In episode 134 Kerel and Erik chat with Brooke Goodspeed, Founder at GETincluded, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the social inclusion of neurodivergent individuals in the community setting. Brooke jumped into the world of advocacy over 10 years ago after her son, Oliver, was born with down syndrome and later diagnosed with autism. Realizing that employment was one of the biggest hurdles Oliver and other neurodivergent people like him would face, she and her husband started GETIncluded.
During the conversation, we chat with Brooke about the mission of GETIncluded, the challenges that the disabilities community faces, the work that needs to be done on an employer’s side, her personal attachment to the disabilities community, and why she is so passionate about her work.
“I think once you really incorporate individuals with neurodiversity into the workplace then you really get to see what a huge benefit it is to have.”
You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of the Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode we talk with leaders in business tech and media. And joining us today is Brooke Goodspeed. Brooke is the founder of GetIncluded.org. Let's jump in and get to know Brooke. Brooke, welcome. How are you?
Brooke Goodspeed 0:27
Hi, thank you both for having me today. I'm great.
Yeah. Awesome. Awesome to hear. So much great stuff to catch up on. And first I would really like to begin, Brooke, with like, tell us a little bit about you - where you were born, where you were raised. And tell us about Brooke in the early days.
Brooke Goodspeed 0:44
Sure. Well, I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I grew up there and found my way, really to my career in nursing and came to Philadelphia for school, met my husband, and the rest is history. Ended up building roots and a really strong community here in the greater Philadelphia area.
That's great. Can you tell us about all the good work you're doing at GetIncluded.org? And tell us a little bit about the GetIncluded.org mission.
Brooke Goodspeed 1:14
Sure. So Get Included is a nonprofit organization. And we focus on helping people with all abilities reach their fullest potential in all aspects of social engagement, including employment.
Excellent. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the unique challenges you're helping to solve? Specifically through GetIncluded.org?
Brooke Goodspeed 1:36
Sure. One of the biggest challenges that we are looking to impact is the representation of people with disabilities, especially invisible disabilities in the workplace. And so we've focused on really including people with different identities, including autistic and mental health disorders, and really all aspects of the human experience that we all can, from time to time, identify with.
Yeah, I want to ask you a little bit about that, because you mentioned sort of invisible disabilities or learning differences and special needs. Can you talk about some of the unique experiences that a lot of folks go through when trying to find employment?
Brooke Goodspeed 2:21
Sure, well, the disability community has historical challenges with being included in employment spaces. We've made some progress with the ADA and with IDEA, those are two legal statutes that really helped to include people with disabilities, both in education and then in aspects of life, including employment. And I think that what we're hoping to do is to help people access the employment opportunities, and then maintain them. So I see this as like a two fold project for how do we get, first, people with different disabilities and neurodiverse needs to the interview? And then how do we convince people that they're worthwhile investing in, because we really believe that there's a side to each individual person that really brings their unique and special strengths. And companies and businesses can really, with time and a little bit of investment, build better businesses because they're focused on all aspects of diversity, equity inclusion.
Brooke, let me ask you a follow up question to that. Is there one part of that process that's more challenging than the other? Meaning, is it more challenging to get the person with the disability to be motivated to do interviews? Or is it more challenging to get companies in general not singling out any one company, but companies in general, to realize that these individuals can add to the value of the organization in many ways just like anyone without a disability can?
Brooke Goodspeed 4:02
Sure, that's a great question. It's more of a challenge from the employer's standpoint. And I can say that as an employer, our organization runs a coffee shop, and employs almost 40 individuals with neurodiverse needs. And I can tell you that I have a huge stack of applicants and not enough space to add everyone, to give everyone an inclusive employment experience. And I think that highlights part of the problem, that we have a huge workforce that's ready, able and willing to be included. There's a heavy amount of work that needs to be done from the employer side. I think that's just from misunderstanding and really a lack of experience with individuals with neurodiverse needs, because I think once you really incorporate individuals with neurodiversity into the workplace, then, you know, you really get to see what a huge benefit it is to have.
Thank you for sharing that. And I wanted to ask you a little bit about what are some ways that you could pass on to others to help to eliminate stigma and separation and help others understand how not to discriminate against individuals with special needs or with disabilities?
