Innovation summary

There are three essential components to maintaining positive mental health: a home, a job and a friend.  For most individuals meaningful employment is a key element in their economic, social and personal lives. For individuals facing mental illness, those who return to work demonstrate significant improvements in self-esteem and symptom management when compared with those who do not work. Work is a social determinant of health, and a predictor of recovery.1

Causeway is focused on helping people overcome complex employment barriers such as mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness, lack of education and poverty. Causeway offers a menu of supported employment options to meet a wide variety of needs, including innovative training and employment programs, one-on-one support, cross-sector partnerships and socially minded businesses.

Through these initiatives, Causeway not only acts as a bridge to economic independence for persons facing mental illness and other challenges, but it supports other organizations, shares expertise, addresses societal goals, and forges partnerships that are contributing to more vibrant economic development in their city. Causeway is a community economic development organization committed to building and reinforcing community assets.

Impact summary

  • Over 90 persons living with a mental illness gained specific training & paid employment in 4 social enterprises in 2014 alone
  • $650,000 (CAD) in earned revenue generated by 4 social enterprises generated in 2014 alone

"If you cannot find someone a job then you need to help them to create one for themselves, or you need to create one for them."


-Don Palmer, Executive Director

Innovation details

Causeway Work Centre transforms lives and fuels community economic development in the Ottawa region through an integrated network of innovative training and employment programs, one-on-one support, cross-sector partnerships and by creating socially minded businesses.

Causeway began in 1977 as an organization focused on assisting people with mental health issues find employment. Over the years, Causeway has expanded its activities and impact through an ongoing commitment to innovation. Through this commitment, Causeway has been able to support a broader spectrum of disadvantaged people and pilot new ventures that address community needs, through a network of services.

Causeway’s integrated network of services include:

  • Four social businesses
  • A program designed to stimulate employment-related social enterprises in the region
  • Service provision to the Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development
  • A peer-mentorship program to assist persons with a disability transition from social assistance into paid employment
  • A program designed to help individuals explore self-employment
  • A financial literacy training program
  • Two job development & job coaching programs
  • A pre-employment training program for youth suffering from a mental illness
  • A  supervised, community group employment business
  • A micro financing/mentorship program (Rise Asset Development)
  • A fully equipped gym and nutrition-planning program.

In total Causeway operates 15 separate employment-related programs & services for men and women living with mental illness and addictions. Causeway reduces stigma by focusing on the economic productivity of persons living with the challenge of mental illness or addictions thereby adding another dimension to the story of mental illness– that of productivity, economic independence and community contribution.

Social businesses:

Some individuals require a supported work environment in which to gain industry skills, work habits and work skills, and the paid employment experience required to transition into community based, or self-employment. Causeway’s four social businesses offer this.

Causeway’s social businesses are structured to provide substantive training and paid work experience to clients in a workplace of good practice, enabling them to move on to other employment opportunities in the community when they are ready.  Known as the “Step in, Step Up & Step Out” Model, Causeway’s social enterprises are focused on identifying the skills required for each individual to move into community-based employment. A time frame and individualized goals are set, the individual is supported to achieve his/her identified goals and within a set time frame Causeway assists the individual transition into mainstream employment in their chosen industry. These social enterprise offer their employees the opportunity to develop a sense of ownership and to make a significant contribution to the growth of the business in which they are employed.

Four social enterprises operate under the umbrella of Causeway Work Centre:

  • Krackers Katering – a food services &  catering company which has been running for 16 years.
  • Good Nature Groundskeeping – a landscaping  business in its 6th year
  • Cycle Salvation – a bicycle refurbishment & retail business, which provides employment &  training in bike mechanics to people who are economically disadvantaged and diverts bikes destined for scrap and landfill sites. It is in its eighth year of operation
  • RightBike – a cross-city bike sharing service, promoting sustainable, non-polluting transportation, healthy neighborhoods and strong communities while creating employment. It is in its third year of operation

Microfinancing and mentorship program:

A significant number of people living with mental illness and addictions want to explore self-employment, but lack the necessary resources. They can be assisted in realizing this goal.

Causeway operates Rise-Ottawa, the first implementing partner of Rise Asset Development; a joint initiative from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Rise provides micro financing and mentorship to men and women living with mental illness and addictions who are interested in pursuing self-employment. Rise works to empower these individuals as business owners by providing them with access to financing and business support. Rise-Ottawa works closely with Causeway’s CEO Project (Causeway’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity) which helps individuals to develop their own businesses.

Through the program, clients receive small loans and are provided business coaching and mentorship as well as mental health support. The term of the loan is up to three years, and the average loan size is $3000 to $5000 (CAD).

Key drivers

Social enterprise earned revenue

Earned revenue from 4 social businesses reduces dependence on outside funding

Province-wide partnerships

Causeway works in partnership with a multitude of community organizations in the health and social services areas throughout the province of Ontario, Canada. The majority of partnerships are designed to advance pre-employment and employment opportunities for hard-to-employ or disadvantaged workers



More programs and services require more funding. This remains an ongoing challenge as most funding agreements are not long-term.


Causeway intends to continue to expand its social enterprises with a specific focus on scaling up each enterprise.


  • Social & Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI)  - to increase the availability of financial literacy training in programs and at other local agencies
  • Employment Access Resource Initiative (EARN) - to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities
  • Causeway’s newest social enterprise, RightBike, is a true community project which enjoys the support of SLOWest, Citizens for Safe Cycling, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Cyclelogik, and Habitat for Humanity Restores, as well as the BIA’s of both Wellington West and Westboro
  • Rise Asset Development

Evaluation methods

Causeway participated in Innoweave, an initiative designed to assist non-profits to increase their capacity, impact and organizational efficiency. The focus of the evaluation is designed to ensure that Causeway’s social enterprises are transitional in nature and not designed to provide permanent employment.

Through this partnership, Causeway developed a model called “Step in, Step Up & Step Out” which will maximize social and financial return to Causeway’s clients employed in social enterprises by reviewing the entire process from intake to discharge and developing more effective systems and tools to help clients to maximize the value they derive from working in a Causeway social enterprise. Causeway is now beginning the implementation phase of this model. 

Cost of implementation

No formal cost-benefit analysis has been conducted; however the social business model contributes to making this program more financially secure.

Causeway’s social businesses generated $650,000 (CAD) in earned revenue generated in 2014 alone. This earned revenue was used to create additional employment in the social businesses and was invested in the operating needs of each. These earned revenue reduced Causeway’s reliance on outside funding sources from 75% to 72% in 2014.

Impact details

In 2014, Causeway’s social enterprises employed over 90 individuals living with a mental illness or addictions challenge. Causeway focuses on sustainability for its social enterprises, training and transitioning SE client-employees into mainstream employment opportunities in the industries of their choice.

Each of Causeway’s 15 programs/services have specific outcome targets, most of which are dictated by funders.


  1. World Health Organization. (2000) Mental Health and Work: Impact, Issues and Good Practices. 
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