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

 

Nexus’ longtime partner and board member, Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), was recently featured in The New Food Economy:

Pakou Hang, 42, was born in Thailand, but she’s been an American for all but two weeks of her life. Hang, the child of Hmong refugees resettled in the United States and grew up in Wisconsin, where her parents supported the family by farming. Today, that history deeply informs Hang’s own work: She’s co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), headquartered on a 155-acre research and incubator farm 15 miles south of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Facing persecution as U.S. allies in the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War, more than 100,000 Hmong refugees have relocated to the United States since the 1970s. They brought their agricultural prowess with them. In past decades, Hmong-American farmers helped to pioneer the contemporary local food movement in California and the Midwest, popularizing ingredients like Thai chili peppers and bok choy; today, Hmong farmers account for more than half of the produce sold in St. Paul’s farmers’ markets. Founded in 2011, HAFA helps to sustain that legacy by providing pilot plots, professional training, and a food hub—the key piece of processing and distribution infrastructure that makes doing business possible. 

Hang spoke about her upbringing, her childhood resistance to the farm life, and why she decided to come back home and make agriculture her calling and career.

Read the full story here.

We are so proud to call Pakou a partner, and are excited to see the continued growth and support for HAFA and Hmong farmers both locally and nationally! Cheers to you Pakou!!

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.

The newest member of the Nexus team discusses titles, collectivism, and the power of love

Joining a little over a month ago, Chao currently serves as the Director of Strategic Development; however, she is quick to note that, “titles are just titles,” and it does not say much about her job. In her role, she focuses on development, but also communications, evaluation, fund management and relationships, and strategic planning.

Before coming to Nexus, Chao worked at a corporate foundation for close to three years where she funded communities in East Asia, United States and Minnesota; however, the experience taught her that she belonged in community.

“Here [at Nexus], community is everything, where corporate philanthropy is more about reputational giving. Being Hmong and coming from a collective community, I was missing out on being a part of an organization that valued me and my lived experiences as an asset.  Before Nexus, I was serving communities globally, but I knew I could do more at home.”

With the first month under her belt, Chao is enjoying the new organizational culture of Nexus.

“What’s really amazing is Nexus has this deep, profound culture that leans towards collectivism. The relationships here are good and real. Being here reminds me of who I am and what my purpose is. I went through an emotional journey from self-reflection to acceptance.”

When asked to describe herself, Chao does away with the professional titles and jargon.

“I’m a walking contradiction. Often when people are asked to describe themselves, they jump to characteristics and titles. I live in moments, I’m complicated, and I’m complex. I can go from one spectrum to another depending on the context. I’m a big believer in love. Everyone’s motivations, at the end of the day, are to be loved and to love. My growth game is strong. If I’m not growing, I see it as a problem.

Outside of Nexus, Chao is staying busy with writing a memoir on her aunt, who is the oldest missing persons case in the Twin Cities; starting a healing-focused podcast; and providing career coaching for professionals.


Written by Nichelle Brunner

Update 10/25/18: Deadline to apply extended to November 2, 2018. 


Nexus Community Partners Seeks a Full-time Finance and HR Associate (32 hours/week).

Nexus Community Partners is a community-building intermediary whose mission is to “build more engaged and powerful communities of color by supporting community-building initiatives and fostering social and human capital.” We work to make sure that communities of color are at the forefront of making decisions that impact them and that they have the power and tools to generate and maintain wealth.

The major activities that Nexus engages in are:

  • Systems Change: As an intermediary, we bridge partnerships between other funders, partners in the public sector, and community partners (such as neighborhood organizations and small nonprofits) to develop more equitable systems in areas like transit planning, philanthropy, and public health.
  • Capacity Building Support: As a funder, we strengthen the power of on-the-ground organizations in communities of color through financial support and technical assistance. We help these organizations build their leadership and organizational infrastructure, develop programs, implement community engagement strategies, improve their fundraising, and more.
  • Building Leaders: We provide leadership development opportunities for people of color interested in influencing public policy and developing community wealth through cooperative economics.

