is a informational book written bij 4 Dutch experts, amongst which, the infamous ‘Poepdokter’. 11 specialists supported them in writing or rewriting the book, one of the specialist asked was member of the Neurodiversity Foundation.
To ask for help, as a neurotypical expert, is a great thing, and therefore helping out is something the foundation does, for writers vulnerable enough to accept our honest and clear remarks about the nature, tone of voice, and accuracy of the writing. To serve the readers better, we helped rewrite the parts about autism and ad(h)d.
Due to the start of the pandemic, all organized activities for Brain Awareness Week was quickly converted into virtual activities, like Zoom workshops for teachers wanting to get more knowledge on becoming a teacher that fosters a neurodiverse-friendly classroom.
The workshops and preparation was done by Lana Jelenjev and Saskia Wenniger, and given to an international audience.
Due to the upcoming pandemic, we decided to ‘do the responsible thing’ and close down the physical locations of our Rotterdam office and Amstelveen office in the winterspring of 2020, and hence, move our cooperation to online settings. We hope to return to an office space, when its safe for our members and volunteers to do so.
In a supportive session with MindAffect, an assistive tech company we have been following for years that has a mission we support, we tested their assistive tech and talked about the implications for epilectics, persons with Celebrale Parese & ALS, new user groups and the use of the innovation at large. MindAffect creates a flickerbased screenselection tool, coupled with a hardware headband that tracks the brains reaction to light changes in defined selectable regions on the screen. The great Aleksandr & Dennis of the Divergents Team were present and actively contributing their insights, and Robert will have a lot to bring home to his team at MindAffect.
A Virtual Slice of love pie for everyone! Today is the second birthday of the Athens Initiative, and though Wybe & Tjerk ate the first parts in Amstelveen, we share a virtual love pie slice in gratitude to all our teammates, researchers, partners, and every person who supports and has worked with us to celebrate our second year on mission.
In the newsletter of our friends of Impuls & Woortblind, the organization supporting Dyslectic & Adhd neurotypes, the Neurodiversity Pride day and the foundation are mentioned. Read the full newsletter here:
Invited by our friends at Impuls/Woortblind, Renee & Tjerk pitcht the Neurodiversity Pride Day, and invited the region managers to join us in celebration on June 18 with local activities in their “adhd-cafe” and “dyslexia-cafe”. With many creative ideas for what these activities can be, we are looking forward with great anticipation for the day
On this day, in our meeting with Tjerk & Lana present, Saskia Wenniger finally shook the hands of the Health Heroes in our meeting at the Da Vinci Creative spaces. But, just as important, without any shaking of hands, she also met Henk the bot.
The Athens Initiative is saying yes to working together with Melvin & his company NAHV in doing the accounting for us, including our taxes, and offering to be a voluntary financial advisor to help us out moving forward with financial advice. He’s is a great man, intrinsically motivated, located in the Amsterdam region, and made us an offer we didn’t want to refuse 🙂
In January, we were invited to discuss options about implementing assistive Tech in healthcare, and got great advices from the partners of the Sustainable Healthcare Challenge about where to start.
Tjerk & Boris making the plan for phase 2 of Brainy! In our back, is the outline of the Kroon office and in the future there will be work for the youngest contributor of the family: Miloš!
Family Signs got its 2nd promotional video, this one made by young and talented autistic Merlijn. The concept of this video was the same as the core message of the technological project, which is, ‘Everybody deserves to be understood’.
On the 7th of January 2020, the Design Your Life project started it’s 4 year research project. During the kickoff we met Jelle (our favorite professor and leader of the program), Maurice (project chief), Thijs (key researcher) and many organizations that work in our general field. Lots of great people and groups! We will be meeting at least 16 times in the upcoming years, and they are to test parts of our Signs technology as well.
