Youth of color reimagining futures they can shape and own.


Civil Labs is a social enterprise that cultivates young leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset.

We empower youth of color to make change in their community, and give them the resources to do so.

Our Oakland-based social enterprise is creating an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem for young people of color. We launch ventures that create immersive learning experiences for young people to develop their collaborative ability, maturity, leadership, and perseverance.


Big Idea

Create immersive learning opportunities that use entrepreneurship and design thinking to engage the hands, minds, and hearts of young people of color in imagining and realizing a more just and inclusive future for themselves and their communities.  We are not about creating the next great entrepreneur per se. We are about working with young people to reframe the way that they see their community, and the problems and opportunities within it. With one foot in childhood and another in adulthood, adolescent youth are uniquely placed to access the intellectual agility and creative capacity to dream big and accept bold ideas at face value. Given a safe space to dream, they have immense potential to imagine beautiful new futures. We want all young people to realize that the future they see is not conceptual but one that they can shape and own.



In 2016 we launched two ventures: a charitable after-school youth program and a for-profit artisanal food business.  We have also been incubating a social impact real estate development for a commercially viable community center since 2014.

Youth Startup Lab

Youth Startup Lab

Youth Startup Lab

Youth Startup Lab, our food entrepreneurship program, develops the entrepreneurial mindset in middle school youth of color.  Participants design a food business over 10-weeks. The after-school program is delivered at partner youth centers in Oakland.

civil pops

civil pops

civil pops

civil pops, is our first youth-focused small business. civil pops exists to create good jobs for youth of color. civil pops makes handmade, local, organic, frozen treats.

Imagine a food hub here instead...

Imagine a food hub here instead...

food community center

Civil Labs Oakland, is our vision for a commercially viable community center. We plan to convert a light industrial property into a vibrant space for food production and learning consisting of commercial kitchens for growing food artisans and a learning kitchen for youth programming.


"Collaboration is critical to success for individuals, and the economy."

Isaac Buwembo|  Co-Founder


Our Story

We founded Civil Labs in response to the economic shifts occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the disproportionately negative effects of these changes on long-time residents of color. We wondered: how might communities of color better benefit from the upside of economic growth? We believe one answer lies in the inherent creative potential of young people. Civil Labs works to amplify the potential of young people to change their communities by giving them the resources to do so: educational opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and craft; places where youth of color feel welcomed and can put their creative potential to work; good jobs that pay well and expose young people to the design and operation of a community business.

We are proudly based in Oakland. We believe in an Oakland where youth of color are increasingly recognized as social and cultural innovators and as leaders of change. We believe this vision for Oakland can become an inspiration for cities across the country.