Brooke Goodspeed 5:15
I think giving everyone the opportunity to learn and grow in an employment experience and transparency is really important. Without communicating our identity to the disability community, it's hard to break down barriers and move forward with progress. I mean, I think that there's so much stigma still around. Removing that stigma is step one and that comes from both the self advocates and families and community members and on the receiving end, too, from business leaders.
Brooke, one thing that we always see with any guests that we have on the podcast is the work that they're doing, they're very passionate about it and they're very passionate about it for specific reasons. And I would love it if you can maybe speak for a minute as to why this topic is so top of mind for you, and why you're so passionate about it.
Brooke Goodspeed 6:11
I have a really personal attachment to the disability community. My middle child is 11 years old, and he has Down syndrome and autism, and he's nonverbal. So he's been my greatest teacher in a lot of ways. I feel that he really introduced me to my life's work. And a lot of my personal experiences with raising him, you know, fighting for his inclusion and just advocating for him. It was through this really eye opening experience of what it's really like for people with disabilities and their families. And my work really stemmed from that experience of feeling isolated and alone. And feeling like that he wasn't given an opportunity or even a chance in many instances. And then I saw that with so many of the community members and stakeholders through the nonprofit, and my work, just really, always enlightened and sort of brought on to like, get to see a new perspective from each person that I meet. And I feel like I'm learning more every day.
This experience has been really, it's been a great growth experience for me. I've become less afraid of failing and, you know, I think more vulnerable in the learning process. I mean, being in this space and, this is an evolving mission that we have, and I always want to feel informed by all different types of voices to help us have an appropriate perspective that changes over time as the needs change. So, like, learning how to evolve with just a mission as time and culture changes has been, for me, a really good growth opportunity.
And what excites you most about the future in terms of the work that you're doing at Get Included?
Brooke Goodspeed 8:23
Oh, I'm so excited for larger adoption, including people with neurodiversity and employment. I think that, you know, I've worked in many different environments and settings professionally and when I'm at the coffee shop, it's just something really special about the work culture and work family that we have. And that really shines from this place of understanding like this true human-ness and vulnerability and sort of teaching each other. And I think that collaboration and this back and forth continual teaching that we experience, and that really I find so personally gratifying and that's really what I look forward to is sharing that so that other people can really understand that as well.
One thing that Erik and I have talked with guests about on this podcast over the last couple of years is this sort of shift that's happening inside of a lot of companies with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion. And a lot of that has to do with a lot of the unfortunate events that we've seen play out in the US over the last couple of years. And I'm curious to know, you know, obviously, diversity, equity and inclusion is a very broad term and can mean a lot of different things, but in this particular case, I'm curious to know if those changes, those conversations have made its way to the neurodiversity world as well? And if you've been seeing sort of a shift over the last couple of years?
Brooke Goodspeed 9:58
Yeah, that's a great question. Yes, I think that when we think about accessibility, its accessibility of opportunity as well. You know, I think there's a huge portion of this country and the world that really we just take for granted the opportunity we have. And when we look at something like how does this play out for someone who is on the spectrum and is trying to get a job, and, you know, the accessibility of just employment to get to the job, or an appropriate tech to apply for the job, those things are all included, they start way before the actual employment starts. And that's our larger mission is really all aspects of social inclusion. So that there is a place for people to come as they are, and bring the skills that they have, and that we would be nurturing and having everyone meet their ceiling, despite the circumstances that they have. And I think that education, attempts to really do this, or public education in the US. And we just need that model or the culture of mindset to continue into post-school life into community life, really. I think that we'd be much more thoughtful about our neighbor and the situation and the struggles that they have individually. And unfortunately, when that plays out, it can be really destructive.
You mentioned your son, Oliver, being a great teacher to you and learning so much from him directly. I'm curious about other folks that you've been able to sort of turn to or have been part of your life to work with you, as sort of coaches or mentors that you'd love to share. Who are some of those people?