Our first activity of the year, was to present ourselves to the new mayor of Amstelveen, Tjapko Poppema, by shaking his hand on their new year’s celebration. During his speech he said (loosely translated): ‘the unheard are not always listened to, and I think we should improve on that‘. Yes (!) to that message! The Neurodiversity Foundation is opening up its first office in Amstelveen in January of 2020!
Omotola showing the functionality of the Brainy MVP to the members of the foundation in December 2019
Once a year, the foundation (&2Tango) have a social dinner, the Annual Supper, for the team, somewhere in the Netherlands. This year we celebrated in Amsterdam.
It also was a day of thanks to everyone (also the ones not in the picture) supporting us to make this world a more neuro-inclusive place from love, connection and appreciation for the value of true diversity
Roundtable in Eindhoven with Edgar of Cor Wit Fonds and professor Nico Baken. Talking about whole-systems approach, subcircles of influence, holisme in tech, and the idea that resilience in a system is increased by adding diversity, and the idea that a improved flow between it’s individual parts makes a network amount to more than just the sum of it’s parts. Wildly inspirational meeting, with a reading list of 6 items to swim into afterwards.
Brainy MVP Apps core functionality of registering brainy states is tested and……working! It contains the work of many Athenians, like Elise, Georgia, Niels, Dominic, Omotola, Lana and Tjerk, and will serve the ‘neuroinclusive schools project’ (aka Brainy Project). In the future Boris will be projectmanager for the Brainy project and its coupling with the My Amazing Brain Magazine!
As our extended foundational family reaches a total of 30 contributors, researchers and volunteers working on each of the 5 projects, we keep reminding ourselves what the core values are of our organization.
Its love. Its connection. Its diversity.
And we keep reminding ourselves of our calling, for as we say: The problem is not solved, by doing nothing.
Our technical team forged the pototype of the Signs Remote in Oktober 2019, and on the featuring image, enables the data for the ‘very first time’.
At NVA congres, we met the founder of Ritme (An autism task reminder app), which was part of the next generation winners of the Sustainable Healthcare Challenge after 2Tango won in the year before. 2Tango actually invested a small bit of our own price into his project, to ‘invest the love forward’. 18 months later, he build the app, upgraded the visuals, and is presenting himself capably. So proud!
21 November 2019 is the day that 100 students & professionals tried out our prototype of the Signs Remote, in a live setting, with real data. The second time Mini is shown to the external world, and ‘she’ learned much more of gestural language since her first outting in June 18.
These 100 participants were briefed in 3 workshop group rounds, after a keynote from Tjerk. Creating basic gestural messages on their phones, based on sentencings drawn from the ‘communicative need ‘research of Renske & Charlotte. It’s has been a high-anxiety race against time type of delivery, with the technical team improving the code hours before the big show. But we made it. It worked!
New Friends Dennis & Monica run a workfocussed centre for autistics, with team of graphics & tech. Great people, wonderful vision, we met the whole ICT team and they are enthusiastic about building the friending, dating & joinme functions of the project with us. Their project will be ‘IetsDoen.Nu?’ and based on Together principles. The idea came from Fieke, and she will be working with the Meewerkers team on the Together project!
Tjerk & Diantha taking a walk of pride, after meeting with organizations on Autisme (NVA) & Adhd/Dys (Impuls/Woortblind), where we agreed to organize next years Neurodiversity Pride Day together.
At SWAP Day, we brainstormed ideas to promote Pride Day at Unc Inc in Amsterdam, an initiative by Base & Spin media. We met Benjamin who has a brilliant mind, and any ideas on how to further our wish for a message that is understood by the millions in our nation!
Our ‘Shatterdome’ in Rotterdam (the name for the development area where we create our technology,) is scaled up, with locations at two floors. Because when you work hard,
Yanick joins the team for a couple of weeks to support the work on Mini.ai.
One of our sponsors, the SIDN fund, invited Tjerk, Omotola & Szymon to show their works on the 2Tango.Work modules and the Mini.AI systems. This picture is made right after the meetup, feeling pretty proud about how far we’ve come in this ambitious journey!
