Building the Employment and Economic Self-Sufficiency of the Disadvantaged: The Potential of Social Enterprises

Building the Employment and Economic Self-Sufficiency of the Disadvantaged: The Potential of Social Enterprises

Working Paper 35
Published: Feb 16, 2015
Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
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Nan L. Maxwell

Dana Rotz

Social enterprises are financially viable businesses that put social objectives at the forefront of operations. This study provides some of the first evidence on the impacts, costs, and benefits of social enterprises, using information from seven organizations that intentionally hire individuals with severe employment barriers. Results suggest that social enterprises have the potential to create value: the average dollar invested in a social enterprise produces benefits valued between $0.42 and $1.31 for taxpayers and at least $1.34 for society as a whole, implying a 34 percent social return on investment. Furthermore, the returns to society of converting a profit-driven business into a social enterprise exceed 100 percent.

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