The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) is a venture philanthropy organization that was established in 1997 by George R. Roberts. Roberts, who is best known for being a co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. alongside Henry Kravis, created REDF to “create jobs and employment opportunities for people facing the greatest barriers to work.”
REDF is San Francisco based and has an office in Los Angeles as well. It is currently led by several full-time staff members, a Board of Directors, and an Advisory Council. Its funding is provided by an array of private (individual and institutional) donors, as well as through the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund.
REDF helps create jobs by providing “equity-like grants and business assistance” to non-profits working on starting and expanding social enterprises. By growing these programs, organizations are able to offer more work to young people and adults who need it the most—those not attending school or working, ex-convicts, those suffering from mental illnesses, and those who would otherwise have to rely on charity and federal assistance to survive.
Since its founding fifteen years ago, REDF has supported 50 social enterprises and they in turn have employed 6,500 people, 77% of which still held their jobs two years after starting. In that time, average wages have gone up by 31% and monthly employee incomes have increased by 90%—nearly doubling.
REDF’s goal is to continue expanding and creating opportunities for Californians to live sustainable and independent from welfare. By 2015, it hopes to expand enough to offer a further 2,500 jobs. Particularly in the case of parolees, this program could make a huge difference. As it stands, close to 70% of parolees re-offend within three years—a statistic that can dramatically decrease with the use of social enterprise. It would seem that particularly in this case, their tagline is appropriate:
“Investing in Employment and Hope.”