The ‘Junior Poepdokter’ is written by Nienke Gottenbos, a well-known and knowledgable professional in the areas of the intestinal flora of the human body.
The author asked for some extra eyes and we supported her efforts by suggestions for the tone of voice and minor rewrites of chapters about neurodivergent kids and food.
During the hot summer of 2019, the Athenians of 2Tango & Neurodiversity Foudation work very hard, appreciating the cool air-conditioned office of the Rotterdam Science Tower (in the back of the picture). Big steps are made for Mini.AI en the Signs project.
Second boardmeeting of the year at the Eye with Lana, Ana, Omotola & Tjerk. We have three boardmeetings per year, and one annual social meetup for the whole organization. Our conclusion of this meeting: Full Steam Ahead!
Team working on Brainy, Mini & Signs.
This picture was made with half the team, missing out some researchers, auxiliary teams, the board and our elder developers.
The video series of the Neurodiversity Foundation made for Pride day, was premiered at the Utrecht Event, at the location of the national association for Autism in the Netherlands. It was the first public viewing of ‘Krachtig Anders’ for the members of the NVA presented by Kees, Tjerk & Diantha. The video series can be seen on this website and on the youtube channel of the foundation.
The Neurodiversity Pride Day event in Rotterdam, had aTech meet-up at the Rotterdam Science Tower. For the very first time, ever, a word was taught to the Mini.AI by the participants that were present for the tech talk by Omotola Bolarin. The word was digitally coupled with a physical motion that identifies the word for all usecases. The very first word we taught Mini.AI was the word ‘Pride’. The graspable motion consisted of the subpartmotions of (I + positive state + share onto + everyone else)
Deputy Mayor Marijn van Ballegooijen was the very first official to introduce the Neurodiversity Pride day in 2019 to his local constituents with a beautiful message of inclusion, and the worth of allways being yourself. In 2020, on Pride Day, the organizations creating the pride day, will launch the “Wall of Inclusion”. Our preparation is in asking 16 deputees, like Marijn, to state a positive message of neurodiverse inclusion on behalf of their city, to the neurodivergents in their communities. Sending out a message that their city is for all their inhabitants, with all neurotypes. These messaged will be captured on the ‘Wall of Inclusion’, which will be projected on videoscreens in participating cities.
Workshop ‘Embrace your differentness’ on the Neurodiversity Pride Day, at the Amsterdam event. Hosted by the ADHD Cafe, and created and presented by Renee Snijder.
First ‘Swipe Left’ post of the foundation, ever. The post is part of the larger social influencers campaign, called ‘We Are All Nuts’, taking over the Instagram of the foundation during June 2019.
To illuminate the world with the real existence of many positive traits that manifest in autistics females, the foundation decided to ‘kick the bucket of constant negative labelling’, and shine a light of what is bright and beautiful instead. Diantha will be interviewing (dutch speaking) female autistics and experts, on which neurodivergent trait makes them particularly good in their job. We hope to present them to the Netherlands via our partner the NVA, and present them at the Neurodiversity Pride Day, to a ‘worldwide’ audience. Using ‘worldwide’ loosely: Meaning you will be able to see them for free as well. Because, that is what we wish for. The cameraman for this project is Merlijn Goldsack, a young and talented autistic that created his own self-employed company for video services. Its coached and co-produced by Ancilla van de Leest.
As we grow with the aims we wish to move forward, more interested parties come to meet us, and lay down the groundwork for cooperation in the future. On this particular day, we presented the 2Tango.Work proejct for the GAK Instituut.
Prepping and preparing for the Neurodiversiteitsrede, with representatives of the government, the ggz and the production team working on the Amstelveen Event for Neurodiversity Pride day. The location is adorned with rainbows, making it our ultimate place for the main event of the Pride Day.
