Boston Ujima: An Initiative in Community-Controlled Capital
The Boston Ujima Project is a place-based investment fund, controlled by community members in the Boston area to support businesses, real estate and infrastructure projects that would otherwise struggle to find financing. It also blends grants with other forms of capital to reduce risk for local community members to invest in the fund themselves. The organization also fosters community programs and campaigns.
Ujima's initial plan is to invest $5 million for local projects, from fresh food to energy efficiency. The fund also is committed to supporting projects that benefit Boston’s communities of color and prioritizes investors of color. Unlike many funds, which reward investors with greater wealth and capacity to invest for the longest periods, Ujjima favor investors that are not necessarily wealthy (non-accredited investors), offering them the least risk and equivalent or better returns that accredited investors might receive. Philanthropy and philanthropic investments make that possible by building a buffer against potential loss, absorbing the risk of investment for local institutions and individuals that want to be involved.
In the below webinar organized by Transform Finance, Nia Evans of the Boston Ujima Project and Aaron Tanaka of the Center for Economic Democracy discuss the genesis of the Ujima Project and the rationale for their multi-stakeholder, economic democracy approach to capital, and share details on their new fund. Afterwards, Jed Emerson of Blended Value helps frame the Ujima Project in the context of the broader purpose of capital.