The People Behind the Zero Project

The Zero Project is about people, about connecting people. About the capabilities of people and about a better life for people. And it is also done by people, in a very personal way, working the whole year to keep up with the best and brightest in the disability environment and share with the world..

So, now that our Call for Nominations on Innovative Practices and Policies on Accessibility is out, we thought that it is time to tell you a little more about the people who run the Zero Project this year, who they are and what they are currently up to.

Martin Essl
Martin, the founder of the Essl Foundation, dedicates a lot of his time currently on developing the Zero Project Unternehmensdialoge: Acting as the catalyst to share success models and best practice on inclusion and disability employment across Austria. Graz this week, Linz last week. And it doesn’t stop there – He will be travelling next week to the M-Enabling Conference in Washington and the Conference of State Parties in New York to learn, network and share the knowledge of the Zero Project.

Michael Fembek

Michael, Director of the Zero Project, also has a busy travel schedule these days – Trying hard to keep us at the forefront of the latest and greatest in the world of disability, corporate social responsibility and beyond: From the European Foundation Centre Annual General Meeting, to the Swissfoundations Conference in Geneva, to hitting the Big Apple for the Conference of State Parties next week. Amongst all that, he’s also found the time to run his eyes over some of the inspiring applications we have already received since the call for nominations opened. Which reminds me…. Don’t miss the 17th June deadline!

Wilfried Kainz

Wilfried is working on all things Policy and Practice! From designing the nomination forms, to keeping momentum with our networks and presenting to you via webinars. On top of that he will be jetting out to Belfast (does anyone at the Zero Project stay in one place!?) to give a keynote speech at the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities. He is ensuring that the excellent practices and policies from our last report are not forgotten, by continuing to spread the word on disability employment, our 2017 Conference topic. This week he also brought in some home-grown, hand-picked cherries from his garden, which were sublime!

Seema and Caroline
For those of you who were able to attend the Zero Project 2017 Conference, you may have been fortunate enough to meet two of our most diligent and hardworking staff members who often come as a duo –The Office is certainly a better place for it! Seema and Caroline are keeping many many of our essential tools and systems ticking over. Caroline has conducted a major refresh of our website since the Conference and Seema is doing the crucial first stage of analysis of the nominations that we are receiving.

Doris Neuwirth


If you have ever been in contact with us via the ‘office’ email account, or have called us on the telephone you will not doubt have had the pleasure of speaking to Doris, who is arguably the ‘glue’ holding the rest of us together. From answering your queries, to keeping the office in working order, Doris is certainly a very busy member of our team – But always manages to do her many tasks with a smile on her face (don’t you just hate that!). Most recently she’s been sending out our call for nomination to you all, and teaching us how to use video conferencing software.

Peter Charles

A recent addition to the team, Pete has been cracking the whip during the nomination process, setting out the timeline and the processes and then doing what he can to keep everyone on track. And the team have managed to stay on speaking terms with him despite this! (Or so he believes). On top of this he has been moonlighting as a video director, webinar presenter and blog post writer throughout the nomination process.

Martin Habacher

You may not know his name, but you almost certainly have seen his work. Martin is the man who links the Zero Project to the outside world. He works hard to keep you all updated on the goings-on of the Zero Project, by publishing stories, pictures, videos and news across our social media platforms. He has been integral in getting us close to an incredible 3000 likes on Facebook. He has also recently been travelling around the country supporting the Unternehmensdialoge (So another one who doesn’t like to stay in one place!).

Tom Butcher

Tom is our representative of the Zero Project State-side, and beyond. Based in New York, Tom is playing a key role in networking and spreading the Zero Project message across the pond and with international partner organisations. Tom will be attending the Conference of State Parties in New York to make new friends and share stories of the Zero Project. Anyone that knows him will know this is something he is particularly good at!

Amelie Saupe

We are very lucky to have Amelie spreading the word of the Zero Project to another global region. Based in Tokyo, Amelie plays a crucial role in interacting with experts and leaders in Japan to spread the word of the Zero Project. She is currently reaching out to organisations and individuals to share the 2018 call for nominations, in a region famed for its cutting-edge technology. In addition, she is the person behind the annual ‘Social Indicators’ that are presented in the questionnaire, so is being kept very busy right now by putting in the ground-work for this year’s survey.

Georg Schön

Georg works for one of our partner organisations – Ashoka. In fact, he’s based within shouting distance of our desks! And he’s doing exactly what partner organisations do best – helping us to learn and grow. He’s currently working alongside us to develop the Zero Project Accelerator – A project to create better methods of communication between innovators and stakeholders. You will learn a lot more on the accelerator in the forthcoming months and at the Conference!

By Peter Charles and Michael Fembek