Brooke Goodspeed 11:41
Right now I'm doing a big hurdle, personally, I'm getting my PhD in Nursing and I'd have to give a nod to my advisor, Matt McHugh, who has helped me really conceptualize how research and how evaluating outcomes and like the measurable way, is important for shaping policy and systems change in the future. So all of my faculty advisors at the University of Pennsylvania have also fulfilled that role. But particularly my advisors helped me to think about this problem in a way that can be, like, managed and replicated and really solved from, like, a multi-systems perspective. And I have a wonderful board of directors that have been instrumental in informing the decisions we make as an organization. I made an effort to include voices from the neurodiverse community as well on that board, and to make sure that we truly are hearing the stakeholders perspective in all ways. And I have a community mentor, Dr. Wendy Ross, who is a developmental pediatrician that's also been very helpful with health and mental wellness and those challenges and how those interface with social determinants, such as employment.
That's great. Brooke, I want to ask you about GET Cafe. How did you come up with the idea? Walk us through what it's like coming up with the idea and then ultimately launching.
Brooke Goodspeed 13:07
Well, we really started the organization as a community space. We wanted to have just a physical gathering place for families who had children with disabilities. And then the first need from the community was really like, let's have some art classes. So we tried to make these inclusive and sensory based art and music classes. And part of that involved hiring people who were on the spectrum or had other neuro divergence that could be included in teaching and carrying out the instruction because I wanted us to have a place that was really truly inclusive in all ways, not just able bodied, typical people teaching and supporting families. And then the community that we were in, I was in a really great small town, and they didn't have a coffee shop. And we saw that just in hiring that first individual that there was such a vast unmet need of employment. And there were a few other models that I had looked into. But the coffee shop was one that sort of seemed serendipitous for the neighborhood we were in. And so with a little bit of research and time and a great board and a wonderful community to welcome us, we just opened in 2019.
Great. You mentioned, like the importance of like almost like a community space and space itself in order to be able to sort of have all this flourish. What could you pass on to anyone else that would like to replicate that or also maybe model that, creating that space? What could you share with someone else who aspires to do that?
Brooke Goodspeed 14:44
I think the most important thing is to be accepting of people as who they are. And that's not always easy because there's some messiness sometimes that comes with being human. And if we're just honest and open about that, I think that the physical space that we have really embodies the way that feels, and how that can be- how that can be a really beautiful thing that helps build community and networking, in physical spaces and online and just in general.
Brooke, where do you draw inspiration from?
Brooke Goodspeed 15:17
I'm inspired every day by my son and my other children. I think that seeing how he's constantly working 10 times as hard as anyone I know and getting up and doing it over and over again, the persistence really inspires me. And I just want to make the world a little bit of a better place for him.
Gotcha. And that makes a lot of sense. And obviously, that ties right back to why you started the business and why you're so passionate about it. Fun question I love asking every guest we have on the podcast - I know, you said you've listened to a couple of episodes, so you probably know what's coming here, but give us the top three apps that you use on your phone on a regular basis. But you can't name email, calendar or text messaging, because those are just way too boring.
Brooke Goodspeed 16:08
I'd have to say that I have a Yes/No app that I use to communicate with my son. So that's vital for daily life, as are two other apps that I love - Calm, the Calm app for guided meditation and Instagram for scrolling beautiful pictures and being connected socially.
Is there anyone on Instagram that you follow for those pictures that it's like an artist or someone like that? Who are you following that we might or may not know?
Brooke Goodspeed 16:39
Some of my favorite things to follow are puppy feeds, honestly.
Nothing- nothing wrong with that.
Brooke Goodspeed 16:45
(laughs) Yes, I love puppies and scrolling seeing animals doing funny things. That's probably some of the greatest like mind disconnection.
I hear that.
That's great. Well, Brooke, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your insights and experiences. Our audience loves to stay in touch and then reach out, what are some great ways that our audience can find you and stay in touch?
Brooke Goodspeed 17:09
Sure, you can find me at Brooke with an 'e' at the end of it at GetIncluded.org (email@example.com). We're on social on Facebook and Instagram. GETIncluded and GET Cafe. That's it. Find me on LinkedIn as well.
Excellent. Thanks so much. Brooke Goodspeed from GETincluded.org. Thanks for hanging out with us.
Brooke Goodspeed 17:27
Thank you guys for having me.
Absolutely. And thanks everyone for listening to another episode. You can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video and just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks again.