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  • Writer's pictureLisa Gilchrist

Disability and Social Enterprise

I’m not quite sure where this blog is going to go. Usually, I have a better sense when I start. But today is different. I don’t think there is an end point, at least not yet. Recently I learned about a social enterprise program intended to provide meaningful supportive employment for people with autism and mental health issues.

Like many such endeavours it was developed by a parent who wanted to provide an opportunity for their child to thrive – to make the leap from what could be a life of dependency to one that moved towards autonomy and self-sufficiency. The work environment involves a support coach person versed in understanding the work as well as training in understanding the individual needs of the person and the impact the disability may have on their abilities. The goal is to help the person to understand the situation and navigate through it.

Technology provides an interface between the work and the person to support a decision-tree model that allows the employee to answer yes-no questions and then take the action recommended. Where the answer is not clear, intervention at a next level, which could include the support person is enacted. Early assessment from the initial group of employees shows positive levels of productivity and accuracy from a work performance perspective. However, more significantly, it also shows increased levels of personal well-being, satisfaction, increased communication skills, and, plain and simply, more smiles. What could be better a more accurate indicator that a program is working?

I love the idea. Now, where it leads, I’m not sure. How can the program be supported to transition into the community? How can the real need be understood? How do you manage the social enterprise component within a competitive open market? How do you find the sustainability angle? There’s a nugget, a ray of light, somewhere in all this even if I can’t see it yet. Clearly, I need to do some more learning and exploring. What could promote inclusion better than real jobs, paid properly, contributing to people’s well-being and positive self-esteem?

Keep shining!

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