People-Based. Market-Driven.

Case Studies / Best Practices

The following research reports and case studies highlight the characteristics, outcomes and benefits of alternative staffing as a social enterprise model for workforce development:

Investment Case Study: First Step Staffing
In Philadelphia, First Step Staffing raised $6.33 million from a diverse mix of local investors to replicate its successful Atlanta-based employment social enterprise, which employs thousands of job seekers experiencing homelessness. The capital investment includes $5.8 million in debt and subordinated loans from a consortium of CDFIs, three private foundations and multiple angel impact investors with Social Venture Circle. In its first year of operation, First Step’s Philadelphia location earned $17 million in revenue and paid $14 million in wages (April 2019)

Engage Employers to Address Tight Labor Markets
Three examples highlight strategies ASOs have used to negotiate higher wages, develop customized training to address skills gaps, and communicate the benefits of hiring job seekers with criminal records. (November 2016)

Temporary Staffing for the Hard-to-Employ: Findings from a Brief Study of Alternative Staffing Organizations
Published by the social policy research organization MDRC in July 2015, this report highlights three Alliance members – DePaul Industries, headquartered in Portland, Oregon; First Step Staffing in Atlanta; and TeenForce in San Jose, California – that together represent different sized alternative staffing organizations (ASOs) with different target job seekers and different growth strategies. MDRC staff visited each of these enterprises in late 2014 to better understand what it takes to operate and sustain ASOs as they scale their businesses, while staying true to their social mission.The report outlines factors critical to ASOs’ success and recommends several areas of further research to build the evidence base about ASO workers’ long-term employment outcomes, understand the role of external supports in workers’ success, and test approaches for incorporating technical skills training to help workers improve their incomes and advance their careers.

EMBERS Staffing Solutions Case Study
Sponsored by Trico Charitable Foundation and released in May 2015, this document details the social enterprise journey of EMBERS Staffing Solutions (ESS) in Vancouver, British Columbia, from concept in 2003 to startup in 2008 and then rapid expansion in 2014. Prepared by the Sauder Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, the case study highlights valuable insights about launching, sustaining and scaling an alternative staffing business or similar employment-focused social venture.

Impact to Last, a 2015 report commissioned by REDF, highlights the success and challenges of 10 high-performing employment social enterprises around the country, and outlines five common drivers of their impact and growth. Detailed case studies about Alliance members Goodwill Central Texas in Austin and The Cara Program in Chicago offer additional insights.

Mathematica Jobs Study
Released in January 2015, this study was commissioned by REDF with support from the Social Innovation Fund, and evaluated social enterprises in REDF’s portfolio, including Alliance members Chrysalis Enterprises and Solutions SF. Among the individuals these social enterprises employ, 25% had never worked before, 29% lacked a high school degree or GED, and 69% had a criminal conviction. Mathematica’s evaluation found that workers in REDF’s portfolio companies made significant economic gains, tripled their housing stability and sharply reduced their dependence on government benefits.

Five Hurricanes and an Oil Spill: Lessons from the 2008-2012 Gulf Coast Alternative Staffing Initiative
Beginning in 2006, as a response to economic disruption in the Gulf Coast region and to help inform potential adopters about the alternative staffing model, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and its partners designed the Gulf Coast Initiative and engaged three community-based organizations to launch and operate ASOs: Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, UpLIFTD in Baton Rouge, and Options for Independence in Houma. This report tells their stories and emphasizes four main lessons for the field.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Alternative Staffing Demonstration
In 2003, the C.S. Mott Foundation embarked on a multi-phase demonstration aimed at helping alternative staffing programs enhance and refine their service models, and more clearly understanding how these programs serve job-seekers and business customers.

The most recent report, Finding the Right Fit: How Alternative Staffing Affects Worker Outcomes, was released in December 2011 and provides important information about the employment status of ASO workers over time. Former workers of four ASOs were followed six to eight months after the end of their ASO assignment to better understand the impact of worker and assignment characteristics on employment status.The four ASOs participating in the research were Emerge Staffing, Minneapolis; FirstSource Staffing, Brooklyn; Goodwill Staffing Services, Austin; and Goodwill Temporary Staffing in St. Petersburg, Florida. For details, please contact Center for Social Policy’s investigator Françoise Carré at

In 2012, the Center for Social Policy released three shorter papers based on their research and focusing on:

• The Alternative Staffing Work Experience: Populations, Barriers and Employment Outcomes
• Alternative Staffing Organizations and Skills: Linking Temporary Work with Training
• Why Use the Services of Alternative Staffing Organizations: Perspectives from Customer Businesses

Two reports released in January 2009 analyze previous findings about ASOs’ role in helping low-income, low-skilled job seekers overcome disadvantages in the labor market:

2009: Brokering Up: The Role of Temporary Staffing in Overcoming Labor Market Barriers

2009: A Foot in the Door: Using Alternative Staffing Organizations to Open Up Opportunities for Disadvantaged Workers

Phase 1, 2003-2005, Alternative staffing connects people with jobs

Phase 2, 2005-2008, Project seeks to help ‘temps’ achieve long-term job stability

Alternative Job Brokering: Addressing Labor Market Disadvantages, Improving the Temp Experience and Enhancing Job Opportunities, 2003
This report describes the findings of a comprehensive national study of alternative staffing services operating in the US as of 2001-02. Download Alternative Job Brokering

Getting to Work: ICA’s Social Purpose Staffing Companies, 2003, Susan Eisenberg
This case study profiles the unique history and character of three alternative staffing companies in Boston, Brooklyn and Washington, DC, and captures the key points common to their experience and success. Download Getting to Work: ICA’s Social Purpose Staffing Companies

New Avenues into Jobs: Early Lessons from Nonprofit Temp Agencies and Employment Brokers, 1998 Dorie Seavey, Ph.D.
This excerpt reviews 11 “Lessons Learned” from case studies of six alternative staffing initiatives in Chicago, Columbus, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Portland, Oregon. Download New Avenues into Jobs

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