First social impact bond pilot has positive impact on unemployed Canadians

March 14, 2018 – The first national social finance project of its kind in Canada has completed its final round of essential skills training with important results for Canadians. All in all, 88% of the unemployed Canadians who received training as part of the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Essential Skills Social Finance (ESSF) pilot, achieved measurable skills improvements.

The ESSF pilot marked the Government of Canada’s first time testing elements of a social impact bond (SIB). Upfront capital for the training program was raised from private investors – Conexus Credit Union, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, and Dave and Pamela Richardson and Family.

Based on the percentage of participants who achieved a 25-point skill gain at the end of the training, investors are receiving 96% of their original investment. Participants will be tested again, 12 months after the last evaluation, and the results of these tests could provide additional returns for the investors who already view their involvement as a successful experience.

The success of this outcome-based public-private partnership approach marks an important step for the Government of Canada, as well as impact investors, not-for-profit organizations and other governments seeking to develop programs with measurable social impact for Canada’s most vulnerable populations.

Douglas College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Confederation Colleges offered the training for the ESSF pilot, helping participants – many of whom had been unemployed for some time and faced multiple barriers such as poverty, mental health, limited literacy skills, limited work experience and isolation – access upskilling to build the foundations needed to succeed in the labour market. Providing this sort of essential skills training is a critical part of the mandate of colleges and institutes.

The ESSF pilot training was based on Douglas College’s Foundations Workplace Essential Skills Program, and included additional services targeted to meet the needs of the participants such as food and nutrition sessions, work placements or Toastmasters workshops. The pilot was funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.

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