Founded by Tracey Weaver in 1998 during welfare reform, urban university (uu) is an award-winning 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the socioeconomic status of impoverished individuals. uu’s work is founded on nineteen years of experience delivering culturally-competent workforce development training and coaching services that inspire, educate, and prepare low-income individuals for the realities of today’s workforce.
Since 2009, uu has been operating two social enterprises (e.g., a furniture re-sale store and a clothing store) in Oakland’s Lakeshore Business District. These social enterprises served as a transitional employment platform for one of Alameda County’s most vulnerable population groups– single moms living in poverty. Impoverished single moms often struggle with multiple employment barriers, including a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, low education levels, a lack of workplace skills, and lack of emotional support. Without a job, many are unable to provide adequately for their families’ needs. Their children may have fewer education opportunities, which may in turn impact their earnings as adults; the result is a debilitating cycle of multi-generational poverty.
In March 2017, we made a pivot and consolidated our enterprises into one space, in order to strengthen our financial position and respond to the changing retail landscape. As we move towards sustainability, we can focus more on developing our ecosystem for single mothers living below the poverty line.
Through our Single Moms at Work program, we give single moms the skills and resources they need to transform their lives through paid work experience, professional development and individualized coaching. Single moms hired to work at our stores receive more than a stable paycheck. They also gain skills in retail operations and customer service, which increases their employability and helps them integrate into the workforce. Single moms also receive individualized personal and professional coaching and mentorship from Tracey, who is committed to accompanying each single mom on her journey to personal transformation.
We believe the use of business for social good is one of the most exciting opportunities for catalyzing change in the community. Our revenue is re-invested in our social enterprise and programs to provide life-changing opportunities for single moms. Our experience has taught us that if you give a person meaningful work, you can completely change their attitude toward life and give them dignity and hope. They develop a whole different sense of who they are, what their purpose is, and their hopes for the future for themselves and their families.
Prior to launching our social enterprises (between 1998 and 2009), uu’s primary activities included the design and delivery of workforce development services to include candidate recruitment, program assessment, professional development and individualized coaching services, as a collaborative partner of sector based workforce development initiatives. Successful partnerships included the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Jewish Vocational Services, SFWORKS, Growth Sector, Fresno State Center, City of Oakland Community Development Agency, Laney Community College, and Pacific Gas & Electric, amongst other partners. Over eleven years, uu partnered with local and regional non-profit organizations, intermediaries and community colleges, to prepare more than 1,400 individuals with socioeconomic barriers (e.g., single parents transitioning from public assistance, low-wage workers seeking upward mobility, ex-offenders reintegrating into the labor force) for successful entry into the workforce.
Today, urban furniture & boutique, is located at 3237 Grand Avenue, Oakland, 94610.
PAST PROGRAM: Jobs Now! LIFT
Urban University is a San Francisco based non-profit organization that improves the socio-economic status of low-income individuals through comprehensive workforce
development programs and services.
The Jobs Now! LIFT Program is sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco Department of Human Services. Partners include, CalSac, JumpStart, Growth Sector and City College of San Francisco’s Child Development and Family Studies Department.
The Jobs Now! LIFT Program pilot has increased the number of qualified individuals eligible for careers in the Early Childhood Education and After School sectors.
The Jobs Now! LIFT Program recruited and screened 178
applicants with an enrollment of 41 participants.
Accepted individuals completed a one-week induction training to improve their soft skills and job specific skills. Participants continued to improve on these areas in weekly Professional Development workshops and academic coursework in Child Development at City College of San Francisco.