REDF 20th PNG Transparent

Celebrating 20 years of innovation, impact, and investments that work

REDF’s early investments in social enterprises that hire and support people facing employment barriers have greatly impacted the field. Hundreds of social enterprises across the U.S. now provide life-changing opportunities to people who are ready and willing to contribute—to their families, our communities, and our collective future. With a job and the support social enterprises provide, they are.

We have committed to expanding our reach and scaling our impact, with a goal of employing at least 50,000 people by 2020. So now, let’s join forces to innovate and invest in evidence-based approaches that work. Businesses, government, and donors have a critical role to play as champions of social enterprises and their employees.

We are humbled to share some of REDF’s milestones over the past 20 years, and look forward to continuing this work—fulfilling the promise of opportunity for all.


1985 – Launch of The Roberts Family Foundation
Created by visionary financier and philanthropist George Roberts and his wife Leanne, serving Bay Area nonprofits dedicated to improving public education and combating poverty.

1990 – Launch of the Homeless Economic Development Fund (HEDF)
Led by George Roberts and REDF's founding executive director, Jed Emerson, supporting Bay Area nonprofits to expand opportunities for homeless individuals.

1996 - Published the First Book on Social Enterprise Experience
"New Social Entrepreneurs The Success, Challenges and Lessons of Nonprofit Social Enterprise Creation", was a seminal publication that profiled an early group of social entrepreneurs in an effort to inform and grow this emerging field

1997 – Launch of the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF)
Created by George Roberts after HEDF concluded its projects, REDF is the first venture philanthropy dedicated to investing in and supporting employed-focused social enterprises.

1999 – Pioneering Social Return on Investment
REDF pioneered the concept and practice of calculating Social Return on Investment, a concept that has provides a metric for quantifying nonprofits’ financial and social values that has since been adopted globally.

2000 – Published the First Book on Social Enterprise Practice
“Social Purpose Enterprise and Venture Philanthropy in the New Millennium,” offered one of the earliest examples of a funder publicly shedding light on failures as well as successes of this new field, and amplifying the voice of practitioners on an equal footing with investors. It's practical lessons firmly positioned REDF and its network as catalysts of the social enterprise movement.

2009 – Honoring Social Enterprise Employees
REDF created the "Stuart G. Moldaw Step-Up Award" to honor the dedication and courage of social enterprise employees who have overcome significant disadvantage to transform their lives and strengthen their communities.

2012 – Influencing Philanthropy
REDF’s 2008 article “Out of Philanthropy’s Funding Maze: Roadmap #1, Strategic Co-Funding” suggested that philanthropy could adapt investor approaches to increase impact. In 2012, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations used the updated paper to encourage co-funding.

2015 – Platform to Build the Field
REDF launched, a unique online platform with specialized resources to grow the social enterprise field. With over 17,000 unique visitors, is fast becoming the go-to technology platform for the social enterprise industry.

2016 – Accelerating Impact
REDF launched the first of its kind Accelerator program, specifically designed for early-stage employment-focused social enterprise leaders to grow their businesses and create more opportunity in their communities.


2011 – Creating a Social Enterprise Community
REDF launched SE4Jobs, a national network of employment-focused social enterprises that has over 900 individual members from the academic, business, government, consulting, and enterprise sectors in 45 states and 14 countries.

2015 – Building the Evidence Base
REDF released the results of the Mathematica Jobs Study, the most rigorous evaluation ever mounted on the efficacy of the social enterprise model. The study showed that social enterprise employment dramatically improves lives and provides a significant social return on investment – $2.23 for every $1.00 invested.

2015 –Building a Social Enterprise Ecosystem
Created by REDF and the City of Los Angeles Workforce Development Board, LA:RISEis a unique collaboration uniting the city’s Workforce Development System (WDS) with nonprofit social enterprises and for-profit employers to improve outcomes for people striving to overcome employment barriers.

2016 – Expanding Nationally to Employ 50,000 People by 2020
With backing from a $7 million Social Innovation Fund grant, REDF announced our first national portfolio; expanded the national reach of our advisory services; increased our funding of high-performing social enterprises across the U.S.; and built partnerships with businesses, philanthropy, human services, and government.


1997 – Investing in the Next Generation of Social Purpose Leaders
REDF established the Farber Internship Program in honor of entrepreneurial pioneer Michael E. Farber. To date, this program has introduced over 150 young people to the social enterprise field. 60% of Farber graduates now work in organizations with a social focus.

2003 – Becoming Independent
By 2003, REDF had demonstrated the effectiveness of the social enterprise approach. REDF became an independent 501(c3) and began to engage the broader community of business, government, and philanthropy in scaling the social enterprise movement.

2010 – Gaining Significant Public Funding: Social Innovation Fund Grant
REDF was one of 11 organizations to receive the inaugural Social Innovation Fund grant, totaling $7.5 million over five years from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The grant allowed REDF to expand to Los Angeles and beyond.

2012 – Expanding Beyond the SF Bay Area
REDF opened our Los Angeles office in order to better serve our social enterprise partners down south and to begin building a regional ecosystem supportive of employment-focused social enterprise.

2017 – Investing in Growth
2017 marks the second year implementing the 2016-2020 growth strategy adopted by our Board of Directors that set our goal of helping 50,000 people across the country transform their lives through the power of social enterprise and the power of work. With a new national portfolio that will employ about 5,000 people in 2017 alone, and a growing number over the coming years, the results are inspiring philanthropists, foundations, and the government which have already invested more than $50 million toward our $75 million five year fundraising goal.