Nexus Community Partners is proud to be recognized by the Bush Foundation as a 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation winner! Nexus Community Partners has been at the center of innovative community capacity building efforts for 15 years. Our role as a community partner has served as a vehicle to bring partners from community, government, philanthropy and community development  together to design and implement solutions to persistent challenges. The solutions have emerged over the years because of how we set the table; grounding partnerships in shared values and principles, nurturing authentic relationships, and creating intentional space for shared learning and impact. We want to thank all of our partners who we have had the honor of working with over the years. Together we are building more engaged and powerful communities of color.

Read more from The Bush Foundation

 

Written by Nkuli Shongwe


Nexus Community Partners and Village Financial Cooperative held the first annual Blackonomics Conference. The two organizations brought together over 60 people from the Twin Cities, Denver, Oakland, and Chicago. Blackonomics is an intentional gathering of Black folks in the Twin Cities and the Midwest that are working towards Black cooperative economics and solidarity economics.

The weekend kicked off Friday evening with a welcome dinner where we enjoyed incredible food from Chelle’s Kitchen. The air was filled with joy and celebration. The space was blessed by Amoke Kubat , a write, artist, teacher, Yoruba priestess and community elder who took part in Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. After dinner, we had a fish bowl conversation about cooperation, healing, and Blackness. One of the participants from Chicago was moved by the conversation and suggested that we needed to actually give money to the cause. He spontaneously pulled out a $20 bill and threw it on the ground. This prompted people to dig into their wallets and give what they could to the cause. By the end of the night people contributed over $180.

Saturday morning we had incredible breakfast from K’s Revolutionary Kitchen. After breakfast, everyone sauntered off to the three different morning break-out sessions. Danielle Mkali led a session about the steps of cooperative development. LaDonna Redmond Sanders and Makeda Toure led a session about the cooperative principles and values. I led a session about the historic and present local, national, and international BIPOC cooperatives. During lunch, we had the opportunity to learn about Mandela Foods Cooperative from the keynote speaker, Adrionna Fike. Adrionna is a worker owner of the BIPOC grocery coop in Oakland, California. Adrionna told the story of she found her way to Mandela Foods Cooperative, gave some history about the grocery store and the journey they are taking which included freeing themselves from a disempowering relationship with Mandela Marketplace, hiring more worker owners, and forgoing moving to a larger space which used to house the 99c store. After the Keynote, we had the last breakout sessions. Isaiah Goodman led a session about Becoming Financial, Renee Hatcher, a human rights and community development lawyer, led a session on the legal basics of starting a co-op, and Julia Ho and Salena Burch led a session an building solidarity economies.

After we adjourned the day, we headed to Coop Fest which was led by Cooperative Principles, a co-op investment club. We celebrated cooperating and had the chance to donate to up and coming co-ops incubated by Minneapolis’ C-TAP program, Women Venture, and Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. Each group gave a brief presentation about their cooperative and stated how much money they needed. There was a lot of excitement and jubilation in the air. At the end of the night, people donated money to the coops they were most interested in and the ones they supported.

Blackonomics came to a conclusion on Sunday. We spent the morning envisioning what cooperation would look like 30 years from now. Dr. Rose Brewer, a professor of Afro American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, and Irna Landrum, a digital campaign director at Daily Kos led us through and activity about how we would build, maintain and develop and Black solidarity economy in the Midwest. After a lot of robust conversation we decided to build out our networks and invite more Black folks to our movement. We then identified who wanted to take initiative and be part of the planning process for the next Blackonomics conference which would be bigger than and just as amazing as the first one. We ended our day by expressing our gratitude of being in the space and how we felt after the long yet rewarding weekend.

Blackonomics was a beautiful, melanin filled space, that provided healing, hope, love, warmth, joy, and community.

Participants discussing coops in small groups

Written by Nichelle Brunner


Walking into Room 105 of the Urban Outreach-Engagement and Research Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis, the room setup is perfect for group discussion, planning and work around cooperatives. The large room is filled with tables draped in colorful table cloths, and on the front walls, the co-op values and principles are centered.

In the room, there are over 20 community members, business owners and partner organizations who have come ready to engage and to learn about cooperatives and their role in our cultural history.

This was the first of a 2-part Co-op Learning Series hosted by Nexus Community Partners, a community building intermediary in the Twin Cities. Repa Mekha, President and CEO of Nexus, opened the meeting by introducing the Nexus staff and Nexus’ commitment to a strong, equitable and just community in which all members are afforded multiple access points to generate and sustain wealth.

During the almost 3 hour long meeting, Nexus introduced the room to the definition of a cooperative, the importance of  culturally-based economic development, and the idea of using cooperatives to build democratic communities.