Position Responsibilities

Finance

  • Manage the Accounts Payable process including processing invoices and check requests, recording monthly automatic payments, processing monthly employee expense reports, recording monthly credit card and debit reports, printing checks, and mailing payments.
  • Assist with Accounts Receivable including recording and preparing deposits of checks received via mail, record electronic deposits, record grants received, and assist with Nexus’ invoices.
  • Assist with the annual audit by preparing electronic and paper files in accordance with Nexus’ financial policies and working with the Director of Finance and HR.
  • Assist the Director of Finance and HR in the areas of budgeting, financial reporting, and expense analysis.

HR

  • Assist with the hiring process including the posting of new positions, managing incoming resumes and inquires, printing resumes for review committees, responding via email to all applicants, and assist with onboarding.
  • Assist with administering PTO including following up with Nexus staff and updating ADP.
  • Assist with benefits administration as needed.
  • Assist the Director of Finance and HR in other areas as needed.

Qualifications:

  • Associate’s degree preferred and/or 2-3 years relevant experience in nonprofit and/or community work.
  • Must be detail oriented.
  • Experience working in A/P and/or A/R.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Excel, required.
  • Experience working in QuickBooks and/or QuickBooks for Nonprofits a plus.
  • Curiosity and a willingness to learn.
  • Ability to self-motivate and self-direct; organize own work, set priorities and meet critical deadlines.
  • Flexibility regarding work assignments and ability to respond positively to changing demands and priorities.
  • Understands and embraces efforts that promote racial, social and economic equity and asset-based community change.
  • Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.
  • Ability to work in a team environment.
  • Demonstrated experience in exercising a high level of discretion and integrity in carrying out financial and HR support duties of a confidential nature.
  • You need to be able to both see possibility and ask hard questions with respect and discretion.
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills.

The ideal candidate would be able to start December 2018 or January 2019.

Nexus offers competitive compensation commensurate with experience and a highly participatory, mutually supportive workplace.  We are committed to the personal and professional growth of all staff.

Salary & Benefits:

Salary range: $19.00 – $23.00/hour plus a comprehensive benefits package as a full time employee. Nexus offers two health insurance options and pays for 80-90% of the coverage for the entire family.  Employees receive 6 holidays and 6 optional holidays.  Nexus has a wellness program that offers 2 hours of wellness time each week, $500 of reimbursable wellness dollars each year, and staff wellness events.

The Finance and HR Associate will report to the Director of Finance and HR.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by November 2, 2018 to:

Felicia Ring

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114

Email:  hr@nexuscp.org

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

Qualified Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship is proud to announce our 2018-19 cohort! Please help us welcome the following fellows:

  1. Chalonne Wilson
  2. Duaba Unenra
  3. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski
  4. Ini Augustine
  5. Jasmine Boudah
  6. Jolene Mason
  7. Kadijah Parris
  8. Marcus Harcus
  9. Quanda Arch
  10. Quincy Ballard
  11. Roxxanne O’Brien
  12. Shiranthi Goonathilaka
  13. Stacey Rosana
  14. Tia Williams
  15. Tyree Gulley

Keep following us here for more updates on their cooperative focus, photos and progress!

Top Left to Right: Stacey Rosana, Quincy Ballard, Ini Augustine, Marcus Harcus, Duaba Unenra, Repa Mekha (Nexus President),  Tyree Gulley, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Chalonne Wilson, Quanda Arch, Tia Williams, Roxxanne O’Brien

Middle Left to Right: Danielle Mkali (Nexus), Nkuli Shongwe (Nexus), Selah Michele (Guest facilitator & NSBCF Alumni 17-18), Shiranthi Goonathilaka

Front Left to Right: Kadijah Parris, Jasmine Boudah

Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) is proud to welcome Caitlin Schwartz, Sindy Morales Garcia and Venessa Fuentes to our NCEI Advisory Committee!

NCEI advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. The NCEI Advisory Committee is composed of local community engagement practitioners who guide and support the work of the Institute, helping to provide vision and strategy as well as to develop and co-lead trainings and workshops on community engagement with NCEI staff.

