The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) in 2011 selected a few social enterprises to expand and support while also commissioning Mathematica Policy Research to assess their impact. These mission-driven businesses seek to help those who face barriers to employment in one form or another and offer job experience as well as counseling services. (REDF notes it is important to keep the limitations of a small sample pool in mind.) Some of the initial findings presented in the report are an increase in employment, decrease in dependency on government support, and an increase in respondents’ ability to reliably pay for housing in the year following their employment with the social enterprises:
The report also conducts an outcomes analysis to attribute a return on investment captured by society as a whole:
For every dollar the [social enterprise] spent, the return on that investment was $2.23 for society as a whole. This includes benefits of $1.31 to taxpayers from reductions in government transfer payments and increases in revenues, in addition to benefits to the [social enterprise] business. Workers, however, actually incur a small loss from [social enterprise] employment. Although they gain in terms of economic self-sufficiency and life stability, their gains do not exceed losses associated with reduced government transfers and lower public subsidies for housing. The [social enterprises], as business enterprises, roughly break even. Looking across [social enterprises], we find substantial variation; the smaller and newer [social enterprises] that we studied do not yet appear to produce net benefits to society.
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