Rafiken Social Enterprises is working to provide meaningful employement to neurodiversity communities © Pexels/Tim Douglas
People experience and interact with the world in a multitude of ways: there is no right way of thinking, behaving, or learning, and these differences are not deficiencies. Neurodiversity is an inclusive movement pioneered in the 1990s that recognizes the beauty and potential of human cognitive variation. It acknowledges and appreciates the fact that people with neurological differences have many strengths and are valuable members of society. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) form a big component of the neurodiverse community, along with people with other cognitive variations, such as learning disabilities.
Data compiled by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that in 2017 just 33 per cent of Canadian adults with ASD reported being employed, compared to 79 per cent of non-autistic adults. There are 600,000 neurodivergent adults in Canada, of whom only one-third are employed—that leaves 400,000 individuals whose talents remain unutilized. This is an untapped demographic with often overlooked capabilities in a labour market facing significant shortages. “Big Four” professional services firms such as Deloitte and Ernst & Young have begun to explore this domain. For example, the Neurodiversity Centre of Excellence was recently launched by Ernst & Young; one of their key findings was that employed neurodiverse individuals have a 98 per cent retention rate.
Understanding and embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is essential to building an inclusive country. All businesses need to consider this marginalized demographic when creating diversity plans and targets. Further, business leaders are encouraged to create an environment that is conducive to this community by harnessing each neurodivergent individual’s strengths and providing support for differences as required.
Rafiken Social Enterprises was launched to create and support innovative approaches to employment for neurodiverse individuals. We envision an inclusive world in which neurodiversity is celebrated, and every individual can achieve their full potential, thereby contributing to and strengthening their communities. This social mission is achieved by providing meaningful employment opportunities that give neurodiverse individuals valuable experience, greater control over their own lives through financial independence, and a sense of pride based on accomplishment.
In the spring of 2022, Rafiken entered the Food and Beverage sector with the launch of a pilot project in midtown Toronto, Holy Grounds Café. They are currently developing their next project—The Infinite Bean, a café and chocolatier—that will launch in downtown Toronto in 2023. The goal of these entities is to provide meaningful employment to individuals from the neurodiverse community.
Future phases will diversify employment opportunities by entering other industries, such as tech, to widen the talent pool and simultaneously launch online services that work with this demographic.
The neurodiverse community is our labour force’s best-kept secret, and its knowledge, experience, and potential remain untapped. Rafiken Social Enterprises is changing the status quo, leading by example and striking strategic partnerships within the labour market to create and increase employment opportunities for neurodiverse people.
If you are interested in being a part of our story, we would love to hear from you. We welcome your collaboration, be it as an individual seeking meaningful employment or as an industry partner who would like to work with us in creating these opportunities.
Visit our website at www.rafiken.ca and reach out to us. Together, we will build a more inclusive world that unleashes the infinite potential of neurodiversity!