DayCape is a digital image calendar that supports children and their carers and educators in managing their daily schedule and facilitating their lives at home and in school. The underlying philosophy is to uplift their uniqueness and skills and transform autism into a superpower.
Anton Håkanson, the founder of DayCape, was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum as a young child. If a child later has such a diagnosis removed, Anton has a special understanding of the daily challenges they face. He is an interaction designer and communicator and considers that design and communications should be purpose-driven but also emotionally heart-touching. He was included in Forbes 30 Under 30 – Europe – Social Entrepreneurs 2017 and won the European Youth Award Digital Solutions with Social Impact.
What is the social innovation DayCape about?
DayCape is a digital image calendar for children with autism. We hope that it will be a great support in daily life when growing up. Parents, relatives and friends close to children with autism are very important: they put a great deal of effort into supporting the daily schedule. That’s why we wanted to make DayCape a web platform that makes it easy to collaborate with planning the day together with others.
Even if living with autism has its difficulties, these children have their own uniqueness and skills that can be uplifted with the right kind of help. By transforming autism into a superpower, we want to help our users develop the confidence to embrace the exciting day ahead.
Why did you (or your partners) start this social innovation?
As a child, I received special educational support during my first year at school.
How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved?
It started as a school project, where my class was tasked with creating concepts for mobile solutions for people with cognitive difficulties.
What were you afraid of at the beginning and how (if at all) did you overcome your fear?
When we landed our first investment I thought I would be afraid of the pressure. It felt like if I failed, I would be letting down a lot of people who had invested in the idea. Before that it had felt safer because it was more of a hobby project. But after a while I started to think more about what we had achieved so far rather than the massive task at hand. That allowed me to feel less scared and more willing to take risks.
What were the beginnings of the social innovation? (i.e. how did you build your initiative, business, NGO from zero?).
At the beginning, it was just trying to learn as much as possible about the life and difficulties for the children. Because I still was at school studying I took some time during breaks or after school to do my research. I started contacting organisations and professionals who specialised in working with autistic children, asked them questions and asked if I could talk to the children’s parents. I conducted a series of interviews and then felt that I was starting to get a good idea of the problem. A classmate had heard about what I was working on and happened to see an article in the newspaper for an investment competition focused on technologies for people with special needs. The only problem was that it was targeted at companies and not individuals. But I decided to try anyway and during the process of doing a series of pitches I started a company and formed a small team. So at my school’s graduation I landed the investment and started working on creating DayCape.
How did you attract public attention to the issue you wanted to tackle and make others believe in your purpose and potential?
During my last year in school I studied marketing, which has been very useful to gain attention. I believe the best tool we have been using is storytelling, to make people understand the children’s day and to feel it is important to do something. Any time we get the opportunity for recognition I’m very keen on highlighting how the children’s day is affected rather than its features. Even before we’d released any product I made sure to contact small blogs and papers to write about the mission of what we were trying to accomplish. In the beginning, a few smaller blogs shared our story, and this grew over time. Early on, we also created a short animation of the children’s day and how DayCape could help. So with the video and other material we created content that could easily be shared and spread.
How did you make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?
I’m an educated user experience designer, so my first and current aim is always to focus on the user’s life and needs. During my work I frequently conducted interviews with children, families and schools to learn how to create and progress with DayCape. After we launched DayCape we also frequently received feedback mail and calls from all over the world from DayCape users. In Sweden we actually received an award for being one of the most user-focused companies in Sweden, called Human-centered Business index.
How did you raise the money for your idea and what is your advice for others considering DIY fundraising?
I’ve done a great deal of pitching for non-profits investment and competitions, which secured us the funding in different stages to create DayCape and then take it to the market. One of the investors and social entrepreneurs said to me the year after that she always looks for people with a certain craziness in their eye that makes them stubborn enough to drive their ideas. I think that you need to demonstrate being extremely stubborn, frustrated, show compassion but at the same time be severely harsh with the reality. Investors, stakeholders and supporters are likely to tell you that you’re doing something great as a social entrepreneur. But at the same time, it’s too easy to find excuses or convenient reasons to not support your idea. Whenever you’re talking or writing you need to make perfectly clear that won’t do. Don’t be afraid to go hard on people as to why your cause is desperately needed and urgent. When you’re expressing your idea you need to argue with the mind and logic but also with the audience’s heart and feelings.
How did you scale your social innovation and what tips for scaling could you share?
I was very keen both early on and during our scaling to reach out to different magazines, blogs or interest groups about DayCape’s message. This led to us retaining an organic broth of organisations who published our story – what DayCape is and why it’s important. This also led to a chain reaction, where organisations started to share other organisations’ publications regarding DayCape. My advice would be to reach out as much as possible and make sure you have a message that is easy to share.
How do you change the whole system?
Receiving technology as a person with special needs in most cases requires you to apply for governmental funding. For people with autism these technologies are very expensive and outdated. For example, mobile phones for children with autism are ten years old in an industry where phones are updated every year. We are enabling supporting technology via the necessary support in existing platforms for autistic children. By doing so we are enabling children to be more inclusive in school and society.
What would be the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social innovator, a member of the Social Innovation Academy, with only two things at the moment: a big heart and a willingness to do something?
Be geeky and learn as much as possible about the problem you want to solve. As a social entrepreneur you need to understand at every touchpoint where you can make a social impact, how best to do it and how you prove that you are making a difference. You won’t have it as easy as regular entrepreneurs who can simply point to their profit. So you need to be more knowledgeable.
Interviewed by Manon van Leeuwen
Anton Håkanson, the founder of DayCape, was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum as a young child. Even though the diagnosis was later removed, he has a very special understanding of the daily issues that occur. Anton read a great deal of cartoons as a child, and his favourite hero was Peter Parker as Spiderman. Even with all the powers and spider sense that Peter has, he still experiences conflicting feelings about becoming Spiderman and faces decisions about how to use his powers. As Spiderman, he is unable to save everyone, and he struggles with feeling different and weak, despite his unusual powers. But Peter always had friends and family supporting him in the most difficult times, and they helped him become the great superhero he was meant to be.
Would you like to learn more from other inspiring social innovators?
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