Nia Evans & Lucas Turner-Owens: The Boston Ujima Project [Ep. 158]

If you only have two minutes, click here for a highlight from the interview.

Nia K. Evans is the Director of the Boston Ujima Project. Her educational background is in the areas of labor relations, education leadership, and policy. Her advocacy includes a focus on eliminating barriers between analysts and people with lived experiences as well as 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 project that explores the intersection between drug policy, mental health services and incarceration in the state of Massachusetts.

Ms. Evans has a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a Master of Arts in Education Leadership, with a course of study in Leadership, Policy, and Politics from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also studied abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she focused on International Labor Relations.

Lucas Turner-Owens serves as the Fund Manager for the Boston Ujima Project. As the Fund Manager, he is responsible for loan packaging, underwriting, and managing Ujima's portfolio of investments. In addition, Lucas 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, Lucas worked as an economic policy analyst for Operation HOPE, a nonprofit focused on consumer financial education. In this role, Lucas acted as an advisor to the CEO on government affairs and public policy with a focus on strategies designed to benefit underserved communities. After this time spent working in the economic policy space, Lucas 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 co-operatives in Washington D.C. Following this Lucas joined Next Street Financial as a senior analyst in their Boston office. In this role, he applied his background in small business development and public policy to support clients making impact investments and strategic growth decisions.

Lucas was a founding member of Youth Against Mass Incarceration and has been active in local grassroots movements in Boston in partnership with groups such as Alternatives for Community and Environment and Reclaim Roxbury. Lucas holds a BA from Wesleyan University.

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Interview Highlights:

  • How Lucas and Nia first got into the type of work they are doing today

  • How the Boston Ujima Project is organizing neighbors, workers, business owners, and investors to create a new community controlled economy in Greater Boston.

  • The importance of centering working-class communities of color in the Boston Ujima Project’s work

  • Why the Ujima Project demonstrates new ways to invest, work, buy, own, and advocate.

  • Advice for other groups looking to start similar ecosystems in their own region

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


Andrew Baskin, Partner & Executive Producer at LIFT Economy, specializes in regenerative ag-related enterprise and impact investing that advances the health of our soil, food-system, and climate.  You can email Andrew at


Ryan Honeyman is a Partner at LIFT Economy and author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). You can follow Ryan on Twitter @honeymanconsult or email him