The Upwork Foundation Grants $1.3M To Expand Inclusive Workforce Re-entry

Amy Sept
Amy Sept
December 18, 2023
December 18, 2023
The Upwork Foundation Grants $1.3M To Expand Inclusive Workforce Re-entry

People with gaps in their resumes often face unexpected hurdles when they try to re-enter the workforce. To create better economic opportunities for groups trying to return to employment, The Upwork Foundation is awarding $1.3 million to 13 nonprofit organizations that are making an impact in the U.S. and around the world.

“Returning to the workforce after a hiatus can be daunting,” said Hannah Erickson, Upwork’s Sustainability and Impact Lead. “Workers often feel a sense of anxiety or self-doubt, and may face discrimination or an unrecognizable job market.”

The Upwork Foundation funds activities that support knowledge-work preparation, job creation, and improved quality of life for traditionally marginalized communities. Since 2018, more than $4.5 million has been directed to 46 nonprofit organizations that are building inclusive economic opportunities around the globe.

For 2023, the grant program centered on inclusive workforce re-entry, dedicating funding to nonprofits that help adults from underrepresented and underserved communities re-enter the workforce after taking a two- to ten-year career pause. These groups include:

  • Parents. 93% of mothers have already experienced or anticipate challenges getting back into the workforce.
  • People who’ve been in the justice system. 60% of people who leave prison are unemployed a year later.
  • Military veterans and their spouses. Fewer than half of military spouses married to veterans are employed.

“Upwork knows how important it is to embrace diverse career paths. We’re committed to supporting organizations that use innovative thinking to pave the way toward economic stability and independence," said Sunita Solao, Upwork’s Chief People Officer and Executive Sponsor of The Upwork Foundation. “This year’s grant recipients don’t just create opportunities, they transform the lives of individuals and families who don’t fit the status quo.”

The Upwork Foundation 2023 Grantees

The Upwork Foundation grant program is by invitation only. Identified nonprofits provide marginalized communities with technical and soft skills training, career counseling, mentorship, job placement or start-up financing, and a wide range of wraparound services.

Grant recipients were selected by The Upwork Foundation grant team with support from Upwork’s Giving Circle, a group of 17 employees from across the company, after evaluating70 funding proposals based on their ability to demonstrate:  

  • A clear focus on individuals who have been out of the workforce
  • Integration of community voices and priorities into their decision-making
  • Systems for tracking progress and outcomes
  • A history of significant achievements

Funding for the following nonprofit organizations has been recommended for program-specific needs as well as general support.

Defy Ventures

Based in: Los Angeles, CA
Focus: U.S.

Defy Ventures is a national nonprofit whose mission is to shift mindsets to give people with criminal histories their best shot at a second chance through entrepreneurship, career readiness, and personal development training programs delivered both in prison and in the community.

Generation You: Employed

Based in: Washington, DC
Focus: Global & Rural US

Generation is a non-profit network that creates sustainable economic opportunities for adults around the world. By training and placing adults in high-demand industries like tech and healthcare, Generation helps people improve their economic mobility and achieve financial stability.

Humans in the Loop

Based in: Sofia, Bulgaria
Focus: Global, particularly Europe and the Middle East

Humans in the Loop is a social enterprise that helps conflict-affected and displaced people access digital work, with a particular focus on artificial intelligence (AI) services. The organization’s Training Center helps people stay resilient and self-sufficient through skills training and work that provides digital solutions to clients all over the world.


Based in: Los Angeles, CA
Focus: U.S.

ManifestWorks opens doors for people whose lives have been impacted by foster care, homelessness, and incarceration. The opportunities can be transformational: With a program that builds skills for careers in film, television, or new media, alumni of ManifestWorks programs are significantly more employable with higher earning potential.

Next Chapter

Based in: San Francisco, CA

Focus: U.S.

Next Chapter, a social venture of Tides Center, believes that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. By empowering formerly incarcerated people to excel in tech careers, Next Chapter helps build careers and foster a more inclusive work environment. 92% of program alumni have received full-time software engineering jobs with leading tech companies.

Pennsylvania Women Work

Based in: Pittsburgh, PA
Focus: U.S.

Pennsylvania Women Work empowers women to advance in their careers and achieve self-sufficiency through career development programs and mentorship. This includes career coaching for new immigrants and support for mothers transitioning back to the workforce following incarceration or rehabilitation.

Per Scholas

Based in: Bronx, NY
Focus: U.S.

Per Scholas is dedicated to promoting economic equity through rigorous training for tech careers and connecting skilled talent to leading businesses. The organization provides training, certifications, professional development, and employer connections to underrepresented groups; 85% of learners are people of color, a third are women, and a third are young adults.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP)

Based in: Houston, TX
Focus: U.S.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program provides incarcerated men with the sources, skills, and professional network they need for a fresh start once they leave prison. PEP supports men at every step of the process, including leadership and entrepreneurship training and transitional services.

Rubicon Programs

Based in: Richmond, CA
Focus: California

Rubicon Programs is transforming communities in the eastern San Francisco Bay area by helping people break the cycle of poverty. The organization supports economic mobility with education, coaching, and guidance that focus on four key areas: assets, income, wellness, and connections. The program’s career services are designed to provide resources to help each person reach their long-term goals.


Based in: Bountiful, UT

Focus: U.S.

Tech-Moms helps women transition to the tech industry or relaunch their carers, in any industry, after a break. Their programs are designed to build in-demand skills, bring more women into the tech industry, and help moms balance a rewarding career with motherhood.

The Last Mile (TLM)

Based in: Oakland, CA
Focus: U.S.

Through education and technology training, The Last Mile (TLM) helps justice-impacted individuals transform their lives and transition from incarceration to employment. TLM offers job training and on-the-job support and is in the process of developing an apprenticeship program with corporate and non-profit partners. With support to help navigate this shift, fewer than 1% of TLM graduates re-offend.

Trans Can Work

Based in: Los Angeles, CA
Focus: U.S.

Trans Can Work (TCW) is a TGI (trans, gender-diverse, and intersex) workforce advocacy and action nonprofit that’s committed to advancing workplace inclusion through innovative training strategies and workforce development. TCW offers training, guidance, recruiting, and other services to people of transgender experience as well as employers.


Based in: San Francisco, CA
Focus: U.S.

VetsinTech (VIT) connects transitioning military members, veterans, and their spouses to the national technology ecosystem through education, entrepreneurship, and employment programs. Starting with high-quality education centered around essential skills in tech, VIT gives its students the support to succeed in their new careers.

Closing the global opportunity gap

The Upwork Foundation works collaboratively with the Tides Foundation to process grants, ensuring grantmaking compliance. The Tides Foundation conducts due diligence on each organization before approving grants and issuing funds on Upwork’s behalf.

To learn more about the incredible work of each grantee, visit their websites and follow their journeys. Stay connected with The Upwork Foundation by following Upwork on LinkedIn or X, formerly known as Twitter, for updates on future grantmaking cycles and more stories of impact.

Learn more about The Upwork Foundation and previous grantees…

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Amy Sept

Amy Sept (@amysept) is an independent writer, editor, and content marketing strategist who’s dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes navigate the future of work. As a Canadian military spouse and slow traveller, she has a lot of hands-on experience with remote work, productivity hacks, and learning how to "go with the flow."

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