A new research report released by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) provides evidence that governments, by supporting the capacity of voluntary organizations in vulnerable communities, can bring about sustainable benefits to these communities and help improve the circumstances of the unemployed.
The Community Employment Innovation Project (CEIP) was introduced as a demonstration project to test an active re-employment strategy for unemployed individuals who volunteer to work on locally developed community projects in areas hit by chronic unemployment. In exchange for foregoing their Employment Insurance or Social Assistance benefits, CEIP offered participants wages to work on community projects for up to three years, giving them a significant period of stable income as well as an opportunity to gain work experience, acquire new skills, and expand their network of contacts.
In effect, the project provided communities with subsidized labour that could be put to productive use in fulfilling local needs. Indeed, communities were responsible for creating decision-making bodies and mobilizing project sponsors to develop projects that responded to these local needs.
The report — Encouraging Work and Supporting Communities: Final Results of the Community Employment Innovation Project — provides a comprehensive analysis of the effects of CEIP on the communities that developed projects and on the unemployed who participated in these projects.
Results show that the CEIP model was successful in promoting local cohesion, encouraging the development of social capital and increasing socially inclusive activities in participating communities. Large positive community effects were achieved for groups served by the projects, in particular for youth, seniors and low income families. Another interesting finding is that individuals participating in community-sponsored projects tended to engage more in formal volunteering during and after the project ended. “This is important for both individuals and communities, as it provides much-needed resources for local organizations and for the volunteers it serves as another link to employment and the community, which promotes greater levels of social inclusion,” said David Gyarmati, SRDC’s research director responsible for the project.
Through the duration of the project, participants realized large improvements in their employment and earnings, increased household income, reduced poverty and improvement in well-being. While the effects on employment rates were not sustained after the project ended, the experience that participants received though CEIP led to improvement in their job and social networks, their skills and attitudes towards work. One striking positive finding was that participants who were previously on welfare experienced sustained reductions in their receipt of income assistance long after the project was over.
All and all, results indicate that an employment program modeled on CEIP would be a cost-effective approach, generating nearly $1.40 in net benefits for individuals and communities for every dollar spent by government.
“The CEIP model represents a promising complementary policy tool to the Employment Insurance and Social Assistance systems; the research shows that this approach could be a viable alternative way to support people who face situations of long-term unemployment in communities where jobs are scarce,” said Jean-Pierre Voyer, SRDC’s Executive Director.
CEIP was implemented in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality of Nova Scotia. The project was conceived by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and was funded jointly by HRSDC and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. The project was managed by SRDC, a non-profit research organization that specializes in developing, implementing, and evaluating large-scale, long-term demonstration projects to test innovative social policies and programs.
For other inquiries
Christopher Mallory, SRDC Publication Production Manager
613-789-9695 / [email protected]