Aaron Tanaka

Co-Founder, Director, Center for Economic Democracy

Boston, MA

Accelerate Collaboration, Prioritize Equity, Regenerate Soil & Nature, Share Ownership, Shift Capital  |  Advocacy, Community Capital, Community Economic Development, Environmental Sustainability, Food and Agriculture, Funding / Investment, Worker Ownership

Aaron is advancing a new inclusive economy by building and supporting infrastructure that benefits low-income communities of color across the U.S.

Aaron Tanaka is a Boston based activist, 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 manager for the Boston Impact Initiative (BII), Aaron helps lead Boston’s first local impact fund, directing loans and private equity investments towards Boston’s growing Localist economy. Until 2012, Aaron was the co-founder and executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA). From 2010-2012, 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 visiting practitioner at Tufts University, and serves on several boards including the Asian American Resource Workshop and the New Economy Coalition. Aaron holds a BA from Harvard University and a MS in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.


  • In 2014, Aaron helped provide technical assistance to the City of Boston’s Participatory Budgeting project, making history as the first youth led democratic budgeting process in the U.S.
  • Founded in 2013, Boston Impact Initiative (BII) has directed over $1.3 million in capital commitments to local cooperative, microenterprise and triple bottom line businesses.
  • In 2012, CED funded and launched the Boston Jobs Coalition, which spearheads policy and direct action campaigns to win local hiring and good jobs standards for construction and permanent work from new development.
  • In 2010, the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA) started Boston’s first “green worker co-op,” helping to popularize worker-ownership and green jobs as an urban economic development strategy.
  • In 2010, after a 5 year statewide campaign, BWA helped pass landmark criminal record reforms, “banning the box” for all private employers and setting a national standard for progressive criminal record laws.