In The Media – Innovation Guelph
In The Media – Innovation Guelph – Continuing the conversation – Equity, Diversity, Inclusion.
Kimberley Van Ryn, founder of Branching Out, a social enterprise that provides community supports for individuals with neurodiversity and their families, said the company supports about 50 clients from age 7 to 92!
Branching Out provides adult day service where clients work with staff on self and social skills, community support respite care 1:1, and support for individuals with complex needs. In addition, their CommonFare Kitchen provides engagement and skill building practice through their production of Maple Kissed Granola.
When clients are earning money, it can be life changing. “Often they’ve heard how there is not enough money for them with funding cuts or a family’s ability to provide extra programs or supports/activities – they now have fund to make choices” Van Ryn said. “There’s a freedom that comes from choice and it’s unbelievable what a difference it makes.”
Justice Dignity & Belonging
“Because of the work we do, EDI is a philosophical point in our business – our mission and vision is to create communities and belonging,” said Van Ryn. “We consider how inclusion can lead to belonging. Inclusion is defined as an action or behaviour – belonging is a philosophy!”
Van Ryn said that coming from a legacy of institutionalization, the pillars of justice, dignity and belonging have become essential.
“We are reframing diversity inclusion and dignity. We need diversity but then must provide dignity for those who live within a community,” she said. Equity is important but justice needs to be considered and present too.
“We feel this with neurodiversity, and we know inclusion isn’t enough; but we need that too,” she explained. And not just inclusion. “We don’t devalue what’s been done, she said, but what’s next is deepening community”
Branching Out’s programs operate with a lot of choice for their clients, caregivers, and community partners. That’s important because, “choice gives freedom and when you’re free, you can be included and advocate for yourself,” she said. “People with neurodiversity have an absence of dignity when they have no choice.”