Storytelling, power, and cooperative movements

Following the introduction, LaDonna Redmond, Seward Community Coop’s Diversity and Community Engagement Manager, approached the mic stand.

With a commanding and energetic presence, LaDonna set the foundation of her presentation by defining exactly what a coop is.

Grounding structure of coops

“One, a coop is a legal structure. That means it’s a business. Two, it also has a social justice lens. These two things tend to overlap in a coop structure.”

Once the foundation was set, LaDonna presented the history of coops and the importance of power and oppression in storytelling.

“I will start with telling the story of the Rochdale Pioneers. They say the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 created the contemporary coop movement, meaning that they codified, or wrote down, the principles [of coops] as they understood them. So they show you a picture of 10 white men in England, where one of the dudes had the baddest mushroom haircut I’ve ever seen in my life,” LaDonna said, as the room erupted in laughter.

“But what they don’t tell you is the Rochdale Pioneers organized themselves to take control of their economic destiny. That doesn’t come across when you see the photo of these 10 white men. Me, a Black woman, when I saw this I thought, ‘This is only for white people.’ So when we talk about the narrative of coops, we have to talk about power and who has the power to tell these stories.”

For the next 30 minutes, LaDonna challenged the “white’s only” cooperative narrative by highlighting the stories and histories of Blacks in the United States.

“In 1787, 60 years before the Rochdale Pioneers, Africans formed cooperatives for their freedom in the U.S. The Black Panthers 10 Point Platform has the same values as our local coops. When someone asks me what is a coop and cooperation, I say it’s the Underground Railroad. It’s all the pieces and principles coming together.”

Back to the basics

Participants reflecting on the coop timeline development activity

For the final part of the meeting, guests were asked to get in pairs and participate in a gallery walk. On the walls of the room were pictures and descriptions of various coops, such as New York City’s Colors Cooperative, Oakland’s Mandela Marketplace, Pine Ridge Reservation’s Owíŋža Quilters Cooperative and Minneapolis’ Village Trust Financial Cooperative. As they circled the room, the pairs reflected on common themes and coop principles.

At the end of the gallery walk, guests shared their final thoughts and what resonated with them regarding cooperatives. One participant commented on one thing that is missing from nonprofit and federal programs.

“When we transition programs to nonprofits and to the federal government, community is lost in this transition. Coops can bring that back,” said one participant.

Everyone stressed the importance of getting back to the basics, as was summed up by one of the final thoughts of the evening.

“Capitalism and white supremacy are in place so we don’t practice what is at our basic core. If you take away those things, cooperation is human nature. It makes sense because it’s who we are.”


If you have any questions regarding the Cooperative Learning Series, feel free to reach out the Nkuli Shongwe, the Community Wealth Building Coordinator- nshongwe@nexuscp.org

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, the Nexus Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) graduated 14 fellows from its fifth cohort to a room filled with over 75 friends, family members, nominators, alumni and supporters.

Graduation was hosted in the Paulson Hall at The Swedish American Institute in Minneapolis. Nexus President/CEO Repa Mekha welcomed the group and  summarized the last few cohort’s themes and how they wove into one another on the topic of grounded, deep work in community and relationship building as well as working in systems . The BCLI was honored to be graced by the wisdom and presence of Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, who was the keynote speaker. Commissioner Carter gave a rousing and inspirational testimony about her lengthy road of service in community, expounding on the need for fresh, young and talented minds of color who have the will to serve others and the courage to grab a seat at the table. She reminded everyone of the need to be humble, to remember your roots, and always be grounded in speaking for those who are not at the table as yourself. Above all, her message of hope, retaining and channeling your passion for organizing and courage was a reminder that we have a long way to go to put more equity champions like BCLI alumni on many more important seats which impact the issues that affect our communities every day. As she said beautifully, “we should not stop at being the first person to do this or the first woman to do that, but that it is never enough to be just one, to have just the first, and we need to help and support each other to build pipelines of leaders to come after us and to push into the work of community and public policy change.”

Commissioner Carter’s words were followed up with comments from two graduating cohort members, Jasmond “Jay” Rathell and Yingya Vang. Jay spoke first, and he highlighted the impact of BCLI being a safe space where people of color (POC) leaders could really learn and dig deep into policy issues together. He found inspiration in the esprit de corps which the BCLI fellowship provided, and announced that he was intending to take his leadership to the next level, and would run for city council in his City of Robbinsdale. Yingya spoke to the importance of strengthening a network of peers and colleagues dedicated to the ongoing work of racial equity, and how motivational it was to be a part of movement to put equity champions at the decision-making tables.

