The Boston Ujima Project: Advocating for Change While Creating a Community Economy

Nia Evans and Lucas Turner-Owens Work Toward a New Ecosystem

Nia K. Evans is director of the Boston Ujima Project, which is working to organize Greater Boston area neighbors, workers, business owners, and investors to create a community-controlled economy. Evans has an educational background in labor relations, education leadership and policy. Her advocacy work focuses on eliminating barriers between analysts and people with lived experiences while also increasing acknowledgement of the value of diverse types of expertise in policy.

She is a co-creator of Frames Debate Project, a multimedia policy debate program that explores the intersection between drug policy, mental health services and incarceration in Massachusetts.

Evans has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and a master’s degree in education leadership, with a course of study in leadership, policy and politics from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also studied at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she focused on international labor relations.

As the fund manager for the Boston Ujima Project, Lucas Turner-Owens is responsible for loan packaging, underwriting and investment managing. Turner-Owens also provides technical assistance to entrepreneurs, connects them with business support organizations, and gives financial education to Ujima’s investor base.

Prior to joining the project, Turner-Owens worked as an economic policy analyst for Operation HOPE, a nonprofit focused on consumer financial education. In that role he acted as an adviser to the CEO on government affairs and public policy with a focus on strategies designed to benefit underserved communities.

He also has worked as a loan officer for Cooperation DC, providing technical assistance and expansion loans from a network of impact investors to grow social enterprises and worker-owned cooperatives in Washington, D.C., and was a senior analyst at Next Street Financial in Boston.

Turner-Owens was a founding member of Youth Against Mass Incarceration and has been active in grassroots movements in Boston in partnership with groups such as Alternatives for Community and Environment and Reclaim Roxbury. Lucas holds a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.

LIFT Economy is part of the community of Certified B Corporations. Learn more about this growing movement of people using business as a force for good, and sign up to receive the B the Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like this one, delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

Lucas Turner-Owens, left, and Nia K. Evans

Here are some highlights from the LIFT Economy podcast interview with Evans and Turner-Owens:

  • How they initially started in the type of work they are doing now.
  • The importance of centering working-class communities of color in the Boston Ujima Project’s work.
  • Why the project demonstrates new ways to invest, work, buy, own and advocate.
  • Advice for other groups looking to start similar ecosystems in their own region.

LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm with a mission to create, model and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

The Boston Ujima Project: Advocating for Change While Creating a Community Economy was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: B the Change

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