A Californian coalition (The Economic Mobility Collaborative) sets out this vision: “Every Californian should have a chance to work, to discover their potential, and to share that potential with others.” The Collaborative suggests that, among the most important things we need to do is to, “effectively promote evidence-driven approaches designed for accountability and inclusion and needed to restore trust and confidence in government’s ability to solve big problems.” Economic mobility is an especially remote dream for Californians who have been incarcerated or homeless, and young adults who are not working or in school – many who also are challenged by substance use, mental health issues, and/or time spent in foster care. Increasing workforce participation and driving greater economic mobility will require business, philanthropy, nonprofits, and government to work together.
Fortunately, California leads the nation in fostering an evidence-backed solution to employ people overcoming these barriers: employment social enterprise. Employment social enterprises provide jobs, on-the-job training, and specialized supports to people who face high barriers to work. Despite their evidence and measurable success, employment social enterprises face obstacles in obtaining the capital needed to grow due to their unique social impact business model.
To meet this challenge, the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) has proposed to the California State Legislature the creation of an Employment Social Enterprise Fund. With an initial investment from the State, the Fund would make public investments to scale up employment social enterprises. It would also invest in the data and systems required to assess results, in order to improve progress toward inclusive economic stability and mobility objectives. If successful, the Fund would leverage philanthropy’s investment in employment social enterprises along with the revenues earned by these enterprises.
With its widening wealth gap and stark economic disparities, now is the time for California to create a bridge for philanthropy, nonprofits, business, and government to collaborate to support the vibrancy, growth, and stabilities of its diverse communities.
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