After the speakers, the 14 graduates were acknowledged in the official commencement ceremony and given certificates and stipends for their participation. As in similar years, graduates were gifted with a poster from local artists/organizer/elder Ricardo Levins Morales who spoke at the October 2017 launch of the program.

This current cohort hails mostly from the East Metro, with seven St. Paul residents and a few from eastern suburbs. Fellows came with diverse backgrounds and from across sectors. They ranged in age from 23 to 58, averaging age 35. This year’s fellows had interests in seats at all levels of government from local and regional to state, examples include city budget boards to county health services and state-wide ethnic leadership councils.

The BCLI at Nexus is proud to graduate 14 more alumni into its network of leaders, making a total of 69 Twin Cities BCLI alumni, over half of whom have served at or currently serve in appointed boards and commissions at all levels of government in Minnesota. Stay tuned for more information as the BCLI works to recruit its next and sixth cohort this May.


Click here to learn more about Nexus’ Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute.

This program has been adapted from the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute originally created by Urban Habitat in Oakland, California.

Learn more about Business Conversions from Nexus’ partner, Project Equity

For Nexus Community Partners, business conversions to worker ownership is part of its community wealth building initiative that seeks to promote local and broad-based ownership and encourage economic practices rooted in cultural communities.

This work received a shout out in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s “Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability.”

“If you’re a boomer business owner planning for succession, you can’t afford to overlook the employee ownership option,” writes Lori Shepherd in Entrepreneur.

At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business owner to do so?

While the ability to defer capital gains tax is a factor, it turns out there are also powerful market incentives. A wave of retirements (2.4 million, Shepherd estimates) has long been expected in the decade or so to come, and as Shepherd points out, “In a crowded marketplace, transferring full ownership to the workers may represent [retiring owners’] best chance to sell their businesses at fair market value.”

Full article here

2015 HAFA CSA shares at Nexus

Nexus’ partner, the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), just announced that their 2018 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Memberships are now open!

“We are excited to announce that our  2018 CSA signups are open!  We are out of the field, busy planning for the coming season and learning more about soil health and all the new food safety rules.  We will be starting the first CSA crops in early March and have so much to do before then!  In the meantime, your CSA membership will help us buy the seeds and greenhouse supplies, to get these plants growing.  Sign up for your HAFA CSA HERE.

Learn more about how you can support Hmong farmers in Minnesota – and eat deliciously fresh produce this summer!

To answer this question, we turn to the story of the Blue Line Coalition:

With the landscape of our cities ever-changing, the Metro Blue Line light rail extension is planned to connect North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, running through neighborhoods with a majority population of people of color and immigrants. Major infrastructural investments like the light rail extension will impact our communities for decades to come, with economic impacts in the billions.

There is a long and damaging history in this country of transit planning and development negatively impacting communities of color, especially historically African American communities.  We need look no further than the Rondo Community  in St. Paul, decimated by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950’s and 60’s when highway planners failed to engage and listen to the concerns of the community. To ensure that this damaging pattern was not repeated, several community organizations came together in 2012 to form the Blue Line Coalition to advocate for community engagement in the planning process of the Blue Line light rail extension.

Today, Blue Line Coalition members have seen their impact on the policies and structure of the light rail plans, and in building community capacity. The Blue Line Coalition has created a couple of videos that demonstrate the power of community engagement as a key strategy to advance equity in our communities.

Check out the below video for a message to our partners in philanthropy about resourcing community engagement.

Watch the below video for a perspective from BLC member organizations on their experience organizing community.

We are at a critical moment in history.

Wealth disparities across the country are at an all-time high, and in Minnesota growing racial and economic inequalities threaten our econom­ic vitality. The Twin Cities has the third highest employment gap between whites and people of color among the large metropolitan areas.1 In 2015, the overall poverty rate in Minnesota was 10.2%, but it was 16.4% for Asians, 20.8% for Latinos, 32.4% for blacks, and 25.1% for American Indians.2 According to a recent Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) report, it will take the average African American family 228 years to amass the same level of wealth as the average European American family.3

At the same time the trend in disparities threatens our economic vitality, the unprecedented wave of baby boomer retirements could further entrench the wealth gap. Nationally, approximately 50% of privately held businesses are owned by baby boomers, with 85% of owners having no succes­sion plan.4 One-third of business owners over the age of 50 report having difficulty finding some­one to purchase their business.5 This could result in the loss of millions of jobs, billions in tax reve­nue; leading to significant economic instability.