Preparation of the social influencer campagne, sending packages with T-shirt, with handwritten notes, for others to show their own brainpride & proclaim love for diversity
With more and more requests from schools coming in, we keep sending packages to all the corners in the world. Brainy, and the concept of Brainy, seems to work in many different cultures.
To prepare for Neurodiversity Pride Day, friends at Glimpse offered to organize a brainstorm of bright minds, thinking about how to further our new national day of neurodivergent emancipation.
Tjerk gave a keynote to the NVA (Dutch association for autism), to kick off the autisme week in the Netherlands. The 60 volunteers and employees got introduced to the assistive technology that the ATHENS Initiative is building to support autistics to thrive in life.
The Neurodiversity Pride Day will be held on the 18th of June. Over 100 students from the HVA Creativiteit & Innovatie department, pondered over creative concepts to support the Neurodiversity Pride Day in the Netherlands. 10 Teams presented, each their own tool, program or message. The best group was Team Walnut, and we will move forward with their beautiful plan summarized by the campaign slogan ‘We are all Nuts’.
Presenting the mission to the class of 2019
To celebrate Brain Awareness Week, the Neurodiversity Foundation published the My Amazing Brain Magazine. It has lots of assignments and imagery facilitating acceptance and appreciation of differences in the classroom. The magazine is part of a program for schools that we want to grow in size & impact. On our first pilot, Lana visited three schools, ‘with Brainy’, the avatar that takes the kids on a interesting journey through their mind. Schools interested in the program, the workshop or the magazine, can mail directly to email@example.com.
The magazine and Brainy was created by Eleonora. The text is created by Saskia Weniger. And Lana helps out on every front as program coordinator.
For the new innovations we are creating, we are also creating a Brainy App. It will be part of the second edition of the My Amazing Brain Magazine. It will be a fun game, to support neurodiverse understanding in the classroom. It will also allow our first testers to use some of our cool features in small games.
Deepdive day with the first days of specialists Georgia, Dominic & Niels, at HVA Data Science. Georgia works on the visual designs of Brainy, Dominic & Niels are highly specialized programmers building some of the major supercomponents of Mini.AI.
To reach the level of 10 million users, we must look in a concrete and pragmatic way in how to achieve it, and what seems likely is that we are going to need some friends to want us to succeed on a intrinsic level. We can build the very best tool ever build, but we are not specialized yet in product implementation and scaling. Especially looking at our third goal, which is beyond the local market, we felt it to be smart to consider partnerships with entrepreneurs who have more experience in the area than we do. We welcome their wisdom, and will use their support to help out our people with the Mini.AI project specifically, and the pheasable dream of integrating Mini.AI & Signs into screenware, implementable assisted communication for neurodivergents everywhere. This would enable any hospital, carehome or government building to get an ‘autism-friendly’ upgrade for screen-assisted communication.
The first birthday of the foundation was celebrated in our Rotterdam Office with the developers team.
On our first first Birthday, three new athenians officially started. Ana Maldonado will be board member, Erik Post legal & finance and Diantha will be in control of our social media channels.
From Eindhoven, three speech therapist who are ‘best at class’ are (self-)selected for the research efforts. Their research will centre around three crucial questions, that will support us in iterating the current version of the Signs Language to a more optimal form. The questions are:
Each researcher will answer this query on one of three different areas: parents-autistic communication, best friend – autistic communication, and teacher/coach/counselor – autistic communication.
The new collaboration organization for organizations that work with data for the greater good of mankind, invite the Athenians to present their work in the first meetup of it’s existence.
To support the move towards a more neurodiverse and inclusive society, we created a magazine for youngsters about the brain. The magazine is created to support interest and curiosity into each others differences, leading to more neurodiverse friendships and understanding.
The magazine (& its avatar Brainy), is designed by Eleonora Spagnuolo, content is from Saskia Weniger, and overall project management & outreach has been done by Lana Jelenjev.
