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Measurement & Evaluation

Measure. Evaluate. Learn. Improve. Repeat.

The challenges are complex. The need enormous. Sustainable solutions are those backed by rigorous research and hard evidence. We partner with our social enterprises to collect that data, analyze what’s working, what needs to be improved, and strengthen and scale the most effective and most promising approaches so that more people have the jobs, training, and support they need to succeed.

History of Evaluation Methods

To advance the field of Social Enterprise, in the late 1990s REDF pioneered the concept of “Social Return on Investment (SROI)”, which measures enterprises’ social benefits to society through outcomes. It’s an approach that tracks goals—such as greater income and increased housing stability for employees, reduced taxpayer burden via lower reliance on government assistance, and reduced rates of recidivism—to inform future grantmaking.

In 2011 our commitment to evidence-based grant making evolved with the award of a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant. This Federal grant enabled REDF to partner with the Mathematica Policy Institute to investigate the impact of grant capital and expert technical assistance on the beneficiaries of the social enterprises in the portfolio.

The Mathematica Jobs Study (MJS), published in 2015, measured whether participants at these social enterprises had higher employment and better life stability one year after they began their social enterprise jobs. Results were encouraging: employment rose from 18% to 51% and monthly income rose from $653 to $1,246. Additional benefits included reduced reliance on government assistance programs, and an increase in continuous stable housing. A cost-benefit analysis of REDF’s portfolio conducted by MJS found that every dollar that the portfolio enterprises spent generated $2.23 in societal benefits, more than doubling the initial investment.

Current Evaluation Methods

In February 2018 we began to examine the impact of our investments at multiple social enterprises in our national portfolio.. Conducted by REDF’s external evaluator RTI International, this study will result in a final impact report in the Spring of 2021.

In conjunction with the evaluation, REDF created an Evaluation Learning Committee to encourage social enterprise staff and transitional employees to share, listen, and strategize around the evaluation progress and findings.

Measuring our Regional Impact
REDF is also participating in the evaluation of the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA: RISE), a public-private partnership REDF manages in Los Angeles. This evaluation, which will include over 1,000 participants, will examine promising approaches to improve the social, education, and economic outcomes for low-income Americans.

Enhancing our Evaluation Effectiveness
To evaluate the impact of the social enterprises we fund on the people they serve, we included a perceptual feedback study in our current evaluation, supported by Fund for Shared Insight, a funder collaborative that encourages the incorporation of feedback from participants—on a program’s responsiveness, focus, supportiveness—and evaluate whether participants’ perceptions can predict subsequent job placement, retention and other outcomes.