But the ‘silver tsunami’ doesn’t have to be an eco­nomic disaster. The trend could actually provide opportunities to mitigate wealth disparities and root ownership in communities of color. Across the country, the strategy of converting business­es to worker cooperatives is gaining traction as a means to redefine the traditional notion of ownership and build community wealth. In the worker cooperative business model, employees become the new owners; sharing the profits, ac­cumulating wealth, and participating in decision making through a one worker, one vote structure. Worker cooperatives offer a way to promote local and broad-based ownership, provide dignified employment and eliminate racial and economic disparities.

In 2016, Nexus Community Partners and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota began conducting a landscape analysis to assess the potential impact on our local economy and to identify potential opportunities for conversions to worker coop­eratives. What follows are the results, a case for worker cooperatives and a set of recommenda­tions for how the Twin Cities region can support the growth of the cooperative sector in commu­nities of color.

Click here to continue reading the Impact Brief: Business Conversions to Worker Cooperatives.

A Broader Framework for Economic Development:

Nexus Community Partners Elevates Community Wealth Building in the Twin Cities

Juxtaposition Arts, Broadway,North Mpls

In 2015, Nexus approved a new strategic plan that affirmed our mission of building more engaged and powerful communities of color. As part of the process, we clarified our approach to achieving the mission and identified three core ingredients to ensure just and equitable communities:

  • Authorship: Engaging community

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are engaged in and have authorship of their lives and their future. Nexus builds infrastructure for stronger community engagement learning and practice.

  • Leadership: Cultivating power

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are seen as leaders, are given ample opportunities to grow in their leadership, and are able to represent their communities in multiple spaces. Nexus invests in and cultivates leaders of color who are working to advance a broader agenda for equity.

  • Ownership: Building community wealth

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are afforded ample access points to generate wealth and to own the wealth they have helped to generate. Nexus challenges practitioners, community leaders and investors to use a community wealth-building framework to revitalize our communities.

As part of the focus on ownership, Nexus expanded our individual asset and wealth building work to include a more comprehensive community wealth building framework.

Community wealth building is a place-based, systems approach to community economic development that ensures local and broad-based ownership; develops cooperative and other reinforcing economic enterprises; utilizes culturally-based economic models; invests in assets that are rooted locally; and engages the procurement power of institutional partners. CWB is grounded in the values of equity, culture, mutuality and stewardship. (See our short community wealth building film here)

In 2016, we carried out a number of activities targeted at “Seeding” and elevating the framework, building shared knowledge and developing partnership to carry our community wealth building work forward. Over the summer, Nexus hosted a three part learning series that focused on the role of anchor institutions and worker owned business models in building community wealth, as well as a session on new financial tools being deployed to promote local and broad based ownership.

In the fall, we partnered with Oakland- based Project Equity to conduct an ecosystem mapping exercise with cross sector partners to begin building an infrastructure in the Twin Cities to support the growth of Worker Cooperatives of Color. Our work in the “seeding” phase included developing and presenting an analysis in partnership with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) around the potential for business conversions to worker ownership. (Read the report, “Worker Ownership A Pathway to Strong Local Economies”)

In 2017, Nexus will focus on cultivating the seeds planted in 2016. Efforts will include launching a Black Cooperative Economics Academy; convening a cohort of stakeholders to build a network of Technical Assistance providers of color; strengthening relationships with key organizations, institutions and community leaders around cooperative models, anchor procurement and financial tools; targeted regranting and finally, partnering with the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation’s C3 VISTA program to develop a Community Wealth Building Cohort.

Want to learn more? Please contact Elena Gaarder at egaarder@nexuscp.org to learn more.

On Thursday, November 12, 2015, the BCLI 2015 Cohort kicked off with their very first Issue Series. At the helms were the wonderful Diane Tran and Kristell Caballero Saucedo, both of LOCUS (of MN Rising). The topic of this first Issue Series was Intersectionality, or the critical theory of institutional oppression of individuals across all demarcations of their identities (gender, race, sex, class, etc.). The facilitators did a great job directing small group discussions after the “Who are you?” ice breaker. Ground rules were set for community expectations, and everyone seemed to enjoy engaging in the types of conversations they would not otherwise have at home or work, thanks to the safe space of this evening’s BCLI issue series. Thanks to Diane and Kristell for their leadership and insights. Below you will find some resources that the trainers shared at the Issue Series as well as some pictures.

 

Kyriarchy 101

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/04/kyriarchy-101/

 

Kyryiarchy Diagram

http://oppressionmonitor.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Kyriarchy-Diagram.jpg

 

Key & Peele code switch sketch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzprLDmdRlc

 

About LOCUS

http://locusmn.blogspot.com/

 

LOCUS Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/locusmn/

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