Solidarity Rising in Massachusetts: How Solidarity Economy Movement is Emerging in Lower Income Communities of Color

Solidarity Rising in Massachusetts: How Solidarity Economy Movement is Emerging in Lower Income Communities of Color seeks to understand how organizing, power-building, and economic alternatives add up to transform capitalism—as we know it—into a world rooted in values of democracy, justice, and sustainability.

The report examines eight cases across lower-income communities of color in Massachusetts from Worcester and Springfield to Lynn and Boston. Communities are organizing to resist and reform the current system, while building alternatives that go beyond capitalism. They are incubating worker-owned coops, community land trusts, and community-controlled capital. They are modeling an economy and democratic governance based on collective care and putting people and planet over profit. Communities are dreaming big, of building regional ecosystems that can scale up transformative impacts.

Authored by Penn Loh and Sarah Jimenez, this report was commissioned by the Massachusetts-based Solidarity Economy Initiative (SEI), which was convened in 2015 to support grassroots organizations to lead a movement for a solidarity economy. SEI was developed by Access Strategies Fund, Boston Impact Initiative, Center for Economic Democracy, and Solidago Foundation. SEI’s community partners include Alternatives for Community & Environment, Black Economic Justice Institute, Boston Workers Alliance, Brazilian Women’s Group, Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity, Centro Presente, Chelsea Collaborative, Chinese Progressive Association, City Life Vida Urbana, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Matahari Women Workers Center, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, and New England United for Justice.

Introducing Alexie Torres-Fleming & Afsana Jahan

We are thrilled to welcome Alexie and Afsana to the BII team!

Alexie  Alexie Torres-Fleming is an activist, community organizer, advocate and urban planner from the South Bronx, New York with over 25 years of executive leadership in the faith, non-profit and philanthropic sectors. She has extensive experience in environmental justice, participatory community planning and grassroots organizing. Alexie is a nationally and internationally recognized public speaker, rooted in urban communities, with a strong history of building city, state, and national coalitions and alliances. Her life’s work has been dedicated to many issues including economic and democratic change, young people, women and communities of color, community voice, leadership and action. Alexie is highly skilled at building organizations, strategic planning, conducting national field scans, executing field building strategies and designing comprehensive grant making initiatives.

An award winning activist and Harvard Loeb fellow, Alexie is executive director of Access Strategies Fund, Board Trustee at the Center for Action and Contemplation, Trustee of The Sister Fund, and Board Member of Sojourners.

Alexie is a Senior Advisor and Investment Committee member of the Boston Impact Initiative.

IMG_20161106_212230Afsana Jahan completed her MBA (cum laude) in social entrepreneurship and impact management from Heller School of Brandeis University. Over the last two years, during her MBA she worked as an intern with two impact investing firms, as well as a consultant for an apparel manufacturing social enterprise and as a fundraiser for non-profit organizations. She was also a sustainable, responsible, impact investing conference scholar 2016 and is a regional finalist in the Hult Prize 2017. Previously, she completed her bachelor in finance and accounting from North South University and worked in middle market financing and commercial banking research in the financial industry and program management in an international development organization.

Afsana is interested in entrepreneurship and economic development and has consulted and designed many social enterprises in various industries. She loves sun, beaches and music. She is a singer and regularly performs in Bangladeshi cultural programs in the northeast.

Afsana is the Senior Analyst of the Boston Impact Initiative.

Winter Investments

Please join us in welcoming Massachusetts Pathways LLC and Sunwealth to the BII portfolio. BII made a follow-on loan with Tremendous Maid.



Massachusetts Pathways LLC, a collaboration between Commonwealth of Massachusetts, JVS Boston, and Social Finance, is the nation’s first adult education/employment Pay for Success Bond in the country. This $15 million project will provide adult education and employment services to nearly 3,000 individuals across the greater Boston area, north shore, and metro-west. BII made an investment into the project that will be repaid based on successful social outcomes. Learn more


SunwealthSunwealth is a pioneering clean energy investment firm determined to unleash the power of commercial solar by delivering meaningful returns and tangible impact. Sunwealth’s Boston Interfaith Solar Project provides project financing and development of solar on houses of worship. BII provided a loan to help finance clean energy on three houses of worship in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury, thereby reducing their energy bills. Learn more


