Joy and Mindfulness: Introducing Karen Law

  • May 8, 2019
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Nexus’ newest staff member, Karen Law, joined the team a little over a month ago as the new Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture. In her role, she oversees all aspects of Human Resources and intentionally stewards an environment of continuous learning where staff feels energized and valued. Her work at Nexus builds upon more than 27 years working in the nonprofit sector and addressing systemic oppression and injustice. Learn more about how she approaches her job and the values she carries to the role.

Wellness and Culture

“Wellness and culture are not separate,” Karen shares, “usually they are put in separate boxes, but they are interrelated and both core components of the work.”  Most of her experience with wellness in the workplace has been in the non-profit sector, though she points out that she also once worked for an airline. Through these different experiences, she has seen glimpses of what wellness looks like, and more importantly, opportunities to push and expand what wellness could look like. To Karen, “wellness [and culture] are joy and mindfulness in the workplace, feeling respected and valued…[they are the] environment, physical space, your team, benefits, outings and more.”

Ongoing Reflection

Karen is always thinking, “How can we continue to reflect, look, and ask why? Why do we do things the way we do?” Her sharp eye brings her down to the details: safety, adherence to law, policies. Her visionary nature, though, draws her up to the overarching questions: how do these policies affect the people who work here, how can we be a leader in workplace practices, how do we support the broader movement for labor and economic justice? In her role, Karen aims to “lift and enhance,” not to “replicate and recreate.”

Self-care and Boundaries

Part of what drew Karen to Nexus is the organization’s intentionality around culture and wellness—“if employees are encouraged to care for themselves, this is an opportunity for me to reflect and grow, to put myself first and explore what good boundaries might look like.” With this renewed commitment to mind, body, and spirit, and a workplace that encourages it, Karen is dedicating time to co-writing a screenplay 15 years in the making.

Areas of Excitement

Karen is energized and excited to learn from all the staff working at Nexus. Because there is a mix of people with varied experience, there are many opportunities to learn and see how people do work. She wants to “learn again [and] learn a lot, [instead] of just doing.” After spending some time on her own as an entrepreneur, she also looks forward to doing work “in community with a team of folks.”

When she isn’t at work or writing a screenplay, she enjoys beautifying her yard, watching volleyball, and spending time with family.

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, Nexus Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) graduated its sixth cohort at the Bullard Rainforest Auditorium in the Como Zoo’s Visitor Center. With the addition of these year’s 16 fellows, Twin Cities BCLI has a grand total 85 alumni.

Similar to previous BCLI graduation ceremonies, Nexus President and CEO Repa Mekha officially welcomed everyone, and BCLI program director Terri Thao provided highlights from the 2018-2019 program year. Minnesota Lieutenant Governor and former BCLI trainer Peggy Flanagan provided opening remarks about the value that indigenous people, people of color and underrepresented groups bring to policy-making tables from which they have been historically shut out. She discussed the need to lift up more voices especially on boards and commissions at all levels of government. She stressed the importance of people who are most impacted being at the tables instead of being removed from the conversation.

After the Lieutenant Governor spoke, two graduating fellows Jamaica DelMar and Vincent Henry shared their personal stories and touched on the way the BCLI has inspired their confidence, reinvigorated their drive to get on boards, and do impactful work in community.

The keynote address was given by Minnesota State Representative Rena Moran (DFL-65A) of Saint Paul. Representative Moran talked about the importance of bringing each other along and holding each other accountable in the work we do in community and at policy tables. She reminded the fellows that this work often begins with one of the basic steps of organizing: conducting one-on-one’s with your colleagues to get a better grasp of who they are, what matters to them, and understanding the larger landscape.

Both speakers also shared a common message in their remarks—we need as many leaders of color and indigenous leaders as possible in racial and economic equity work. Both expressed appreciation for the work of the BCLI and other programs which prepare POCI folks for leadership positions in larger systems where they will represent community and bring equity to the table. The evening ended with BCLI fellows being honored with certificates and a poster from local artist Ricardo Levins Morales. Nexus is grateful to all of the alumni, friends, family and funders who helped make this year’s graduation a success.

