Creative Spirit Launches to Create Integrated Employment Opportunities for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


Creative Spirit, a non-profit organization that creates integrated employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities (IDDs), today announced its launch into the U.S. market. Creative Spirit is committed to creating a global movement, changing the face of what true diversity in employment looks like via advocacy, awareness and, most importantly, action for those with IDDs like Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, to name a few.

Creative Spirit’s mission is to dramatically decrease the unemployment rate among those with IDDs, currently at a staggering 85%[1], by expertly matching candidates and potential employers through proprietary matching technology and a supportive coaching model. Creative Spirit will begin with an aggressive effort to engage forward-thinking companies in the advertising, media, marketing and technology industries to generate 130,000 fair wage jobs by 2020.

Creative Spirit, along with The ADVERTISING Club of New York, worked closely with partner companies, Rauxa — the largest women-owned advertising agency in the US — and Publicis New York — a leading creative advertising agency. Creative Spirit already has a backlog of more than 50 companies interested in signing on to provide positions.

Andy Bird, CCO, Publicis New York, stated, “There are few times when you can truly impact the industry status quo. We have that opportunity — right here, right now — with the launch of Creative Spirit, and we are really proud to bring the cause to life in North America.”

“This is a global crisis, and likely the most profound human rights employment issue of our time, yet it goes unsolved,” said Laurel Rossi, Co-Founder and CEO of Creative Spirit, and CMO of Rauxa. “We believe that if the private sector comes together — with its collective voice — and with the use of technology — that we can solve this problem at scale. There are more than 8 million people in the US who are not employed in integrated settings, and more than a million young adults with autism who will be aging into the job market over the next several years.” The idea was born in conjunction with The AD Club, a prestigious organization with a strong focus on diversity where Ms. Rossi is on the Board of Directors.

Gina Grillo, President and CEO of The AD Club, Creative Spirit co-founder and board member said, “Creative Spirit was initially introduced at The International ANDY Awards by esteemed juror David Nobay who originated the idea in Australia in 2009. A little over two years ago, we agreed that Creative Spirit had the potential to truly change the face of employment. Today, we are proud to be supporting this transformative and forward-thinking diversity initiative. We are partnering to drive the recruitment of participating companies from the creative community, and donating media to build awareness — more than $200K — in support of the launch. We’re passionate about Creative Spirit because it is the consummate demonstration of collaboration and supports our ongoing devotion to inclusion in business.”

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Creative Spirit Launch – Advertising Week 2017 from DiGennaro Communications on Vimeo.

Corporate Partners and Launch Plans

Gina Alshuler, CEO of Rauxa, signed on as an inaugural partner when she hired Rossi from Havas. Rauxa developed the website and conducted the pilot program by hiring two candidates in their New York and Costa Mesa offices. “The program is extraordinary in its vision to integrate different kinds of thinking into an organization’s DNA. It fits into our diversity agenda and our dedication to solving business problems with data and technology. We are proud to be a major supporter and encourage others to join in,” says Alshuler.

Creative Spirit will launch with a series of events during Advertising Week in New York, which begins on September 25. Creative Spirit’s first advertising campaign called “The Pitch” created by Publicis New York, will debut at the D&AD Impact Awards Gala at Terminal 5 in NYC on September 26. The campaign was developed to drive awareness of the profound number of unemployed, and to compel companies to sign up. Andy Bird, Adrian Flores, David Nobay and Anthony Garretti created the campaign, which features some of the most awarded Chief Creative Officers in advertising in cameo roles, including Jeff Kling, Chief Creative Officer at Fallon, Jaime Robinson, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Joan Creative, Pete Favat, Chief Creative Officer at Deutsch, and Jeff Benjamin, Chief Creative Officer and Partner at Barton F. Graf. The campaign also features Creative Spirit job candidates with IDDs, who challenge these industry luminaries to pitch them on why working at their companies might be appealing. The campaign’s sly sense of humor never panders or defaults to charity in-keeping with the brand’s mission and voice. “We believe the optimism of the campaign matches the potential of these talented individuals. Hiring an individual with an intellectual disability is a privilege not charity,” says Flores, ECD at Publicis.

The campaign is scheduled to begin on September 26 and the teaser video can be viewed here: Creative Spirit Campaign Video. “The Pitch” was produced by Susanne Preissler, Executive Producer at Independent Media in LA and Chuck and Susan Willis at Cutting Room Films in New York. Ned Benson directed the spots. “The bonds between the cast and crew were so incredibly infectious that the Advertising Week launch will be a fantastic reunion. Ned Benson and I are flying from LA to catch up with the candidates we worked with and to participate in the recruitment of more companies,” said Preissler. More than 30 individuals with IDDs will be working at Advertising Week as volunteers, alongside their peers in the hopes of networking with advertising and marketing executives. Creative Spirit has set up interviews on site with employers over the course of the week.

Creative Spirit is also sponsoring a panel discussion on September 27 at 5:15 p.m. at BB Kings featuring the cast and crew of “The Pitch”; Sara Hart Weir, President of the National Down Syndrome Society; early supporters Stacy Green from A&E Networks; Vincent Cignarella from Bloomberg and Creative Spirit candidates Gianna Morello, Bret Fleming, Mia Filippone, Alexa Nacamulli, Brendan Lemeuix, Harrison Vanderlee, Freddy Henriquez, and Laura Parrell. The panel, “How the Power of Different Will Change the World” is meant to be educational and provoke potential employers to consider and nurture neuro-diverse talent.

Like the Creative Spirit recruitment model, marketing efforts will employ the progressive AI technology and social media strategies to help it gain momentum. TheSocialArchitects will manage social media. Creative Spirit is already planning efforts around the world, beginning with a relaunch in Australia in 2018 led by Nobay who also authored the brand’s tagline “What’s more creative than being different?” “We need to exponentially grow the number of companies who commit to hiring those with IDDs. Gina Grillo, The Ad Club, David Nobay and I won’t stop until we reverse the 85%:15% integrated employment ratio for these talented individuals who are limited only by opportunity,” said Rossi.

About Creative Spirit
Creative Spirit is a non-profit 501c3 organization devoted to creating integrated employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Our mission is simple: to create and support the successful placement of individuals with IDDs at the most creative, forward thinking companies in the world. The goal is to create 130,000 jobs by 2020, for the upwards of 8 million adults with IDDs who are currently unemployed — a staggering 85% of ready, willing and able adults. In doing so, we will change the face of what true diversity in employment looks like via advocacy, awareness and most importantly, action.

Creative Spirit was born, and is dedicated to, providing the opportunity for employers to be matched with individuals who are loyal, talented and bring a new kind of energy to any organization. Join the community in any way you can by helping us raise funds, providing jobs and by contributing your voice.

Contact Creative Spirit at and follow along on social across TwitterMetaInstagram and LinkedIn. #hiredifferent #CreativeSpirit130K #130Kby2020