Social entrepreneurship is on the rise in Austria and admirable initiatives are not going unnoticed. Ashoka, the global organisation identifying and investing in leading social entrepreneurs, has just welcomed the fourth fellow in its Austrian circle. The newest member of Ashoka Austria, Gregor Demblin, has just joined the network, which already includes social entrepreneurs like Gerald Koller, Johannes Lindner and Martin Hollinetz.
Founder of the Career Moves initiative, Demblin has an ambitious goal: to raise new job opportunities for people with disabilities. “My goal is to demonstrate the performance potential of people with disabilities so that these individuals can move past living a dependent life, and towards being self-sufficient,” he said in a press release. His vision is to create 20.000 jobs for people with disabilities in the next three years.
The Austrian labour force includes approximately 630.000 people with some form of disability. However, only 30 percent of these are currently employed. The Career Moves initiative started in 2009 in collaboration with the online job platform careesma.at in order to provide not only jobs but also support throughout the entire recruiting process. After being constrained to a wheelchair following an accident, Demblin understood just how pressing this social problem is. Today, he channels his effort to bridge this employment gap by shifting the focus away from the disability itself and towards the qualifications that disabled individuals hold as well as the performance they can offer.
Becoming a fellow
Ashoka’s fellow selection process is anchored by five criteria against which all candidates are evaluated. Fellows are chosen for their success as social entrepreneurs, for their original ideas that have the potential for significant impact, and for their trustworthiness and ethical values.
Georg Schön, Fellowship Coordinator for Austria & CEE, is glad to have Demblin onboard as the fourth Austrian fellow. He believes that Demblin’s initiative can transform the existing attitudes of distrust toward hiring disabled people by, instead, shedding light on their abilities. “[Gregor] is especially successful in engaging the business sector and establishing corporate trust in the abilities, performance and added-value of people with disabilities,” said Schön. “He has partnered with large corporations to help them become leaders in diversity management as well as with a multitude of media outlets to transform public awareness.” And those are just a few of his partners.
At present, over 50 companies have posted job announcements through the Career Moves platform, and with the help of Ashoka, Demblin’s efforts can become even more effective. As an Ashoka fellow, he will benefit from the support of the global network by receiving strategic advice and know-how, pro-bono work from the network’s partners, as well as a three-year stipend.
People with disabilities represent a talent pool that until now has, for the most part, gone unnoticed. “Career Moves is already working on scaling up, and aims to set up similar platforms and support mechanisms in other European countries within the next five years,”Schön added. We’re eager to see how this initiative makes a real impact!