“I do a little bit of this, a little bit of that”

While Chalonne joined the Nexus family almost two years ago, she is just settling into a new role with the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI)—National Community Engagement Program Manager. In the position, Chalonne provides guidance around community engagement to folks across the country while also facilitating local events.

Her national work focuses on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. This initiative aims to reduce the number of people incarcerated across the US at over 50 sites across the country. After several years of advocacy by NCEI and others, MacArthur is in the early stages of shifting to a community engagement-centered approach, specifically focusing on currently and formerly incarcerated people and their families. As a new member of the team, Chalonne is working with sites to develop and implement community engagement strategies.

Lessons Learned about Community Engagement

Giving community money isn’t as risky as people think. Millions of dollars have already been invested in eliminating disparities between white communities and black, indigenous, people of color communities, to little avail.

“What’s the bigger risk? Continuing to fund things the way we’ve been funding them and getting the same results? It feels more risky to keep doing the same thing. Instead, we need to consider how to actually get money into the hands of communities. How might we allow communities to drive how this funding is spent?”

For example, in Philadelphia, a criminal justice innovation fund has been established to provide microgrants to community-based organizations working on jail reform. Additionally, this site established an community advisory council with a paid staff person and financial resources for advisory members. This would not be possible without the supplemental community engagement funding from the MacArthur Foundation to select Safety and Justice Challenge sites. While people have concerns about what might happen if community, instead of institutions, were given money, the worst case scenario is that issues like mass incarceration stay the same.

What is Energizing about the work?

Chalonne gets life from all of the people doing community engagement, the way they hold events, and how they share space and power. Especially energizing are informal, grassroots spaces that engage individuals and families across generations. Being a part of a family with five living generations, her vision for the future is that families of multiple generations will have more opportunities to be engaged together in their communities.


As much as she wishes that she could “snap my fingers and put an end to the unjust systems,” she knows that it takes work, creativity, and engagement. “We have to usher out this system, and usher a new one in. That will take time and all of us engaging in the changes we want.”


When Chalonne isn’t traveling the country doing community engagement, she works on cooperative initiatives in the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship, she is a magical and gifted facilitator, and she is a certified IDI consultant and coach. She also enjoys all the laughs, drama and joy of a large and beautiful family.

Saint Paul, Minnesota— On Wednesday, March 6, Nexus staff member Chai Lee was sworn in to serve on the Metropolitan Council (The Met Council), representing District 13, which includes the eastern half of Saint Paul, Lilydale, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake and West St. Paul. Lee is a program coordinator for the Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) at Nexus. He joins 15 other members of the Met Council being sworn in March 6. The 16 members appointed on March 6 represent the 16 districts of the Met Council, which covers the seven county metro area. The chair of the Met Council, Nora Slawik, makes the 17thmember of the body, but is not appointed by geography. Chair Slawik was recently appointed by Governor Tim Walz to lead the council and is the former mayor of Maplewood, MN.

The Metropolitan Council is the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region. It is a unique regional body unlike any other in the nation, whose roots date back to the 1960s, and was created with bipartisan support by the governor and legislature of Minnesota. The appointments were made by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, from a pool of over 200 applicants.

“I am humbled and honored to be appointed to the Met Council by Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. I will do my best to bring to the table divers perspectives as I reach out and work toward engagement between Council staff, advisory boards, and my deep community relationships. Most of all, I am proud to be at the table as someone in coming into this work from the unique viewpoint of Nexus, and the nonprofit sector, as well as my local government experience,” says Lee. “What I look forward to most is the opportunity to work on issues which impact all our communities so deeply, from planning for economic opportunity to affecting affordable housing and improving our infrastructure, I will work hard to strengthen the national and global competitiveness of our metro region through my work on Met Council. I am so proud and lucky to be working at Nexus, and my work and passion in diversifying boards and commissions will continue, and I can’t wait to help affect that as a Met Council Member as well,” Lee continued.

