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WISE Impact

Research Project

WISE Impact was a 5 year study of work integration social enterprises (WISEs) in Ontario, and how they can impact the lives of people with mental illnesses and change communities. Our project brought together WISE experts and researchers in a collaborative process that systematically examined WISE outcomes over time. Our research team of interviewers in 5 cities met with new and seasoned WISE workers to collect information on health, social and economic factors 3 times each over a three year period. We also did interviews with supervisors and WISE administrators.

The main goals of the project were to answer these questions:

  • Who works in WISEs – and why do they choose WISE?
  • How does WISE participation impact social and labour market integration for people with serious mental illness?
  • What differences can be seen in the level and nature of change in socio-economic indicators for people who remain in a WISE as compared with those workers who move on to other learning or employment options?

The WISE Impact study concluded in the Spring of 2022. We continiue to work on publications, presentations and other outreach and will be posting new materials on this site as they emerge over the next couple of years.


Kelley Packalen, PhD. of the WISE Impact Research team will present two papers this summer based on WISE Impact findings. The first, Fostering an Environment of Support within Work Integration Social Enterprises will be presented at the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion conference at University of London, 10-11 July 2023. The second, Hybridity in Action: Supervisory Tensions Balancing Social and Economic Goals in WISEs will be presented at the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2023 conference in Toronto, June 3 - 5. 

The Social Business Creation (SBC) global conference 2023 will be held in Montreal from June 15 – 23, 2023, with both online and in-person options. Visit for more information.

The WISE Impact Study was recently featured on the Queen's University School of Rehabiliation Therapy Blog.

You can read more about our work by clicking on this link:

New research reveals that non-profits tempted by the social enterprise model do not necessarily lose sight of their social mission in favour of profits. The “enterprise” side does not need to dominate the “social” side. In fact, the opposite can be true. Injecting some earned revenue into a non-profit organization can not only provide some welcome relief to their bottom line, but also has the potential to enhance and deepen their social mission 

You can read more about this work by clicking on this link:

Check out this wonderful new video from Rainbow's End, one of our WISE Impact study partners, which describes the tremandous impact their work has on the lives of individuals living with a mental illness. A link to the video can be found here:

Keep up the great work, Rainbow's End!

The Cooperators created a new video summarizing the impact that one of our study partners, Working for Change, has on the lives of their employees and the community. Filmed at the College Street Café, the video highlights the positive impact that employment can have on the road to recovery. A link to the video can be found here 

Green Thumb Purple Flowers Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprises (PGTE) , an award-winning Eco-Landscaping social enterprise, specializes in beautifying Toronto neighbourhoods! PGTE offers landscaping and streetscaping services to a wide range of commercial clients, as well as non-profit organizations, hospitals and community organizations.
As one of the enterprises operated by Working for Change, PGTE emphasizes the importance of work in the lives of individuals who experience employment challenges due to poverty and mental health issues. In addition to caring for people, PGTE is helping promote ‘Regenerative Landscaping’ - a landscaping approach that focuses on pulling carbon from the atmosphere and into the soil by planting commercial urban green spaces with native plant species whenever possible, and reviving depleted soils with natural products and methods.
PGTE staff use public transit and bicycles to access work sites, minimizing their reliance on trucks and relying on portable, hand-held watering equipment to reduce water waste, all the while providing employment to 20 individuals.
Check out some of Parkdale Green Thumb’s Enterprises stunning work by clicking on the following link:

Work Integration Social Enterprise Research Project