If you are a serial social entrepreneur like Atif Choudhury, holding purposeful values needn’t stay within the confines of just one organisation. Atif’s zest for purpose and meaning continually drives new ventures and projects, where there is a social need and a gap to fill. Inventive solutions and alternatives to the status quo are forged through this necessity and integrity.
At Meaning 2018 we heard Atif talk about Zaytoun, a company he co-founded to bring trade opportunities to marginalised Palestinian farmers. But Atif also co-runs another and very different social enterprise that is charging forward with the aim to close the disability employment gap (which currently sits at 32% between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in employment). No small feat.
Source: Office for National Statistics. Labour Force Survey, Q2 2016; 2016
Drawing on his own lived-experience of dyslexia and finding that access to support is a heavily class-based privilege, Atif co-founded Diversity and Ability (DnA), an award-winning training and consultancy organisation which supports disabled and neurodiverse adults to thrive and employers to be better, more inclusive employers.
DnA’s ‘business’ model is quite unique, with a positive meaningful impact at many, many levels within the organisation. DnA is a disabled-led social enterprise that deliberately and purposefully involves disabled adults in the provision of support. True to form, two of the three founders and 85% of the staff self-identify as disabled or neurodiverse. This means support is authentic, relevant to the needs of the client and genuinely empowering.
DnA is a social enterprise that reinvests most of its profits back into the business, paying for social justice projects through commercial income. This enables support of some of the UK’s most vulnerable homeless and marginalised communities. Atif is keen to highlight the importance of an intersectional approach in pushing for disability rights and equality. He is adamant that socio-economics, class, race, gender and culture must be part of the discussion when implementing new policies and systems that work for everyone.
DnA was nominated Social Enterprise of the Year in the 2012 awards and Atif was also nominated as a social entrepreneur of excellence in 2012 in the National Diversity Awards. So there we have it, an insight into the motivators for serial social entrepreneurship…there are no ‘one trick ponies’ to see around here!