Lee brings many years of community involvement to the table. He has served on his neighborhood board, District 1, on Saint Paul’s east side, as well as a three-year term on Saint Paul’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee (CIB), which is a board that reviews, ranks and recommends capital projects to the city.

The newly inaugurated Met Council is the most diverse class of appointments in its history, and Lee will be the second Hmong person ever to serve. Prior to coming to Nexus, Lee worked in the administration of Saint Paul Mayor Christopher B. Coleman. Learn more about theMet Council and its geographical districts here. An official bio of Lee can be found here, and he may be contacted at:

Nexus is seeking an experienced Program Manager to manage the national Leadership Learning Initiative (LLI), a new program in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The LLI will strengthen RWJF’s personal and institutional skills to understand and honor community-based leadership and improve RWJF’s leadership programming and investments to bring about greater health equity.

Working closely with Nexus staff, our partners and RWJF, the position will coordinate and support the work through curriculum design and implementation, setting strategy and ensuring the initiative is reaching its goals. Determining how Nexus’s local community engagement and leadership development efforts can inform engagement and leadership strategies at a national level is the keystone for this position.

The Program Manager will work closely with the Nexus staff and partners and will report to the President and CEO.

Primary Duties

Program Management

• Plan and facilitate partnership meetings that help shape direction, strategy, and implementation of the LLI.

• Provide details, guidance, and resources to partners and stakeholders in order to work efficiently and maintain positive and productive relationships.

• Work with project team to identify tools and strategies necessary to advance LLI goals.

• Plan and coordinate program and meeting logistics for the LLI.

• Assist with tracking of expenses for LLI to ensure compliance with program budget. Evaluation and Capacity Building

• Participate in data collection and evaluation to ensure the LLI is reaching its goals and maintaining accountability to the LLI, partners, and community.

• Enhance and develop tools, based on learnings, to further advance the fields of community engagement and leadership development. Outreach and Engagement

• Coordinate and facilitate learning opportunities for the LLI, partners and stakeholders.

• Identify and develop relationships with community experts and other stakeholders to help develop and deliver content for the LLI and to build the fields of community engagement and leadership development.

• Lead and participate in the development and delivery of presentations at forums, conferences, panels, workshops, etc. Communications and Development

• Support the communications strategy as determined by the partnership. Components may include, the production of tools and resources, blogs, website, and social media.


• Communicate progress and learnings to Nexus staff to ensure LLI is in alignment with and being informed by other Nexus programs.

• Represent Nexus and the LLI partners to national audiences, especially those in the community engagement and leadership development fields.

• Function effectively as a leader and problem solver by supporting organizational and programmatic goals.

• Provide support as needed for other projects, such as the broader evaluation and communication for Nexus.

• Other duties as assigned.



• At least 3-5 years relevant experience in nonprofit and/or community work.

• 3+ years’ experience in leadership positions, either in community, a volunteer position, or past employment.

• Experience working in partnerships and collaborations cross-sectors and with multiple partners.

• Proven ability to facilitate dynamic groups that have different levels of knowledge and/or understanding.

• Demonstrated understanding of and experience with authentic community engagement and leadership development within communities of color.

• Experience designing and/or delivering high quality, interactive learning opportunities.

• Ability to think strategic and long-term while managing multiple projects and deadlines.

• Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.

• Demonstrated understanding of the role culture and history has as a foundation for building strategies in cultural communities. • Knowledge of evaluation and data collection tools.

• Knowledge of marketing/communications including blogs, social media, etc.

• Excellent oral and written communications skills.

• Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint). Design skills a plus.

• Must have personal transportation available for use, ability and willingness to travel on occasion.

Additional Information

THIS IS A GRANT DEPENDENT POSITION: May 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020.  The ideal candidate would be able to start May 1, 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 range: $60,000-$67,000 annually, 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, and PTO. 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.

