TRUST. TRANSPARENCY. PRACTICE. This quarter for our Summer 2023 Investor Update, we sat down with members of our Investment Committee.
The Ujima Fund Investment Committee consists of experienced and like-minded individuals representing diverse backgrounds. These members share a common dedication to Boston’s growing solidarity ecosystem, bridging both traditional and alternative financial approaches. This committee takes on the crucial responsibilities of conducting thorough evaluations of each business, lending their feedback to the Ujima Fund Management Team and assisting our members in making informed investment choices.
Pat Miguel Tomaino is a member of the Ujima Fund Investment Committee and a tenth-grade history teacher at Boston Green Academy in Brighton. He is honored to teach students from across our city, helping them become inquisitive citizens and strong writers. Prior to his teacher training at Boston College, Pat worked for nearly a decade in the green investing field as a sustainability analyst and shareholder activist. Most recently, he was the Director of Socially Responsible Investing at Zevin Asset Management in Boston. Pat has also worked as a public radio producer on WBUR’s Open Source with Christopher Lydon and as a policy researcher for progressive causes in Massachusetts, such as Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 senate campaign and the 1199 SEIU healthcare workers’ union. A graduate of Harvard College, Pat lives in Brighton with his partner Mary Claire and their canine friend Piper.
Can you share how you first got involved with Ujima?
Pat Tomaino: I worked for about ten years in the sustainable investing field, and I realized that there was such a vibrant community of people in Boston who are trying to build wealth in Black and brown communities by redirecting capital to the people who need it most. So back then, I was trying to learn from groups like Ujima and folks like Aaron Tanaka and from the work I was doing in the green investing space. Eventually, folks within Ujima saw I had some expertise in pushing companies to improve their practices in human rights and the environment and thought I’d be a good fit for the investment committee.
Can you share more about how your work on the Investment Committee connects to your broader educational background with experience in politics, finance, and the labor movement?
I’ve lived in Boston for over 20 years, ever since I came here for university. Over the years, I’ve worked in the labor movement in Boston, in progressive politics, and in public media. So I know just how many things have to fall into place, politically, socially, and culturally to make an endeavor like Jazz Urbane Cafe, for instance, happen in this city. The same is true for other companies in our portfolio, and I have a huge appreciation for what these entrepreneurs are doing and how much they benefit from Ujima’s ecosystem.
Because if you’re trying to open a new restaurant or start an apparel brand, access to capital is the critical element that Black and brown communities have been excluded from over generations. But you don’t just need capital; you also need to know the community is behind you, and that’s what Ujima’s voting members provide.
Boston is a city where a lot of exciting cool projects don’t get the oxygen they need to develop, and that’s where Ujima comes in: by helping working-class residents of color leverage their power to support these projects.
What’s your investment philosophy regarding making socially responsible investments?
When it comes to making responsible investment decisions, I focus on social issues and the way that companies treat their workers. I also value the opportunity to invest in companies that are unionized and have a big union presence. I’m not interested in investing in companies with poor labor practices. As a teacher, I’m fortunate to have a pension plan that is managed by the teacher’s union and their trustees, so I trust that process. But that’s not always the norm for other employees.
I’ve worked for many companies at this point that try to manage investments for people in a socially responsible way, and I’ve become a bit jaded by it. I worry that an overreliance on green investing pulls people away from direct action because people think, “My money is clean, so I’m all set,” and they don’t feel the need to make change in their communities.
Ujima is a great response to this mindset because, through the investment process, people are encouraged to track where the wealth currently resides in their communities and think about how to direct capital to places where it historically hasn’t been. Ujima encourages people to think of themselves not just as investors or consumers but as residents with a stake in their neighborhoods and in each other.
What do you imagine for the future of the Ujima Fund?
I’m so excited to see our portfolio businesses continue to flourish and prove that our investment model is a crucial service in our community. For some of the businesses just getting started, it’s cool to see every additional investment they’re able to make in their work, in part, because of the community’s vote of confidence.
Hopefully, we can close more investment votes and encourage other asset owners and cities to do the same. We can’t keep going down the path we’re on as a civilization where capital gets allocated only according to what will generate profit. Most of all, I look forward to Ujima proving that you can invest wisely with an ethic of care for the future and what’s needed for your community.
Read more interviews from the Summer 2023 Investor Update here.