Thorkil Sonne, Specialisterne Foundation.
A social enterprise that provides training and employment to people with autism or Asperger syndrome for their ability to effectively perform repetitive tasks that require a lot of concentration.
What solution does the innovation propose?

Autistic people have a ten times lower fault rate in software testing, programming, data-entry and other repetitive tasks that require sustained levels of concentration. They are particularly skilled at recognising patterns, paying attention to details and optimising processes. Specialisterne harnesses all these special characteristics and talents and uses them as a competitive advantage, providing businesses with high-quality consultancy services. Through its assessment and training programme, the organisation supports people with autism and similar challenges in their labour insertion journey, from identifying their skills to securing meaningful employment. The aim is to break the pattern of isolation from society while ensuring economic returns for companies.


This Works Summit by Ashoka (2016). Associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (2015). Social Entrepreneur Award, Schwab Foundation (2012). Thorkil Sonne is an Ashoka Fellow (2009).

Impact evidence

  • More than 1,000 individuals with autism have been trained and employed by Specialisterne and its partner companies in five continents.
  • 89% of participants claimed that their job had a positive impact on their independence, and 78% stated that it improved their mental and physical well-being.
  • Every Danish Crown invested in supporting individuals with autism through employment at Specialisterne yields 2.2 times more return in garnered taxes and pension contributions than if the same resources were invested in the same individuals unemployed.
How does it work?

Specialisterne provides businesses with services performed by autistic ‘specialists’, who bring a set of unique competences to companies in both the private and the public sectors. Services range from software management to data testing and logistics, to consultancy and design, depending on the profile of the specialist. The organisation works together with the candidates to figure out what their special skill-set includes, which their personal and professional competencies and interests are, and what special needs or challenges they face. After the training, participants are hired by Specialisterne and placed in a professional working environment (in-client or home-based, according to the consultant’s needs) while receiving ongoing support from a specialised coach. Companies also receive guidance to respond to consultants’ special needs.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Where has been implemented so far
United States, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Austria and Australia. Collaborations in India, Czech Republic and Argentina.
Last updated: 
March 2019