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What is REDF?

REDF (The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) is a pioneering venture philanthropy that invests in employment social enterprises (ESEs) — businesses that provide jobs, training, and support to people breaking through barriers to employment. REDF partners with these businesses and the entrepreneurs who lead them — providing capital, capacity, and community — to amplify their transformative impact.

What challenge does REDF exist to solve?

Despite the drive to succeed, millions of Americans remain stuck—sidelined from access and opportunity. Some due to the trauma of homelessness, incarceration, and other steep barriers to employment—barriers often caused and compounded by the racial inequities embedded in our systems. 

The net effect? 

We are missing out on all the talent and potential this country has to offer. 

REDF works to ensure this talent is revealed, reinforced, and realized, by investing in and driving demand for Employment Social Enterprises—businesses that hire the very talent others have sidelined—and provide the training, skill building, and support they need to thrive.

What makes REDF different?

REDF is distinctive as the only venture philanthropy in the United States that invests exclusively in social enterprises focused on employment. We advise them, measure their impact, develop their leaders, connect and build the field, and advance policies that help social enterprise businesses, and the people they employ and train, thrive.

In fact, REDF is the pioneer in the field, even creating the model of Social Return on Investment (SROI) to capture the financial and social value of a company. What began in 1997 as a family foundation has grown over 25 years into the REDF of today: the driving force of an entire employment-focused social enterprise movement.

So what is an employment social enterprise?

Employment social enterprises (ESEs) are businesses achieving transformative social impact – providing jobs, training, and support to people breaking through barriers to employment—like homelessness or justice system involvement. Because these experiences are often caused and compounded by structural racism, the majority of people ESEs serve are people of color. 

ESEs exist because they see this talent pool for the strengths they hold, not the barriers they face.

Which populations do you help?

The employment social enterprises REDF partners with provide jobs and broader preparation for working life to people who:

• Have experienced homelessness/unstable housing
• Have justice system involvement
• Have mental health and/or substance use challenges
• Are refugees or asylees
• Are survivors of domestic violence and/or human trafficking
• Opportunity Youth or Emerging Adults

What does REDF do to support these social enterprises?

REDF invests money in the most effective and innovative employment social enterprises around, but that is just the start. We provide specialized advisory services to help their businesses and their employees thrive. That might include helping social enterprises refine their social business model, create new business lines, and establish the best managing practices.

And more broadly, REDF is fostering an entire community of social enterprise leaders by advising them on the best practices in the field, providing them resources to help their businesses, and developing future social enterprise leaders. We also advocate for increased capital for the launching and expansion of social enterprises, and we advance public policies that help social enterprises businesses, and the people they employ and train, thrive.

What is REDF’s reach?

Since 1997, REDF has invested in and partnered with 266 social enterprises in 38 states and the District of Columbia. These businesses have employed over 100,000 people, and earned over $2 billion in revenue, reinvesting those earnings their businesses to serve more people, and create more jobs.

What is REDF’S record of success?

Since its inception, REDF has supported 266 social enterprises in 38 states and DC, with businesses earning more than $2 billion in revenue and employing over 100,000 people (and counting).

This social enterprise investment pays off for society – $2.23 in benefits to society for every $1 invested.

The broader impact is in the lives transformed, as people find not just work but hope, pride, belonging, and self-sufficiency. When people work, we leverage all of the talent available to our country. Families and communities are stronger, and so is our society.

How can I take part?

If you are a business, you can purchase the goods and services of social enterprises, hire their employees, and embrace a more inclusive work environment as part of your company’s values.

If you are a funder, you can support REDF and support the employment social enterprise field.

If you are a social enterprise practitioner, service partner, workforce development professional, or just interested in the field, you can be part of the employment social enterprise movement, and join REDFworkshop, a community of people working together to build the field.

If you are a government official or policymaker, you can champion public policies that strengthen the social enterprise sector and promote economic stability for the people we serve.