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Why We Do It

On-ramps to Opportunity

The Challenge

As the U.S. charts a path toward economic recovery, employers across the country are struggling to fill positions. It would be easy to conclude “anyone who wants a job can find one,” but the truth is that millions of people in America with dreams of a better life remain shut out of opportunity.

People striving to overcome herculean barriers to employment have so much to offer, but their skills and talents are often overlooked. Their life experiences are stigmatized, and for many, structural racism makes those barriers nearly insurmountable.

Justice system involved
Mental health/substance abuse challenges
Young people who are not working or in school
Refugee status
Survivors of domestic violence/trafficking
 Homeless/unstable housing
The Opportunity

As the economy emerges from the pandemic and Americans come to grips with our long history of racism and inequality, we can do much more to create an inclusive economy that will deliver benefits to us all.

Now is the time to invest  in all of America’s  talent — including people with the skills and determination to chart a new path.

Employment Social Enterprise provides the on-ramp.


Employment social enterprises (ESEs) are engines of economic growth and mobility. Just like other businesses, they sell goods and services in the competitive marketplace, but their employees are people who have faced and are overcoming significant challenges, like homelessness and incarceration. 

ESEs provide paying, transitional jobs combined with training that strengthens skills, and supportive services that help create stability and ensure success. When employees are ready, ESEs help them find, and keep, good jobs in the competitive market.

REDF builds the field by providing funding and capacity building services, developing entrepreneurial leaders, and advocating for greater investment to help employment social enterprises increase their impact and grow. 

The Impact

When employment social enterprises thrive, so does our entire society.

Since 1997, REDF has partnered with 219 social enterprises in 30 states and the District of Columbia. These businesses have earned over $1.1 billion in revenue and employed over 73,000 people (and counting).

The broader impact is in lives transformed, as people find not just work, but hope, pride, belonging, and a path to 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.

$2.23 in benefits for every $1.00 invested in social enterprise

When more people contribute their talents to the economy, everyone wins.

George R. Roberts, FounderREDF

Many people of color and other disadvantaged Americans were systemically prevented from fully participating in the “American Dream” for centuries. The social enterprises supported by REDF, and its loan fund RIIF (the REDF Impact Investing Fund) help them break through those barriers through job training and enterprise development.

Lewis Byrd, President of Lanc Industries, REDF Board Member

Employment social enterprise has a tremendous multiplier effect, reducing dependence on public funds, increasing self-reliance, and building a more inclusive society.

Jesse Rogers, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Altamont Capital Partners, REDF Board Member

I very much believe in the concept that the best social service program is a job. It provides self-sufficiency for the individual and sustainability for the organizations serving them. REDF is the absolute manifestation of that principle.

Chinwe Onyeagoro, CEO & Co-Founder of PocketSuite, REDF Board Member