The first limited edition, will be given to schoolkids of three international schools in the Netherlands. Also the NVA volunteers will receive an addition. As well as some like-minded sympathizers, supporting the vision of the Initiative. The first edition is in English language, we hope to create Dutch language versions as well for dutch speaking schoolrooms.
Wybe is coding the 2Tango.Dating app, with the Together functionality, partially included into the system. However a new design felt really really needed, for it to be used by many, rather than a few users. The new conceptual layout, co-designed by Kevin, will revolve around the 2Tango logo, that has a colorwheel-circle around it.
2Tango.Dating logo in early stages, with the colorwheel. The wheel suggest visually the diverse types of choices of (inter)activity between 2 individuals. The play button suggest the excitement of interaction, and the choice to either pauze, stop or move forward with possible time spend together.
Since the research effort is going very well, the SIDN Fonds decided to give the 2Tango organization a grant to build the prototype for Signs Messenger. Its a happy day for us and our teams. As a result: Szymon joins the effort as productmanager for 2Tango.Work.
On the annual supper, members of the Neurodiversity Foundation come to eat and enjoy each others company, not working for a couple of hours, together .
To grow the research efforts, the ATHENS Initiative pitches their mission for upcoming Data scientists, as the only non profit on stage. Two of the smartest students join the research efforts.
Kevin will research the ‘strategies’ element of the Mini.AI infrastructure, specifically guiding the ‘employer- autistic employee communication’.
Natalie will research the voice of ‘Little Sister Mini’ and couple interventions for autistics to ‘state&state changes’.
The 2 winnings teams of the Qchallenge collect their prices, and share the tech we can build upon. On of the new features to support the wish to uncover the mysteries of ‘state & state change’ is put forth by the team of Charris, a concept called; Happiness detection by unlabelled data. We won’t tell you exactly how this works, but if you are interested in contributing, or researching topics like this: if you are clever or capable, let us know. We always have space in our research teams.
Growing in ambition and enthusiasm, need a product manager to keep track of our main projects. After 6 months of ‘interning/advising’, and testing the waters in presenting the cause, the founders choose Szymon Maka to become the third pillar of 2Tango organization, focussing specifically on the 2Tango.Work project. His first event is the ‘Nieuwe Energie’ event, showcasing all the Citylab projects of Rotterdam.
The Hogeschool van Amsterdam joins the initiative, and in the creativity department organizes that their students forge in teams, a 360 degrees VR experience to support understanding of employers of the sensory issues that trouble autistics in work-areas.
The research done by the students show the opportunity at hand for this option. The foundation will seek for ways to incorporate this concept into the 2Tango.Work technologies we build. The judges of the competition are Martin, Tjerk, Merlijn and Diantha.
Neurodiversity Foundation & Ece & Tulpp opened the stock exchange.
To celebrate the anniversary of Qualogy, they organize a Hackathon called Q Challenge, and selects Neurodiversity Foundation to put forth a topic to support our mission. In 7 teams, groups of different students, PHDs and other bright minds, forge possible solutions for the query at hand which is centred around using user-data to gauge emotional state, and state change. Solving this issue, will support autistics in reducing the problems caused by Alexithymia (which is the reduced ability to self-report emotional state of state changes), of which about 40% of autistics experience in daily life. We will continue with the research of the 2 most successful groups in the years to come, aiming to make it a central feature of the Signs, Work & Mini.AI projects.
Hopeful to be leading researchers in our field one day in the future, the founders of the ATHENS Initiative also have inspiration they draw from bright academic minds. Particularly the works of Ben Goertzel & Dr Hanson are a direct catalyst for our drive, and are inspirational rolemodels in character and expertise. To see their best work, called Sophia.AI, Omotola & Tjerk were invited to be present at the presentation of Obama, where Dr Hansons Robot was present too. The technical projects in Mini.ai we create adhere to the ‘Loving AI’ framework put forth by Ben Goertzel & his teams.
Research team for Signs learning & gamification opportunities. An excellent research effort, with demo’s, explorations and a high level of overall cleverness.
