ALL MY PEO­PLE

This BREWER’S se­cret in­gre­di­ent is its STAFF – ev­ery MEM­BER has an AUTISM diagnosis…

Collective Hub - - CHANGE - WORDS CHE-MARIE TRIGG

I’s not of­ten you can say that beer – and lots of it – changes lives for the bet­ter. But at Peo­ple Like Us, a Dan­ish brew­ing com­pany, the mis­sion is to make the best beer in the world while chang­ing as many lives as they can – specif­i­cally, the lives of their em­ploy­ees, all of whom have been di­ag­nosed with autism.

Founded by brothers Lars and Jes­per Carlsen in Au­gust 2016, this isn’t Lars and Jes­per’s first in­tro­duc­tion to the world of autism. Since 2009 they have run LeVas, a com­pany that pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion and men­tor­ing to young peo­ple with autism, ADHD and other sim­i­lar di­ag­noses. But they of­ten found it wasn’t enough.

“Again and again we ex­pe­ri­enced an enor­mous frus­tra­tion bound to the con­strain­ing ways of see­ing peo­ple as para­graphs in a sys­tem [rather] than the hu­man be­ings they are,” ex­plains Lars. “It was frus­trat­ing to see how our young­sters kept falling through. There’s an enor­mous gap in the Dan­ish so­cial and dis­abil­ity leg­is­la­tion sys­tem when it comes to the tran­si­tion from ed­u­ca­tion to em­ploy­ment. A lot of our young­sters ended up hav­ing se­ri­ous re­lapses, and skills and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment they’ve achieved was ba­si­cally taken away from them.”

Lars and Jes­per are ad­dress­ing a problem that peo­ple with autism have been strug­gling with for years: how to get a job. (In Aus­tralia, only 42 per

A lot of our YOUNG­STERS ended up hav­ing se­ri­ous re­lapses and PER­SONAL de­vel­op­ment was ba­si­cally TAKEN away from them.

cent of those with autism have any kind of paid work – in com­par­i­son to the 53 per cent of Aus­tralians with other dis­abil­i­ties who are em­ployed. Sadly, many of those who do have jobs have ex­pe­ri­enced some sort of bul­ly­ing in the work­place.)

A for­tu­itous meet­ing with Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the founder of Copen­hagen-based mi­cro­brew­ery Mikkeller, was the cat­a­lyst for jump­ing into the world of hops and yeast.

“We had asked him to come for a talk about the pos­si­bil­ity of brew­ing a beer for our for­mer autism-driven cafe,” says Lars. “He agreed right away, and asked if there was any­thing else he could help us with. I caught the op­por­tu­nity and asked him if we should then cre­ate a brew­ery to­gether, which would be run by peo­ple with autism. And he said yes.”

While many of their em­ploy­ees are grad­u­ates of the LeVas pro­gram, a re­cent crowd­fund­ing cam­paign which sadly failed to meet its tar­get has gained Peo­ple Like Us ex­po­sure – both for its beer, and among those with autism who are seek­ing jobs.

“We’ve ex­pe­ri­enced an in­creased in­ter­est from peo­ple with autism, and plenty of con­cerned par­ents [of] peo­ple with autism, who are in­ter­ested in our project, and ei­ther would like to be­come part of it or who are wor­ried about what’s go­ing to hap­pen with their kids. So it’s both-way re­cruit­ing,” says Lars. >

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