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Essential Skills Social Finance Pilot

The pioneering Essential Skills Social Finance (ESSF) pilot project ended in the first half of 2019, having been the first national social finance project in Canada to test a ground-breaking social impact bond approach.  

This project provided essential skills training to unemployed Canadians facing multiple barriers accessing work. The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation was tasked with evaluating the participants’ essential skills gains following the training, which determined the amount of investor repayment.  

The ESSF pilot was deemed a truly life changing program by many, as participants gained the tools to extract themselves from precarious situations and even to pursue further education.  

Essential Skills Social Finance Pilot information sheet 

Now and into the future 

The lessons learned from this innovative pilot project will help future social finance projects, including those funded through the Social Finance Fund, in a variety of sectors. In this way, the success of this outcome-based public-private partnership approach also 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.  


Fast Facts

  • 1st national pilot in Canada testing a social impact bond model
  • 88% of the participants achieved measurable skills improvement
  • Investors are a credit union, foundation and impact investors
  • Based on the percentage of participants who achieved a 25-point skill gain at the end of the training, investors received 97% of their original investment

Funded By

Employment and Social Development Canada