Scholar Profile - Stephen Cohen PDF Print E-mail
Stephen Cohen


President of the Board of Management at South West Autism Network (SWAN)

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / AICD scholarship for an eLearning Short Course, "The Director Mindset", 2016

What sort of work does your organisation do?

SWAN provides support, information and advocacy for people with autism and their families. We also run social groups under the supervision of child psychologists to improve the social skills of children and young people with autism.

Describe a typical day's work.

My typical day is spent in my medical practice. During the course of an average day SWAN’s demands on my time are modest – often limited to answering an email or authorising some expenditure. Fortunately we have for some time been able to employ two staff who job share administration tasks with the assistance of a small number of volunteers. I endeavour to meet with the staff or at least speak with them most weeks to keep abreast of issues and to plan the agenda for our monthly board meeting.

What are some of the key learnings from the The Director Mindset short course?

The key message I took from the course was the difference between being on a board and being part of the executive. In a small organisation lines are sometimes blurred but there is value in preserving the distinction when possible.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

It is too early to fully assess the benefits, however, I feel I am standing further back from decisions and allowing staff and volunteers to develop their projects and succeed rather than shaping them to conform with my concepts.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I have held an interest in mental health and developmental disability for a long time. As SWAN developed they recognised the need for an independent board and I was asked to join.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

Small organisations such as SWAN need more flexible funding. Realistically in regional areas much of the funding needed to run programs must come from government. This funding is often preferentially directed at large organisations that are better known to funders and often excludes funding to obtain premises. There is also a tendency for funding cycles to be short. There are often hurdles to obtain funding such as requirements for unrealistically high insurance cover. We need some predictability of funding in order to develop capacity.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

Despite living in regional WA for the last 26 years I love visiting big cities, and, in particular, London, where my parents were born. There is always something interesting to see, some aspect of history to stumble upon or something one recognises from film or literature.

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"I feel I am standing further back from decisions and allowing staff and volunteers to develop their projects and succeed rather than shaping them to conform with my concepts."


Stephen Cohen is a general practitioner and resident for 26 years in a rural town. He is also the president of the board of the South West Autism Network, and a board member of a not-for-profit organisation known as LAMP, which provides support to people with mental illness in the South West of WA.

In 2016, ASF awarded Stephen a scholarship to complete one of AICD's eLearning Short Courses, part of the Bankwest Foundation Community Leaders Scholarship Program.


Annual revenue / size:

Small - $80,000 - $250,000 pa

Segment of NFP sector:


Operating in: