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REDF Accelerator

Accelerating growth & impact

A unique program designed specifically for the leaders of employment social enterprise

For more than 25 years, REDF has been laser-focused on advancing the employment social enterprise (ESE) field by providing capital, capacity, and community to amplify the success of these businesses and the people they employ. Key to that success is the REDF Accelerator, described as a “mini-MBA” for ESE leaders.

During this 5-month, hands-on program, you’ll work in community alongside peers to learn and put into practice the methods, skills, and tools you need to define and reach key goals in your business. At the end of the program, your organization will receive an unrestricted grant of $20,000 to help implement your learning.

Upon successful completion of the REDF Accelerator, you’ll also become part of REDF’s Community of nearly 200 leading employment social enterprises located around the country, gaining access to additional skill-building resources, capacity building from the REDF team, and the opportunity to continue to learn alongside your peers. 

Meet our previous Accelerator participants here.

Note: The REDF Accelerator will be held in a hybrid model of in-person & virtual. While we are currently planning for some in-person cohort convenings, we are following the recommendations of the CDC for all guidance around large in-person convenings. With this in mind, our in-person convenings may be converted to virtual convenings. Our decisions will prioritize the health and safety of our participants and staff. 

What to Expect

Your cohort of 18 employment social enterprise (ESE) leaders will convene on three separate occasions—twice in person and once virtually—for a week at a time. Each convening includes 30 hours of programming (see an example schedule for in-person and virtual convenings). In between convenings, you’ll participate in ~2-5 hours of virtual gatherings consisting of post-session assignments, social hours, and office hours.

Our unique approach includes:

  • Experimentation Design: Learn & practice applying an experimental approach to navigating challenges and opportunities in your business and employment program.
  • Networking Events: Connect & socialize with our alumni and other stakeholders in the social enterprise community.
  • Peer Feedback Group Sessions: Receive feedback from peers on projects and goals
  • Tactical & Leadership Coaching: Get coaching from consultants and REDF staff.
  • 1:1 Office Hours: Connect with facilitators and presenters 1:1 to ask questions and explore key areas of interest.

Travel Logistics: REDF pays for lodging and most meals. ESE leader pays for transportation.

Our Curriculum

Described as a “mini-MBA,” our Accelerator includes 100+ hours of professional development tailored to the needs of ESE leaders. You will improve your enterprise’s investment readiness with tools that drive strategy, grow revenue, and increase impact in the following areas:

  • Business Model Development
  • Employment Program Design
  • Financial Management
  • Leadership Development

Learn & practice applying an experimental approach to navigate challenges and opportunities in your business and employment program.

  • Business Model Experiment: Using the ‘unvalidated assumptions’ uncovered in your Business Model Canvas, design a customer interview that will give you new data. Ex: What features of your products/ service are most important to your customer? Least? 
  • Employment Program Model Experiment: Using the ‘unvalidated assumptions’ uncovered in your Theory of Change, design a stakeholder survey that will give you new data. Ex: What interventions have the biggest impact on employee success? Least? 

Who We Work With

Mission-driven, revenue-generating businesses that serve individuals striving to build a better life and overcome employment barriers, including:

  • Justice System Involvement
  • Homelessness / Unstable Housing
  • Mental Health / Substance Use Challenge
  • Refugee or Asylee Status
  • Domestic Violence / Trafficking
  • Opportunity Youth / Emerging Adult Applicant

How to Apply

The REDF Accelerator application is currently under maintenance and will reopen in June 2023.  We accept applicants on a first-come first-serve basis and place them into one of our two cohorts: Winter (Jan – May) or Summer (Jul – Nov). Cohort spots do fill up so apply as soon as possible. 

The stages of our rolling application review process are:  

  • Stage 1: Eligibility Screening
    • If you are interested in applying for the REDF Accelerator please contact our team at to learn more.
  • Stage 2: Application 
    • All eligible applicants receive access to the application after completing the eligibility screening. The Accelerator team reviews applications once they are submitted.
  • Stage 3: Interviews 
    • All qualified applicants will be invited to sign up to interview with an Accelerator team member.
  • Stage 4: Notification
    • You will receive a decision on your application within 8 weeks of submitting your application. 
  • Stage 5: Placement 
    • If you are accepted into the REDF Accelerator and you accept you will be offered a placement into one of two of our upcoming cohorts.

Selection Timeline

  • Applications Open for Winter & Summer 2024: TBA
  • REDF Accelerator Program – Informational Webinar: Access webinar here

If you have questions, reach out to the REDF team at

Program Dates

2024 Winter Cohort (Jan 2024 – May 2024)

    • Winter Welcome Session: TBA
    • Winter Program Orientation: TBA
    • Winter 2024 Cohort: Running from January through May 2024, with cohort convenings on:
      • Session 1: January 22 – 26, 2024 (in-person)
      • Session 2: March 18 – 22, 2024 (virtual)
      • Session 3: May 6 – 10, 2024 (in-person)

2024 Summer Cohort (Jul 2024 – Nov 2024)

  • Summer Welcome Session: TBA
  • Summer Program Orientation: TBA
  • Summer 2024 Cohort: Running from July through November 2024, with cohort convenings on:
    • Session 1: July 29 – Aug 2, 2024 (San Francisco, CA)
    • Session 2: September 16 – 20, 2024 (virtual)
    • Session 3: November 11 – 15, 2024 (Austin, TX)

If you have questions, reach out to the REDF team at

Program Eligibility

Applicant Eligibility

Leaders in the REDF Accelerator must:

  • Have strategic decision-making authority within an employment social enterprise business and employment program.
  • Commit to attending all programming and engage in peer collaboration in-between sessions.
  • Be able to step away from day-to-day duties without closing the enterprise.
  • Been in current role at the enterprise for at least a year. Some exceptions may be considered.
  • Be willing to comply with REDF’s COVID policy. Read the full details here.

Enterprise Eligibility

Businesses in the REDF Accelerator must:

  • Provide employment that includes wraparound services AND wages at or above local minimum wage.
  • Have an estimated earned revenue of $100K-$2M for the current year via sales of goods and/or services.
  • Have been in operation for at least 12 months. 
  • Have been employing at least five employees who identify with one of REDF’s target populations for six months. Reference “Who We Work With” above. 
  • Have a team/staff of at least two people that help operate the employment social enterprise.
  • Be able to commit to providing 2 years of key data to REDF during and after the Accelerator program.
  • Be based in the United States or U.S. Territories. – We unfortunately do not support international enterprises at this time. 

REDF's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

REDF aspires to advance racial equity in our programs and funding decisions, and generate significant impact in terms of employment for individuals overcoming barriers. We understand our privilege and power as a funder, and recognize that if we are not actively working to advance racial equity, then we are contributing to the systems of inequity, oppression, and underinvestment in communities of color. In addition, REDF believes that leaders of color and those who share the lived experience of their program participants, bring invaluable expertise to their work and to the sector, and so we seek to increase the allocation of REDF resources to them.

REDF welcomes feedback on how we can continue to improve our programs and processes to advance racial equity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process

Where can I find the application?

If you are interested in applying for the REDF Accelerator please contact our team at to learn more.

When do applications for the Accelerator program open and close?

  • The REDF Accelerator application is open all year. The REDF Accelerator reviews applications on a rolling basis to fill our two cohorts per year.

The team will have a period during the year where we conduct maintenance on the application. We are in the process of conducting maintenance and will reopen the application by the end of June 2023. 

  • Applications Reopen: June 2023

Last Day to be Considered for Winter 2024 Cohort: September 5, 2023

How can I learn more about the program? 

You can access the Accelerator informational webinar recording and presentation here. We have broken the webinar down into two parts:

For questions regarding eligibility please contact the REDF team at

Who should participate?

This program is designed for one leader from the social enterprise with decision-making authority to implement changes within their social enterprise. Examples of past participant roles include CEO’s/ED’s, founders/co-founders, and Social Enterprise Directors. Please inquire with the REDF Accelerator team if you are unsure who from your enterprise should participate.

Can I reapply to the REDF Accelerator if I have already been through the REDF Accelerator? 

Leaders and organizations that have already been through the Accelerator or the VPP (now known as the Growth Portfolio) are not eligible to participate again.

It is our intention that leaders will bring the program learnings back to their organization and share them, and those leaders have ongoing access to their curriculum archive in order to do so.

If you lead a social enterprise that has already been through the Accelerator but have since launched a new business line you may be eligible to reapply.

If I apply and am not selected, can I reapply?

Yes! We understand that your business will continue to evolve and grow, and we will stay in touch to learn if a future program is a better fit for your enterprise

What information do I need to prepare before applying to the Accelerator program? 

