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WISE Impact

Research Project

WISE Impact is 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 brings together WISE experts and researchers in a collaborative process that is systematically examining WISE outcomes over time. Our research team of interviewers in 5 cities works one on one with new and seasoned WISE workers to collect information on health, social and economic factors. Interviews are repeated every 18 months, and changes that occur over time are identified.

The main goals of the project are 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 will conclude in the Spring of 2022. In the mean time, we look forward to sharing our findings with you along the way.


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:

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of the wonderful individuals who took the time to speak to us helping us complete our first set of interviews for the WISE Impact Study. Your insight has been invaluable. We look forward to meeting with you again soon! 

It is hard to believe that 18 months have passed since we first began meeting with WISE employees to learn about their work experience and well-being. This spring we officially started conducting follow-up interviews with our participants. We look forward to this exciting part of the study.

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:

We completed the second stage of data collection in November 2020 and what a journey it has been! Thank you all who took part in the second round of interviews despite the challenges COVID-19 threw our way. This study would not be possible without you!

We began conducting our 3rd round of interviews in the Fall of 2020 and look forward to catching up with all of our study participants. 

Thank you to all the individuals who took part in our semi-structured interviews. We were able to interview 22 individuals between July and December of 2020. These interviews added a qualitative dimension to our study and will be invaluable in helping us learn more about the experience of WISE worker in the mental health sector. 

Work Integration Social Enterprise Research Project