We’re honored to have the wisdom and experience of Caitlin, Sindy and Venessa to help ground and guide this work moving forward – please help us welcome them to the team!

Get to Know the New NCEI Advisory Committee Members


Caitlin Schwartz

Caitlin Schwartz has over 12 years of experience in community engagement, organizing, and grassroots leadership development, most recently working on Metro Transit’s Community Outreach & Engagement Team and serving as board member and development committee chair with the Headwaters Foundation for Justice. Her passion is in constituent leadership and ensuring that people are centered in the planning and decision-making that impact their lives. A first-generation college student, she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas, studying Justice & Peace Studies and Sociology.

Sindy Morales Garcia

Driven by a commitment to equity and wholeness, Sindy works with Wilder’s Community Initiatives team to catalyze the cultural shifts needed to co-create transformational and sustainable change. Her work is informed by a rich tapestry of experiences in higher-education advocacy, community collaborations, and faith-based activism. As a facilitator, Sindy enjoys cultivating spaces of meaningful reflection and dialogue that enable participants to strategically advance new thinking and action in their lives and work.

Originally from Quetzaltenango Guatemala, Sindy comes from a family of community organizers. Her family’s narrative of struggle, resilience, and strategic disruption led her to center her personal and educational journey on deepening her understanding of liberation, healing, and social justice. This includes a degree in Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University, community organizing and public policy at the Silberman School of Social Work, and liberation theology and social ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

Venessa Fuentes

Venessa is a local artist and advocate who, since 1997, has worked in Twin Cities arts, community development, and grantmaking nonprofits. Recently, she held positions at the Bush Foundation and Jerome Foundation – both in grantmaking and communications. Venessa is an alum of the inaugural cohort of the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship.

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

How do you effectively tell the story and impacts of authentic community engagement? How can we capture, evaluate and communicate the power of community engagement?

Join us for our next Engaged Learning Series to explore Storytelling & Evaluating Community Engagement with a dynamic panel of community leaders.

The session will begin with a facilitated panel with community engagement practitioners from Frogtown Neighborhood Association and another local organization (to be confirmed), who will share how storytelling has been a means of capturing the process and outcomes of authentic community engagement. Following Q&A, we’ll break into small group dialogue to explore challenges and questions regarding effective storytelling and evaluation of community engagement, and what opportunities you see in your own engagement practices to more authentically tell the story of engagement with community.

Date: Thursday, August 9, 2018
Time: 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Breakfast & Networking: 9-9:30am
Program: 9:30-11:30am

Location: International Institute of Minnesota
1694 Como Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55108

Click here for more info and to register!

In June 2018, Nonprofit Quarterly featured Nexus Community Partners’ Community Wealth Building (CWB) work – the framework, the programs and collaborations:

In adopting a community wealth-building frame, Nexus borrowed heavily on the work of others… But Nexus has also sought to make the ‘community wealth-building’ approach its own. This includes redefining community wealth-building by developing its own set of eight principles, including equity, mutuality, stewardship, and attention to cultural practices. The cultural practices principle in particular illustrates the unique ‘Nexus approach’ to community wealth building. As Nexus writes, ‘Economic strategies must be tailored for the specific communities they are designed to benefit. Culture is a resource for creating and expanding wealth building options…’

“But building a supportive culture to support this work cuts across all three of these program areas [authorship, leadership and ownership]. In terms of rollout, the foundation has envisioned a three-part strategy: with 2016 envisioned as a ‘seeding’ phase focused on awareness raising, convening, educating, and getting a common language, 2017 focused on launching programs (a ‘cultivation’ phase), with this year being a ‘harvesting’ phase where tangible outcomes begin to become visible…

“[Nexus program officer Elena] Gaarder points out that a large part of the work is not just building cooperatives, but also building the ecosystem of support that gives the cooperatives a reasonable chance to prosper and thrive. As Gaarder explains, ‘The work that Nexus is building infrastructure around cooperative models. From that what we learned, it has to be a coordinated effort that builds the infrastructure first locally and then brings in national partners to build support that is needed.’”

Click here to read the full article