The Ujima Fund is a social investment fund that sets out to empower and finance Boston’s Black, Indigenous and other People of Colour (BIPOC) entrepreneurs, most specifically where there is a severe racial wealth gap. The fund demonstrates a vision of a community-controlled economy through popular education. It pools investments from institutional investors, Boston residents and other individuals from outside of the city. In 2021, Ujima raised $4.5m of investment capital and has invested approximately $1 million across six different businesses.

The fund has two governing bodies that oversee investment activity: the Community Standards Committee, responsible for setting investment priorities, and the Investment Committee, which prepares recommendations to present to the voting members. These committees include current and displaced working-class residents, grassroots partner organisations, community business owners and their employees.

The fund supported a community development fund acting as a pillar for economic development and social justice initiatives in Boston’s Roxbury neighbourhood. Local residents were engaged in assemblies both at neighbourhood and citywide levels, creating community-led plans for the fund. The fund partnered with community organisations to provide loans, investments, and technical assistance to help businesses and organisations succeed.

Communities had complete control over the design of the funds being created, from the partnerships made to legal designation. Additionally, the convening of business leaders and development of a ‘community approved’ business network helped gather information about the financing needs in the community as a means of influencing investment tools. Examples of businesses supported include Cero, an organic waste management service, as well as Comfort Kitchen and Kush Grove Clothing, who received up to $200,000 in loans to support their work and mission.

The Ujima Fund gave citizens more voice and decision-making power and helped to increase access to capital for businesses and organisations in the Roxbury neighbourhood of Boston. This led to job creation and further economic development. Even with the high level of control ceded to the community, investors still earned a good risk-adjusted return.