TMTremendous Maid is a family-owned and operated residential and commercial cleaning business based in Dorchester. Dominican co-founders Rosa Tejeda, Victoria Amador and Nisaury Amador aim to increase employment and career opportunities for their community and have received accolades for their businesses’ impact in low-income neighborhoods. As a current member of the portfolio, BII made a follow-on loan to support business stabilization and growth. Learn more



Introducing Mark Watson

Mark Watson joins our team as Senior Advisor and Investment Committee member. Mark will help us develop the fund’s strategic direction, employ creative strategies to enable investment and improve return, and identify opportunities to strengthen and expand the portfolio.
Mark is CEO and Founder of Keel Asset Management LLC, a financial advisory firm that provides socially responsible financial planning and investment advisory services to nonprofits, public and corporation pension plans. Previously, Mark served as President and Senior Portfolio Manager of The Kenwood Group, Inc., as Managing Director of Equinox Capital Management, LLC, and as Vice President, US Portfolio Manager/Analyst at PPM America. Mark began his career at the First National Bank of Chicago. He holds leadership positions with the Cape Development Partnership, the Triskeles Foundation, Fair Food Network, Museum of Fine Arts-Boston and The Highlands Center.

Fall Investments

We welcome COHIF, Delectable Desires Pastries, Good Clothing Company, and WeSpire to the BII community.

COHIFCoalition of Occupied Homes in Foreclosure (COHIF) works to stabilize the Greater Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester by providing an innovative means for keeping residents of foreclosed properties in their homes, developing permanently affordable housing, and helping replicate those efforts in other Greater Boston neighborhoods. BII provided a loan to support COHIF’s Community Stabilization Pilot Project, advancing anti-displacement strategies.

Delectable Desires

Delectable Desires Pastries offers edible art in the form of cakes and pastries. Owner Carlene O’Garro, a Mattapan native, says that her Caribbean roots influence her use of ingredients and baking style. Forgoing law school to pursue her passion, Carlene has received numerous awards for Delectable Desires Pastries. BII provided a loan to support Delectable Desires in opening its second location at South Station.

Good Clothing CompanyGood Clothing Company is dedicated to rebuilding the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry. They work with emerging designers, eco-fashion pioneers and others looking for a local production partner to scale with them. Good Clothing Company aims to pay workers quality wages and use environmentally sustainable production practices. BII provided a loan to support growth of the company’s Fall River operations to meet rapidly increasing client demand.

WeSpireWeSpire is an employee engagement platform that empowers forward-thinking global organizations to enhance their results. WeSpire helps employees build awareness, take action and inspire others to participate in programs including sustainability, culture and team building. BII made an equity investment to support WeSpire’s growth and expand the platform’s diversity and inclusion offerings.

Introducing Fall Interns

fall interns

We welcome our fall interns Afsana Jahan, Dalia Sawaya and Nic Miragliuolo. Afsana and Nic are MBA candidates at the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University. Afsana is passionate about entrepreneurship and economic empowerment for the bottom of the pyramid. She is working to launch an established foreign fund in the U.S. Nic is interested in community economic development, social impact investing and urban policy, and has been a data analyst in the software industry and served as an Americorps VISTA. He also is a founding member of Boston Youth Wrestling. Dalia is a Palestinian-Californian musician and community organizer currently working in labor and employment law in Boston while she attends Berklee College of Music. She believes that all problems in the U.S. stem from economic injustice and unequal distribution of power and wealth.
Afsana, Dalia and Nic are supporting our due diligence efforts, pipeline development, portfolio companies and social impact resource development. Thank you for your curiosity, hard work and contributions!

Spring / Summer Investments

99 Degrees Custom

99 Degrees Custom is a light manufacturing company specializing in customized clothing and textile production. Based in Lawrence, 99 Degrees Custom seeks to grow good manufacturing jobs in a region once known for its thriving industrial economy. Having made an initial loan to 99 Degrees Custom in 2014 to help secure a major contract, BII provided a second loan to support business growth.



Advoqt designs and implements vendor-agnostic IT services. They aim to become one of the country’s largest minority-owned companies and are focused on creating career opportunities for individuals from underserved communities. BII provided a convertible debt investment to support implementation of key growth strategies.