To decide where we will ship our product to, is a more challenging question when thoroughly investigated: will we ship our solutions via an open market for individual users, via the municipalities, via large corporations or via care organizations. To figure out our options, one research team from the Instituut voor Commercieel Management mulled over all the options, and presented their advice on how to move forward.
2Tango was given a significant grant to research & build the 2Tango.Work project for digitally assisted work-related communication, via the Citylab project of the municipality of Rotterdam, the homebase of our main office at the Science Tower.
Devdays, short for Developer Day, are held monthly in either 2Tango or Neurodiversity Foundation. Its a day where all developers and contributors to the technical project come together, to talk code en structure data. It started out small, and grows in size when the need for it reveals herself.
Because our ambitions of the ATHENS Initiative are bold, and our resolve unwavering, the founders ‘make friends’ with large companies, organizations, schools, and fellow neurodivergents. Organizations we visit, we usually call our friends. We aim to visit all organizations in the Netherlands that have 200+ workers in their employment (within the context of the likelyhood that a part of these workers are neurodivergents). Some of these friendship leads to receiving unexpected support, in advice, a introduction, invitation and so on. We are very grateful for what is given to us as a gift, without a need for reciprocation. And we will continue to accept that, until we are done with our big goals.
And this works. For all parties involved. Because the problem we aim to solve, is present in every major organization, and fixing it, means enabling potentially succesfull people to thrive, also in their jobs. And we want to help autistics and neurodivergents keep their job, and feel safe in their work-related communication: there is a clear logic as to why organizations enjoy working with us and vice versa. But also, let this be said and stated clearly: there are simply a very large sum of very good and kind people, who use their smarts or compassion to understand why we are doing what we do, and chose to support us in ways we could not have imagined.
On the 18th of June 2018, the Neurodiversity Pride Day was celebrated. The Neurodiversity foundation hosted the events, to support the neurodiversity movement & its sympathizers in the Netherlands.
It was also the very first day we got our Tshirts, designed by Eleonora Spanuolo. It shows our logo; the brain with the heart in mind.
We needed a bright mind to create our core visual works. While many artists & student groups can support us with their ideas, it was Eleonora Spaguolo who generates things of beauty for the foundation. Her most important work is the Brain with the Heart in Mind (the logo), but also Brainy (and Superbrainy!), the faded rainbow, the clothing, the support cards, the My Amazing Brain magazine and the Neurodiversity Pride day materials are all visually composed and imagineered in her mind, and created with love, and lots of coffee.
Winning the Big Pitch and getting the funds to start up and finance parts of our research efforts.
The foundation has three board meetings each year. On these days, Tjerk & Omotola report about everything relevant to the ATHENS Initiative, and the foundation specifically. We have wonderful board members, we are very lucky to be working with them.
One of our first developers Wybe, has allways been dedicated solely to the 2Tango Together project. He aims to build a digital tool to allow activity matching of two individuals via customizable menu’s, and will continue the work to also support family-based activity matching. Starting at 2Tango organization for over 8 months, in December 2018, the foundation was grateful to give him a developer position in our team, focussing specifically on activity-matching. The prototypes will be tested on: http://2Tango.dating
On the 15th of February 2018 the Neurodiversity Foundation was officially founded, with Lana Jelenjev as chairperson & Eleonora Spagnuolo as boardmember, and Tjerk as director.
ATHENS Initiative joins Merlijn Goldsack (Merlin Blue) and Saskia Buma (prikkelprofiel.nl) in a meeting with Lisa Westerveld, a politician in the Tweede Kamerlid of the Netherlands. She accepts our handed proposals for improving the ability to thrive for autistics, and states her wish to be a good friend to the mission. Some of our offers include Signs & Mini.AI, and a basic income for long term unemployed autistics. We accept that it may take years for this situation to be accepted by a majority.