Information to Prepare

  • Number of staff (these are staff that do not participate in your employment program)
  • Number of program participants facing barriers to employment (these are employees that participate in your employment program)
  • Earned revenue, philanthropic revenue, and total expenses

Documents to Prepare

  • Organizational chart
  • Income statement (profit and loss statement) for this year and last
  • Budget for the current fiscal year

Selection Criteria

What criteria does the REDF Accelerator team use to review applications?

The Accelerator program operates our review process with the lens of inclusion-centered decision-making – meaning our goal as an Accelerator program is to accept every leader into our program that is eligible and ready. During our review process, we are looking for reasons to include leaders in our program NOT exclude them. To facilitate this partnership, we will be reviewing applications based on the following criteria. 

  • Leadership & Learning Orientation 
  • Business Model 
  • Employment Program Model 
  • Due Diligence

Program Logistics

How much does the program cost?

There is no fee to participate in the REDF Accelerator. For our in-person cohort convenings, hotel accommodations and breakfast and lunch are provided. Participating leaders are responsible for purchasing their travel (plane tickets, etc.) to our in-person convening locations. REDF offers a limited number of travel stipends to support leaders who face financial hardship in attending the in-person cohort convenings. The stipend amount may not cover the full cost of your travel.

Will I have to cover my travel expenses?

The REDF Accelerator will cover the majority of travel expenses incurred for in-person cohort convenings. 

        • REDF pays for lodging and some meals. 
        • ESE leaders pay for transportation. 

REDF offers a limited number of travel stipends to support leaders who face financial hardship in attending the in-person cohort convenings. The stipend amount may not cover the full cost of your travel.

Why is the program hybrid?

We understand that in-person cohort convenings require a significant travel commitment. Our second cohort convening is virtual to offset the time required away from your enterprise. Please note that during this virtual convening the workshops will still be full-day (with added accommodations and tailored scheduling to manage “screen time.”)

Do I need to be fully vaccinated to participate in the REDF Accelerator? 

We approach our role as conveners of REDF Accelerator cohort convenings with a deep sense of responsibility for the health and safety of everyone in attendance. 

Here you can find the COVID policy we are implementing to facilitate participation and safety. Our COVID policy is subject to change, and we will let leaders know as soon as any changes are made. 

Participant Experience

What are the requirements to receive the program grant?

Grants are disbursed at the completion of the program and evaluations. 

How much time will I need to invest in the program?

The three, week-long cohort convenings are full-day. Please plan to be “out of office” for these three convenings. 

In-between convenings, plan to allocate 2 – 5 hours per week connecting with peer feedback groups and making progress on the projects you identify in the program. 

We anticipate you dedicating about 150 hours to this program in total:

        • Month 1: 40 hour in-person convening week + 3 hours/week inter-session 
        • Month 2: 2-5 hours of peer work each week
        • Month 3: 30 hour virtual convening week + 3 hours/week inter-session 
        • Month 4: 2-5 hours of peer work each week
        • Month 5: 40 hour in-person convening week + 3 hours/week inter-session 

How can I share program learnings with my broader team?

All program materials (decks, workbooks, shared materials from the cohort, etc.) will be made accessible via Google Drive. We will also offer suggestions for how to involve your team in specific projects. After graduating from the REDF Accelerator, you and your extended team will have access to expanded offerings via the REDF Community.

REDF Accelerator Alumni

Located around the country, Accelerator alumni are poised to make major moves in the employment social enterprise sector.

More on REDFworkshop

REDFworkshop has the tools, resources, and connections you need to grow your business and increase your impact.

I love the cohort model. All of the Accelerator Fellows are knowledgeable and really passionate about their work. We are becoming such a closely tied community, and I think every startup entrepreneur needs a community.

Jerelyn Rodriguez, Co-Founder and CEOThe Knowledge House

The Accelerator program feels like an MBA program designed for my nonprofit social enterprise. The depth and specificity of learning, and how relevant it has been to my work, is incredible.

Paul Fordham, Deputy Director of Homeward BoundWagster Treats

The community and networking that the Accelerator program offers is fantastic and so energizing. It’s incredible to meet people from across the country doing such phenomenal, impactful things.

Paige Pavalone, Executive DirectorMissoula Works

Being part of the Accelerator is going to help me take my social enterprise to the next level. I have learned so many new lessons and ideas – from other participants and the speakers – that I can take home and implement.

Justin Green, Founder and Executive DirectorBig Reuse