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Qualified Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

How to Apply

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by March 22, 2019 to:

Lynette Condra

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18 St. Paul, MN 55114


More information


Nexus Community Partners is excited to announce that we are recruiting a diverse group of 8-10 dynamic leaders from Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities for our 2019 Cooperative Development Fellowship Program.

The seven-month program is targeted at individuals/consultants who would like to become cooperative developers, organizations wanting to add cooperative development to their services or incubate a cooperative, and other professionals (e.g. lawyers, capital providers) who are interested in supporting cooperative development. We are also interested in recruiting applicants who will focus on assisting business owners and their employees who want to convert to worker ownership.  Please note that the Fellowship is not designed for individuals wanting to start their own cooperative.

The Fellowship includes the following:

  • Opening Retreat
  • 3 intensive, in-person trainings
  • On-line training modules
  • Group webinars with national cooperative practitioners
  • Local Site Visit
  • National Site Visit
  • Project design and presentations
  • Coaching and support from Nexus and DAWI.
  • Closing Celebration

All training, coaching and off-site travel expenses will be covered by Nexus.

The Fellowship requires a time commitment of between 75-85 hours over the course of seven months, with participation in all program activities mandatory. A timeline for the program is available in the application below.

Applications are due February 25, 2019.  Please visit this link for our online application.

Before you complete the application, we request that you attend one of our information sessions. You’ll get the chance to learn more about the Fellowship program and ask questions. In the event you are unable to attend, we can schedule a short one-on-one phone call. Click here to view the dates and location of the information sessions. Please contact Nkuli Shongwe at  to register or schedule a call.

For more information contact program officer Elena Gaarder at or community wealth building coordinator Nkuli Shongwe at

Nexus Community Partners seeks a full time Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture, (40 hours a week, Monday-Friday), to join a dynamic staff of thoughtful, equity-driven individuals who are deeply committed to the organization’s values.

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 foster social and human capital.”  Nexus addresses the deep isolation within communities of color and Indigenous communities caused by personal, institutional and structural racism by promoting an equity centered engagement model; supporting the development of leaders; democratizing wealth; and by reclaiming culture as an asset.

The Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture will provide leadership to foster a collaborative and inclusive culture at Nexus Community Partners, a workplace with people who have diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences. The Director will work with the President/CEO and executive leadership team to help staff members continually develop in their jobs, learn from the communities we serve and contribute in a high-performing environment. The Director will plan, direct, coordinate, and manage the human resources functions of the organization. As a member of the executive leadership team, this position will be a strategic partner in planning organizational goals, and serve as the primary contact for employee support to all levels within the agency.

Position Responsibilities:

Talent and Staff Development

  • Maintain a schedule of facilitation and coaching activities that support individual, team and organizational development needs and; conduct or procure specific trainings, assessments and/or related workshops.
  • Design and implement inclusive recruitment and selection processes and evaluation systems that drive the growth and effectiveness of the organization’s staff, including internal advancement.
  • Develop and implement all aspects of hiring and onboarding to ensure that staff members are effective and efficient in their jobs, and that they gain a broad knowledge of the organization’s operations and culture.
  • Lead intern staffing.  Including needs assessment, recruitment, creating job descriptions that foster leadership and personal growth.
  • Manage market competitiveness assessments and recommend compensation strategies that invest in current staff, attract new talent and retain strong teams. Ensure compliance with legal requirements and best practices.