CERO, Cooperative Energy Recycling and Organics, is a worker-owned cooperative that collects waste from local businesses. CERO increases reclamation and sale of clean paper, plastics, metals, waste vegetable oil and organic food waste, reducing customer trash by 50 percent or more. This is now our third investment in CERO: in 2013, we partnered with Cooperative Fund of New England to provide an early-stage loan to help get CERO started; in 2014 we purchased CERO’s Direct Public Offering shares; and now in 2016 we’ve made an additional loan for working capital and equipment.


Co-op Power

Co-op Power works as a network of community energy cooperatives across Massachusetts, Southern Vermont and Rhode Island. Co-op Power is focused on creating a consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative operating within a regional network, promoting a multi-class, multi-racial movement for a sustainable and just energy future. BII provided a bridge loan to support some immediate cash needs.



Wellspring Harvest is part of Wellspring Cooperative, a community-based cooperative development organization with a mission to create a network of worker-owned companies in Springfield, MA, that provide on-the-job training, employment and wealth-creation opportunities for low income and unemployed residents of the city. BII purchased Direct Public Offering shares to help support Wellspring Harvest in building the first commercial greenhouse in Springfield.

Introducing Our Summer Interns

BII Summer Interns

We welcome our summer interns Chris Kim, Claudia Wong and Katie Schlager. Chris and Claudia are pursuing Bachelors of Science in Management at Boston College. They are interning with BII through the Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Katie is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Science, Technology and Society at University of Pennsylvania. Their projects include development of a social impact handbook, pipeline and market research, and portfolio company support. Thank you for your curiosity, commitment and great work!

Congratulations Aaron Tanaka

Congratulations BII Senior Advisor Aaron Tanaka, founder of Center for Economic Democracy, for being selected as a 2016 Echoing Green Global Fellow!

“Aaron Tanaka is a Boston-based community organizer, grantmaker, and impact investor. As the director of the Center for Economic Democracy, Aaron stewards funding and technical assistance to grassroots groups that build power and vision in low-income communities of color for a new economy. As the startup managing director for the Boston Impact Initiative (BII), Aaron helped create Boston’s first local impact fund, directing loans and private equity investments toward Boston’s growing localist economy. Until 2012, Aaron was co-founder and executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA). From 2010 to 2012, Aaron served as a special commissioner appointed by the governor to advise on equitable job creation strategies for Massachusetts. He is a former Green For All Fellow, a current Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Fellow, and a visiting practitioner at Tufts University, and he is co-chair of the Asian American Resource Workshop and the national New Economy Coalition. Aaron holds a BA from Harvard University and an MS in community economic development from Southern New Hampshire University.”

BII 2015 Annual Review

View Boston Impact Initiative’s 2015 Annual Review

Dear Friends,

Victoria Amador of Tremendous Maid is seeking to reverse her industry’s exploitative labor practices by paying her cleaning workers—mostly low income and immigrant women—a fair wage and full benefits. Diane Ivey is changing the face of textiles by manufacturing hip, urban-inspired yarns through Lady Dye Yarns. And the Dorchester Food Co-op is inviting neighbors to come together as owners and investors to launch a healthy, locally sourced grocery store.

What we’re learning from our entrepreneurs is that it is possible to be economic trailblazers. The companies we invest in are willing to challenge the status quo, to question assumptions and to courageously experiment with new ideas and models in order to build businesses that have meaningful and lasting impacts on the people and communities they serve. But it isn’t easy. If we want to create real prosperity for communities that have been excluded from economic opportunity, then we have to strengthen the networks of support around these entrepreneurs.

That’s why we’re committed to investing in incubators and accelerators like Commonwealth Kitchen and Smarter in the City. It’s why we believe in rebuilding social networks and grassroots organizing through the Solidarity Economy Initiative. And it’s why we think it’s critical to have a dream of what our economy could be—and a practice for finding our way there —through the Ujima Project.

The Boston Impact Initiative is not just an investment fund. We are organizers, field-builders, entrepreneurs, capital partners and friends alongside all of you who work so hard to address the growing wealth gap and ecological challenges of our community.

As we celebrate our 2015 achievements, we look forward to growing a more vibrant and powerful local economy movement in Boston and beyond.


Deborah Frieze, Founding Partner