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Work. 2012;41(4):455-63. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2012-1313.

Social firms: a means for building employment skills and community integration.

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  • 1School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.



Social firms are widely used in Europe as a means of affirmatively creating employment opportunities and training for employment challenged groups. These commercial businesses produce, market and sell goods and services to the public while providing opportunities for productive engagement, increased incomes, and social integration for their employees.


This article presents a case study of a Norwegian social firm that was created to improve employment and functional outcomes for workers with mental health disabilities and addictions. The case illustrates one model of social firm, and is used as the foundation for discussion of the relative contributions of social firms to employment outcomes for people who are marginalized in the labour market.


The social firm represented a major change in philosophy and operations for mental health service provision in the local municipality. Numbers of individuals served increased dramatically, and changes were observed in the extent and nature of participant daily involvement, and in outcomes achieved. This model brings participants into contact with the public, and has served to break down barriers and reduce stigma.


Social firms represent a viable alternative for creating employment options and training and for enhancing social integration of people with mental health disabilities.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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