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The How Do I? Blog

The How Do I? Blog

#TakeFiveWith Oli Monks

Take Five With Oli Monks - Closeup of Oli smiling into the camera

Take Five With Oli Monks - Closeup of Oli smiling into the camera

Could you tell us about yourself and your job role? And one hobby/fun fact?

My name is Oli Monks, I am the founder of a social enterprise called Place with Purpose. I’ve always believed in the ability for different enterprises and ventures to do social good. I’ve always been a passionate advocate of Neurodivergent people, I’m not one myself, but I have a younger brother who is Autistic and wanted to do something to improve the opportunities and the landscape that exists for that community.

That’s why I set up Place with Purpose and it was officially incorporated at the beginning of 2018, it’s over a year old.

One fun fact about myself – I was a medal bearer in the London 2012 Olympics. My team worked at the Olympic Stadium and Earl’s Court, where the Volleyball tournaments took place. 


What is a typical day like for you?

Very varied. There’s no such thing as a typical day for me at the moment but I am striving for one. That’s not to say that I want it to be mundane, but I would definitely like more structure in my day at times, but my day varies a lot because we are in the process of sorting out the final details of our next workspace for Place with Purpose and securing funding for how we bring that to life.

That means I am often in a lot of meetings and on a lot of phone calls, I have several different offices across London, whether it’s at certain cafes I’m based at or a space in Tottenham where this organisation called ‘The Trampery’ were very kind to give us a desk. We also have a space in The Royal Society of Arts, where I’m a fellow.

So I guess that my typical day is that I’m constantly on the move, it is very rare that I am in only one place for a day, which in some ways I like. I have quite a lot of energy and I do like moving around, but at times I do also crave at times to be in one place. It would allow me to have longer periods of focus to do my own work.


 Could you tell us how you got into your role?

I always knew years before that I wanted to do some social enterprise that would support the Neurodiversity community or at least the Autistic community, but I didn’t know what it would be and I didn’t want to get it wrong. I knew that I did want to run my own business and that was something I always wanted to do so before Place with Purpose, a mate from university and I set up a business called Bagsee.

Bagsee was a wholly different business, we ran it for about 2 years and we sold backpacks which would be full of items that you would need while travelling. You wouldn’t have to worry about what to pack, we packed the things you would need and all you needed to do was add your clothes, passport and you’re off and away!

In between finishing Bagsee and doing Place with Purpose, I knew I wanted to do something I was really passionate about, and that was more and more supporting Autistic people. So I am still doing some work for an organisation called AS Mentoring. They provide 1:1 support for Autistic adults. Generally the focus is around employment – so whether that is job searching, job preparation or actual workplace support. It could be around a specific issue in the workplace or it could be the person we support may want to improve a certain skill, like assertiveness or time management when they’re in the job. 

One of the best things about AS Mentoring is that it’s not prescriptive and it’s not a certain programme we run, it’s centered around the individual. There can be lots of other things going on in someone’s life that is actually impacting them at work, then we support them with that and it’s not solely focused on specific tasks at work, you’ve got to try and support the whole person.

I think this is the best way to approach it, particularly when you’re supporting Neurodivergent people, because there is always so much going on. There’s lots of great quotes about that at The Future is Neurodiverse event which took place on Thursday 7th February. Alex Loveless, a panellist at the event, said “scrap the baseline” – I thought that was a really  great way of saying we shouldn’t assume any baseline, that’s what we do at AS mentoring.

I’ve really enjoyed doing that work at AS Mentoring and it’s allowed me to learn more and more about the ways Neurodivergent people can be supported into and during work, and that’s helped me observe and work out what some of what the problems are and the role the office environment can have for the physical and intangible stuff. Actually having a space that is designed rather than retrofitted for Neurodiversity is something people are really keen for – not just for work but to help Neurodivergent employees feel less isolated.

We approached Place with Purpose with a lot of different ideations and at that point we committed to it to an idea, and have been on a mission to prove it is a good idea and to make it a reality for a lot of Neurodivergent adults. This year we will be doing London and hopefully be able to bring a space to other cities across the UK in the next few years.  


What motivates you to do a good job?

I’ve got lots of motivation! (Laughs) My first one is a very personal one, I wanted to support people who are Neurodivergent just like my brother and there’s a real motivation to not let that community down. It’s my chief motivation – what we want to do and who we’re building it for. We want to do it as well as we possibly can, it doesn’t mean we won’t get it wrong, but we want to do the best job possible.

I’m quite like that as a person anyway and quite inward looking, if something goes wrong I don’t always blame it on the external because it’s something I could have probably done better. I just want to make sure that I can do the best that I can and that it is within the control that I have. There’s lots of things that will happen that are going to be outside of my control, so I just try to make the most of what I can do. 

I have a lot of motivations to do a good job but ‘I want to help’ is the bottom line, I personally set aside all benefit when I feel like I’m genuinely helping others and Place with Purpose is a business incarnation of that.  


How do you learn at work?

I’ve always learned best by doing. I’ve always found it really difficult with any learning environment that I’ve had or in previous work, if I’m sat in front of someone talking at me for hours I don’t really tend to pick it all up in the same way that as if someone threw me a text book. I might get bits of information, but I wouldn’t get it all. I’ve always learned best through learning through doing, mostly, but also conversation and dialogue. 


What are your aims for the next year? For example, if you work in accessibility do you have any plans to help make workplaces more inclusive? If you work in Learning and Development how are you going to promote workplace learning?


I have certain goals in mind with Place with Purpose, the absolute minimum by February 2020 I would like for us to have our first London space up and running and working for Neurodivergent people. We’ll also have our second space, if not already set up, but being kitted out. We would like to bring Neurodiverse workplaces to as many places as possible, so I hope we will be in our second city by February 2020, whichever one that will be. We would like to be the ‘WeWork’ of Neurodiversity.     

I personally would like to improve how I manage my work and my work style. 


Place with Purpose Website:

Place with Purpose Twitter Account: @Place_Purpose 


Would you like to share your story or raise awareness about the work you’re doing? Do you know someone in the tech, design, accessibility, inclusion or learning and development sector who would like to tell their story in the #TakeFiveWith series? Contact Zeinab at