Doing Good While Doing Business Using Financial Viability to Enhance Employability for the Disadvantaged

Publisher: Nonprofit Management and Leadership, vol. 29, issue 4
Jun 30, 2019
Nan L. Maxwell, Adam Dunn, Dana Rotz, and Megan Shoji

Key Findings:

  • By applying private sector business principles to a workforce development program, employment social enterprises can provide participants with meaningful and valuable work experiences while offsetting program costs.
  • Financially viable employment social enterprises that increase employment rates provide participants with work readiness, are relatively large, have few occupational skill requirements, and hire supervisors with knowledge of the industry and populations served.

The employment social enterprise model can provide an opportunity to create a financially viable business that helps individuals with employment barriers become integrated into the labor force. This research studied eight employment social enterprises. Findings suggest that, by applying private-sector business principles to a workforce development programs, social enterprises can provide participants with meaningful and valuable work experience, while offsetting program costs. Analysis identified four promising practices that social entrepreneurs should adopt when setting up a new enterprise. Enterprises should (1) provide soft skill training and social services to participants; (2) operate at a size that allows for economies of scale in production and the provision of support services; (3) have few occupational skill requirements; and (4) hire supervisors with both industry knowledge and the capacity to support individuals with employment barriers.


Evaluating Outcomes and Impacts of Social Enterprises Run by REDF's Portfolio Organizations



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Senior Staff

Megan Shoji
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Adam Dunn
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Dana Rotz
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