Human Resources

  • Manage the day-to-day operations of the Human Resources department. Ensure security and accuracy of employee records, consistency of practice, and maintenance of optimum service levels.
  • Provide consultation and training to managers and supervisors to address employee relation matters (especially for cross-racial, cross-gender/gender-identity, and cross-generational supervision).
  • Collaborate with the organization’s finance department on inter-related financial and transactional elements of Human Resources, including payroll, compensation and benefit administration.
  • Ensure compliance with HR legal and regulatory requirements, standards and other relevant HR policies and guidelines. Liaise with outside legal counsel as appropriate.
  • Ensure up-to-date job descriptions and classifications with necessary functions and competencies are in place at all levels.
  • Direct and implement agency’s performance management system to ensure effectiveness, compliance and equity within the organization.
  • Keep informed and up to date regarding industry standards and best practices related to non-profit personnel management.
  • Manage fringe benefit system, including enrollment, termination, changes, open enrollment and COBRA.
  • Manage the organization’s paid time off tracking system; ensure payroll product is a good fit for the organization.
  • Prepare and process payroll, including electronic employee record maintenance. Create and produce payroll based management reports, and annual salary survey reports as requested.
  • Develop, manage and implement personnel policies in the HR Handbook.

Culture and Employee Engagement

  • In partnership with the President/CEO and the executive leadership team, lead efforts to gather and understand staff input and create actionable steps to further improve organizational culture, create an environment that fosters continual learning, and staff who are engaged and energized by the work they do.
  • Create compelling, people-centered, engagement and learning opportunities that help all staff members experience the benefits of inclusion for themselves, colleagues, the organization, and the communities we serve.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to explore non-traditional HR mediation and relationship building practices.
  • Create internal activities, processes and resources to help navigate personal conflict(s) as well as manage grievances/mediations (or create a plan for external assistance).
  • In partnership with all staff, develop and foster a culture of accountability in interpersonal relationships, organizational processes, decision making, and community relations.
  • Manage, evaluate and expand organizational wellness program, with on-going input from staff.
  • Organize organization-wide staff engagement and team building events.


  • Work in coordination with the President/CEO to support the work of the internal equity/inclusion and/or culture caucuses, and continually improve the organization’s equity/inclusion work with an intersectional lens that goes beyond race, (race, class, gender analysis, etc).
  • Represent the organization at conferences and in the community to build relationships and awareness of our brand and culture.
  • Work closely with the executive leadership team on overall HR quality efforts, and setting short and long term goals for the organization.
  • Build trust with employees and be an active listener and effective solver of people issues.


8 years’ experience in a leadership role with considerable knowledge of principles and practices of the human resources field, including compensation, benefits, employee relations, recruitment and selection, training and development, performance management, employment law and compliance.

  • High level of personal and professional integrity, including ability to protect and maintain confidentiality.
  • Proven ability to coach and mentor individuals and teams with a high level of emotional intelligence.
  • Solid judgement, problem-solving aptitude, flexibility, creativity, diplomacy and appreciation for the organization’s mission and values.
  • Ability to communicate and influence at all levels of the organization.
  • Ability to self-motivate and self-direct; organize own work, set priorities and meet critical deadlines.
  • Demonstrated leadership ability and an ability to influence others directly and indirectly.
  • Demonstrated ability to work and communicate effectively with people of diverse economic, racial and cultural backgrounds.
  • Ability to see possibilities and to ask hard questions with respect and discretion.
  • Openness to growth and learning.
  • Can operate with a systems and systems change view and approach.
  • Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, Power Point) applications.
  • Bachelor’s degree in human resources or related field.

The ideal candidate would be able to start mid to end of March.

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 range: $75,000 to $80,000 annually, 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, and PTO.  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 Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture will report to the President and CEO.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by February 8, 2019 to:

Lynette Condra

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114




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

“Institutions have no historical memory, indigenous communities have nothing but memories.”
–  Engaged Learning Series participant quoting an indigenous community member

“This is a conversation about healing but it is really about what happens because of that healing. It is a conversation about transformation; about what will emerge because of how we have healed.”
–  Susan Raffo, Healing Justice Report

Communities, at their core, are about relationships.

In order to promote and build an equitable society, we have to practice equity-based community engagement where historically oppressed or ignored community members have authorship over their lives and future.

But what if our institution has historically been the oppressor or has broken trust with the community through planning, programming or funding practices in the past? How can we rebuild trust and begin to heal the relationship with community?