In the years to follow, Lisa actually keeps her word, and speaks up to the parliament, multiple times, for issues concerning autistics, dyslectics and marginalized kids in general. Her voice is one of the few inspiring ones in politics, as she is trying to pave the way for a more inclusive society. Her efforts and proposals are most often not accepted by the majority, but being represented at all, is a seachange for our minority, and for all of us with neurological differences.
At Inspirator, the newest upcoming healthcare initiative represent themselves, and 2Tango gets a slot as on of the three keynote speakers. It leads to a fire-fuelled speech, encouraging new healthcare startups to be bold, brave and to convert their pain into love, as they will run into it, in their steps towards growth and innovation. Innovation that other unknown to them will need them to continue.
As Tjerk walks to the stage, he throws his microphone in a corner, and uses the full force of his voice to pervey the message of inclusion and courage in entrepreneurialism. ‘I wasn’t aware that I was going to do that’said Tjerk afterwards, ‘but when I talk about my mission, fear and tact dissapear, and my whole body takes over‘.
Setting up the organizations 2Tango & Neurodiversity Foundation, as a startup needs some physical space to work, but being the first group of the Honours Program of Ece, we moved to an office that could house 30 developers. Months later, we are moved to locations more suitable to our actual needs, but the feeling of ‘now, we are officially a start up’ dawned on us first, in our first day at this office at the Science Tower in Rotterdam.
In this ‘third office’ the ideas of Abri, as visioneered by Omotola, are meshed with the concepts of Signs, and of the autistic support artificial intelligence we would start calling ‘Mini.AI’ in the years to come.
A new research start to cover the issue of ‘dynamic understanding in real time’, starting with discussions on the concepts of what we would start to call: ‘The Constrained Infinite’ , resulting with the application of TM technology and the invention of our own Mini.AI. The technological projects aims to build the world first autistic life support system with Mini & Signs integrated. The ambitious project of the ATHENS Initiative will be run by our CTO Omotola Bolarin, who has a great knowledge on language and machine learning, and controls which research efforts and prototypes will be open sourced, and which elements are to be researched further before releasing it.
After winning the Sustainable Healthcare Challenge, the team of early developers continue to learn new skills needed for the mission, in workshops, sessions and brainstorms. A new focus is Human Centred Design Thinking.
Tjerk graduates from the Amsterdam Centre of Entrepreneurship and the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship.
Showcasing our works to autistics results in them supporting our mission, ideas and vision. And understanding how they are rarely listened to, even when their opinion is asked, made a change in us. In 2017 the initiative decided to align themselves with the ASAN network, and its slogan ‘nothing about us without us’ and the call for an inclusive neurodiversity in society.
One of the problems we were struck by, in meeting many of our autistic brothers and sisters, was the realisation that our early stage prototypes of the autisme-friendly language Signs and how it could be used, were biased to solve communication problems specifically for individuals that used to be categorized as Asperger & PDDnos. It was this realization; that we were not helping all autistics, that wouldn’t leave us, and that we should not allow ourselves to take that easy road. It resulted to a pivot, to focus more and more on neurodiverse translation, and integrate new communication options usefull for individuals unable to use screens or complex technology. New ways to communicate were carried in the Swipes, Shakes & Morsecode functionalities. In this way we can translate between more types, taking a more inclusive stance in our approach.
Also, the preparations for the foundation, took a much more inclusive approach to serving all neurodivergents to thrive, with additional campaigns and schoolproject. The main technological project would remain focussed on solving the issue for autistics first, because we were the first to have a real shot at actually solving it.
Our second office was small, and shared with Burg Foods, a startup creating cricket-based burgers. It seems humble and simple, but it was all we needed to start building our innovation and our growing organization.
“Dit is je uitnodiging….”
Tjerk presents 2Tango Signs for 400 healthcare professionals and invites them to join in solving the problem.
A new competition: Social Challenge against Loneliness, spearheaded by the KPN, has 2 winners, of which one is 2Tango. It is the first time the public hears about the grand plan of the ATHENS Initiative. The original concept of the logo was a tree, made by individuals, in diverse color coding.
