By Mass. Nonprofit Network

Three Massachusetts nonprofits each recently were awarded $500,000 from The Kresge Foundation to advance innovative services to help low-income people gain social and economic mobility, and participate in a two-year leadership program.

The three organizations were among an inaugural cohort of 13 path-breaking human services organizations nationally in Kresge’s Human Services Program.

Grants were awarded to: Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), in Boston, which works with governments, nonprofit organizations, and policy makers approach to help low-income families achieve economic independence.

UTEC, Inc., in Lowell, which works to help young people from Lowell and Lawrence move away from violence and poverty to social and economic success.

More Than Words, in Waltham, which works to empower disadvantaged youth to take charge of their lives by getting involved in running a business. During the two-year program, leaders from EMPath, UTEC, and More Than Words will participate in a learning and collaboration network to grow as leaders, who will then apply what they learn to the wider human services field.

“This is a dynamic group of organizations who are setting the pace of evolution for human services with a focus on advancing and accelerating mobility,” said Raquel Hatter, deputy director of The Kresge Foundation’s Human Services Program. “Families and communities across the country continue to struggle with the daily realities of living in poverty and the challenges of moving forward. EMPath, UTEC, and More Than Words are reimagining our support systems by co-creating solutions with people to best help them achieve their goals and dreams.”

“EMPath has developed an innovative model that helps families not only achieve economic independence, but sustain it,” said Elisabeth Babcock, president and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways. “These results don’t happen without rigorous research and commitment to innovation. We’re grateful to The Kresge Foundation for its generous support. The next two years hold great promise for families in Boston and beyond.”

EMPath received the grant, in part, to support Economic Mobility Exchange, its rapidly-growing network of governments, non-profits, and human service providers. UTEC and More Than Words are members of the exchange.

UTEC Executive Director Gregg Croteau said, “Young adults have the highest recidivism rates in Massachusetts. Our goal is to provide a job slot in UTEC social enterprises for every young adult who returns to our communities from jail or prison. When these proven-risk young people succeed, the community sees the greatest positive impact on public safety, public health and economic development.”

UTEC’s model combines paid job training in its social enterprises with onsite education and intensive support services. In 2017, it opened an onsite early childhood education center, the 2Gen Center @ UTEC, since more than a third of the agency’s young adults are also young parents.

“More Than Words is proud to stand with the Kresge Foundation, EMPath, and UTEC to demonstrate that we achieve measurable results when we empower our youth as part of their own solution,” said Jodi Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of More Than Words. “At More Than Words, we do this with a paying job in a vibrant business and with a culture of high expectations and trusting relationships. This model works, and this generous support from the Kresge Foundation comes at a critical time as we launch expansion plans to serve more youth.” This grant will support More Than Words as it prepares to double the size of its South End location to a two-floor hub of social enterprise, growing youth served by 60% and earned revenue by 75% by 2020.