On September 28th, 2017, we explored these questions with 50 community members at Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) Engaged Learning Series. From this meeting, four themes emerged for helping us move toward healing through community engagement:

  1. centering self-care and personal healing;
  2. shifting organizational and interpersonal culture to be more human and relationship-centered;
  3. needing to prioritize healing in our institutions’ budgets and in our funding practices; and,
  4. incorporating relationship-centered practices in community to repair trust.

Self-care and Personal Healing

“Individual and collective healing, one doesn’t happen without the other in any sustainable way but it all starts with individual healing. I see lots of organizations being run by wounded people who are doing their best to do good work. They are creating organizational habits that are wounded; they are asking people to work too many hours for too little pay because that is what their sector does.” Suzanne Koepplinger (Raffo 2017)

In order to practice authentic community engagement, we have to first confront our own personal experiences with historical trauma, microaggressions, and toxic stress to move toward self-healing and self-care. Practices such as meditating, taking breaks, having fun, and walking in nature are all important during the work day (and on the clock).

“I try to have feelings at least once a day, I do acupuncture once a month, and I do poetry with a group of fellow Arabs,” said panelist Jna Shelomith of Ramsey County.

Likewise, panelist JooHee Pomplun of the Alliance, shared the importance of negotiations and self-care. “I’m at a negotiating point in my life – if I can nourish myself with food and friends, that is what’s important to me.”

Taking care of ourselves and creating space for self-care allows us to release toxic energy from our bodies. In turn, space is created for communities’ energies, emotions, and healing.

Shifting Organizational and Interpersonal Culture

Dominant workplace culture encourages the separation of home and work life, but why? We are all part of a community – and that does not stop when we walk into an office. We should make time at work to be our full selves – incorporating time to show emotions, sharing what’s going on in our lives, listening time at meetings, and bringing healing components into staff trainings.

Being listened to can lead to unexpected outcomes. As Jna Shelomith said, “we need each other to do reality checks. How are you? No really how are you? That’s the work.”

Being listened to helps build trust and trust can lead to the surfacing of past workplace, institutional, or outside harms or memories. From there, raw, honest conversations can lead to organizational healing:

Having more authentic conversations, even though they bring up thoughts and feelings that can be hard to hear or challenging to have, are a sign of success. Sometimes organizations are confused by this turn of events. Organizations assume that if no one’s talking about these issues, then everything is going fine. Quite the contrary–if you create enough safety, more and more conversations will happen, and more issues will come into the light; the silences are to be broken. And that is a good thing.” (Luna Jimenez 2015).

In addition to creating a workplace that values listening and relationship-building among staff, having internal support groups and caucuses can be a safe space for people to release toxic energy, as well as hold each other accountable.

“For the Giving Project, we had a POC [people of color] caucus and a white caucus, because there’s different healing and different spaces that we need,” said panelist Caitlin Schwartz, board member for Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

Identity caucuses are a powerful way for us to learn about ourselves – as both the oppressor and the oppressed – and allow space to process our patterns of behavior as well as to heal from the actions of others.

Prioritizing Healing in Our Budgets and Outcomes

As the saying goes: “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your values.” Prioritizing community engagement, community healing, and organizational healing requires a budget line item (or multiple line items) for relationship-building and personal wellness. Are we providing resources for employees to take care of themselves and their families? How are we investing time to repair trust with community and get on the path to healing? What financial resources are we investing for community to be nourished and to heal? Additionally, who are we hiring and how are we investing in the community?

Part of the path to healing is about institutions’ accountability to community, which includes honoring the community’s knowledge and assets by providing paid opportunities for community members to lead at institutions.

Caitlin Schwartz elaborated on the work of the Giving Project. “The Giving Project was created by having a group of community members determine the criteria for funding, and then actually being responsible for granting those funds to local organizations.” We all need to take a look at our grantmaking, hiring, and other internal processes through an equity lens to see who benefits from our work and who is burdened by our work.