The price was a chance to pitch for the funding we needed, and a education to school the founder Tjerk, to become a better business person. The education in entrepreneurialism is at the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam.
In a competition with over 100 applicants, 2Tango takes the largest price of all, and wins the nation wide Challenge. It is indeed, our proudest moment up to that date. Our first developer Kees is our hero, as he build the first prototypes of the selfmanagement app. And the pricemoney of 3500 euro, as humble as it may seem, goes a very very long way into funding our daily costs. It also allows for the money needed, to forge a research centre, that will do all the research requiered to fulfill our mission. This research centre, will later be called the Neurodiversity Foundation, or ‘Stichting Neurodiversiteit’ in the local language.
We can be alone, or we can find the smartest or kindest friends out there, and we are doing that continually. Every month we are adding new friends to our: “Awesome autism organizations” list. Specifically we feel connected to ASAN (autistic self advocacy network), and think in the same ways. We also cooperate with Ed Wiley Autism centre; We want to bring the neurodivergent narwhal to the Netherlands, and Europe at large. The list is long, and welcoming more ‘friends’, that support the logic of ‘nothing about us without us’.
The 2Tango organization is build upon 7 insights, that are constantly being tested in events focussed on connecting two individuals to upgrade their time together. Each 2Tango event is a test for a new iteration of ‘the perfect system’, trying out new applications, activities, strategies and user-experiences. All insights need to be tested, in order to be validated for that system, and checked for interpretation by different types of participants. It results in about a thousand of participants spending time with each other, in the way they both choose to do so, within the context that feels fitting for the pair. Most of the insights are focussed on reducing awkwardness and friction in connecting, needs-matching and mutual consent. More information on these connections events and its prototypes, go to 2Tango.org for more information.
Its together research program focusses on different types of connection made between strangers, fellows, friends, romantic dates. The net for which types of human interactions we can facilitate grows wider with every test. Lessons learned are integrated into the blue-prints of the digital tools for the 2Tango.Together project that we build, in order to provide the public access to these systems.
2Tango.Walkie talkie prototype event
The logo of our communication infrastructure Signs is inspired by an image*, that illustrates communication struggles in an elegant way.
The neurodiverse team of Fons, Tjerk, Aleksandr and Dennis decide to call themselves ‘Divergents’, and join a governmental hackathon, to figure out why kids are failing at school. We hacked our way with data into one of the core issues in education: the limited ability of teachers to be aware of the neurological variance in their classrooms, as a indication as to why so many autistics aren’t doing well in this system. We found in the data sets proof that about 5000 neurodivergent (autistic) kids are ‘overlooked’ by teachers, and therefore often mislabelled as ‘bad kids’.
The team did not ‘win’in term of the first or second price, but we got the honorary mention, awarded with 500 euros and flowers.
Ideas are pitched to the municipality to reduce the problems at hand, but these ideas die slowly in the demotivating bureaucratic systems of the government.
This is the exact moment the aims and intents of the political arm of the ATHENS Initiative was formed.
The first prototypes of the ‘tapping’ functionality of the Signs language, are forged by developer Kees. Made in java, it is focussed on self-reporting and autism-friendly styled sentence formation. The prototype works, and is fairly effective, but is not ‘dynamic’ in its tracking. To be used by millions this needs to be improved, and part of it is because it doesn’t learn quickly enough from what the individual user needs, before the need for communication arises in a situation. The teams grows in size to tackle this problem.
Later in the research effort, we investigate different types of individuals with ASS, TOS, and neurological variances that lead to limited speech. We pivot in our small group of Signs-users to a wider net, and completely overhaul our system, as to include other neurodivergent groups that could really use the technology we are building. The main focus remains autisme-friendly communication, but over time we understand that we can help more persons, with issues in communication that seem similar to issues autistics face daily.