An inspiring enterprise which employs and empowers people with autism has already expanded to eight countries
The term welfare is questioned in Denmark. MondayMorning, Scandinavia’s leading independent thinktank, published the results of a six-month project Ways to Resource Denmark which involved 14 municipalities and 11 NGOs. The project investigates the Danish welfare system and explores its sustainability.
In Scandinavia, welfare is a service provided by the state, and something we take for granted – as long as we pay our taxes, we have done “our part”. However, growing parts of the population are finding it hard to contribute to the society. According to the umbrella organisation for social enterprise VFSA, 670,000 out of a total of 5.6 million Danish citizens of working age are unemployed, which is putting an enormous burden on an already exhausted welfare system.
Many believe that the answer to this growing problem lies in social innovation.
In Denmark, there are several great initiatives that have inspired both public and private sector to take social innovation seriously. Among them is Denmark’s The Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation) (or Specialisterne) – an organisation that changes the way society perceives autism by transforming it from a handicap to a competitive advantage. The foundation employs autistic people, who have a 10 times lower fault rate in software testing and other tasks. Every €1 invested in the enterprise delivers an return on investment of €6 in savings for public spending, according to a cost–benefit analysis conduced by The Specialisterne Foundation (former Specialist People Foundation) on their establishment in Austria.
The Specialist offers three main services. First, its assessment and training programme includes a three- to five month-long individual assessment where participants clarify their strengths, weaknesses, special aptitudes, capabilities and interests. Here, it map out their needs for support, guidance and environmental adjustments in order to perform in a job situation. Second, a business services programme helps the 40% of participants who progress to become IT consultants in Specialisterne Denmark. Specialisterne now has 34 consultants who solve computer problems for leading IT and telecommunications companies around the world. Third, the Specialisterne Denmark school has started a three-year education programme for young adults aged 16 to 24 with autism spectrum disorder.