PBO Trial exceeds expectations in its first year

Ninety eight percent of people participating in the Payment By Outcomes (PBO) Trial for social enterprise say their lives are better now, according a new independent report from Centre for Social Imct (CSI) Swinburne.  

The report, released today by White Box Enterprises and funded by Macquarie Group Foundation, is a detailed independent evaluation of the first year of the PBO Trial from July 2022 to June 2023. The report found that:   

People living with a disability are more fulfilled when working in a social enterprise   

  • 98% said their lives are better.
  • 88% experienced change for the better in income and financial independence.
  • 88% experienced change for the better in relation to their learning and skills development.
  • 74% reported improvements in their sense of belonging.

Unique wrap-around supports are a key differentiator

  • Positive outcomes for individuals is the result of the unique additional supports provided by social enterprises, such as counsellors, youth and case workers, mental health practitioners, but most importantly flexibility and people-centred approaches to work.
  • These supports differ from the traditional ‘wrap-around’ supports disability employment service providers offer and are what the trial outcome payments help to fund.

The PBO trial for social enterprise is the first federal government-funded trial of its kind in Australia, where jobs-focused social enterprises are paid for employment outcomes they create. CSI Swinburne findings complement the first year results of the trial, with participant retention rates of 86.3%, higher than the predicted rate of 62%. 

Luke Terry, CEO of White Box Enterprises, who is leading the trial in partnership with the Department of Social Services, is asking the Federal Government to consider these results closely.

“By government standards this is a small trial, but you can’t ignore the data,” Mr Terry said.

“People who face the greatest barriers to work are getting a job with a social enterprise, they’re staying longer, they’re earning more, and they’re more fulfilled.”

CSI Swinburne’s report includes six individual case studies. Each of these demonstrate the effectiveness of the social enterprise workplace model, and the positive ripple effect this has on individuals.

Sanshia is a 31-year-old woman, while using Employment Service Providers she spent years completing training courses and volunteering at Vinnies for retail work experience. As an epileptic person, she was often sick and not confident to travel on her own.

She now has a job with Green Collect, a Melbourne-based social enterprise participating in the trial. Sanshia talks about how her health condition has improved, how much she enjoys upskilling at work, and of her ambition to become a team leader.

“Since joining Green Collect, I have made a lot of friends and I get to share what I’m going through. At first I was very quiet because I don’t talk much to new people. But now I actually just go forward and just talk."

“The people here are so caring. They understand what your mental health is… Working here has actually improved my health condition. I never expected that I would be working so many hours; so many days.” Sanshia said.

Beyond individual outcomes, CSI Swinburne also evaluated the process of design and implementation of the trial, providing insights to aid further collaboration between government and social enterprise. It also recognises the systems change that has come from the trial so far.

According to the Director of CSI Swinburne, Libby Ward-Christie, the early results are positive, “This report tells us there is a commitment, ingenuity, energy and passion from all stakeholders to work collaboratively and tirelessly to improve the employment opportunities for people facing significant barriers to accessing and staying in meaningful jobs.”  

“The structure of this particular PBO is complex, yet innovative and we’ve uncovered some valuable learnings and insights that demonstrate how social enterprises have adapted to accommodate the requirements of government employment systems.” Ms Ward-Christie said.

Macquarie Group Foundation, one of three impact investors involved in the trial, has provided additional funding for three annual independent evaluations to be undertaken.

Anna Le Masurier, Macquarie Group Foundation, Regional Head, ANZ said: “As part of our wider support for White Box Enterprises, we’re pleased to have funded CSI’s research for this PBO Trial, enabling broader sector and government understanding around the most effective elements of such trials for future considerations and applicability.”

In October the Federal Government released ‘Working Future’, their Employment White Paper. In this, social enterprise was named explicitly as vehicle to help create more inclusive employment. For Terry, he hopes this means the PBO trial results will be leveraged sooner rather than later.

“Our current government recognises the role social enterprise can play. Now is the time to apply the learnings from this trial, not in 2026 when it concludes,” Mr Terry said, “The new Workforce Australia and Disability Employment Services models being introduced in 2025. If we wait, it will be a huge, missed opportunity.”

Head to the PBO page of our site to download CSI Swinburne’s full report and the first year results of the Payment By Outcomes Trial for jobs-focused social enterprise.