Authentic Relationships to Repair Trust in Community

In addition to the above internal shifts, healing between institutions and communities requires representatives of those institutions showing up as listeners — honoring the community’s wisdom, knowing the history and context, and being prepared to be uncomfortable, transparent, follow-through on promises, and open doors for community leaders to lead.

It’s also important for us to know our personal interest – why am I the one leading this project, or this event? How are my experiences connected to this work? As Caitlin Schwartz said, “Getting clear on why I’m doing the work and where I’m doing the work [as a white woman], is about challenging white supremacy. It’s good to always get clear on why any of us are doing the work that we are doing.”

Self-awareness helps us build more authentic relationships, and helps us to realize when we should give up or reclaim power. Sometimes giving up power means partnering with community organizations that do have the community’s trust and investing in their work.


JooHee Pomplun told a story about Cambodian refugees who didn’t feel settled or at home in Minnesota. After experiencing the Little Mekong Night Market, an amazing opportunity to experience the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of traditional Southeast Asian night markets, Southeast Asian elders told JooHee that for the first time, this felt like home. The Little Mekong Night Market was co-developed with the Asian Economic Development Association as a result of their community engagement efforts.

Community engagement can lead to some incredible outcomes – not the least of which is healing, for individuals and for our communities. “My somatic healer friends have told me that the lungs actually lie in your back, so when we say ‘I’ve got your back’, I picture holding your lungs so we can breathe,” said Jna Shelomith.

This is about changing how we do our work and how we have the community’s back.

The pathways to healing are complex, but we can move systems together – and it starts and ends with relationships.


Luna Jimenez, Nanci E. October 31, 2015. ”Building Authenticity at Work with Listening: The Most Powerful Social Justice Tool.”

Raffo, Susan. 2017. The Healing Justice Report.

Invites you to:

Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement:
A 4-part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement

DatesMarch 1, March 8, March 22, March 29 

Time9:00 am – 12 Noon 

WhereMCN, 2314 University Ave W #20, St Paul MN 55114 – River Room 

DescriptionThis workshop series is designed to deepen your knowledge, broaden your perspective, and sharpen your skills as you explore the potential for community engagement to create equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities. The sessions are for anyone who is interested in learning more about community engagement, or for those who wish to deepen their work with community. 

Session Topics: 

  • Session 1: What is Community Engagement? 
  • Session 2: Shifting Power: Moving from Service to Engagement 
  • Session 3: Healing through Community Engagement  
  • Session 4: Moving Forward: Integrating Community Engagement Practices and Shifting Work Culture 

Learning Goals: 

  • Understand the principles and values of community engagement and how it differs from other practices, such as outreach and the traditional social service model. 
  • Learn how community engagement can make your work more effective. 
  • Utilize community engagement tools for building relationships, leadership, and ownership. 
  • Explore how community engagement leads to equity and how understanding equity is essential for effective community engagement. 
  • Assess your organization’s readiness and capacity to incorporate community engagement as an approach in your work. 

*PRE-WORK OPTION: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Cultural ExplorationCulture, healing and relationships are central to authentic and sustainable community engagement. Thus, we are offering the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as an optional pre-work add-on for participants who are interested in more deeply exploring culture and identity, challenges and opportunities connecting across difference and commonality, and how to navigate those differences in community engagement work. Your confirmation email upon registration will have more information and next steps for opting into the IDI pre-work component, which will take place in February 2019 prior to the beginning of the workshop series.* 

Fee: Scholarships are available to ensure anyone can participate, no one will be turned away. Contact Angie for details (see below). 

  • Philanthropy/Corporate Rate$1000 for all four sessions 
  • Nonprofit/Government Rate: $600 for all four sessions 
  • *Additional IDI Pre-Work Option: additional $250 per person for IDI group session and individual feedback session in February 2019 – registration is separate and will come with your confirmation email from one of the above selections* 

NOTE: Attendance at all four sessions is required, as this is a cohort experience and each session builds upon previous sessions.  

**Please do not register for more than 5 participants from one organization** this is to ensure a mix of participants from various sectors and backgrounds for a rich, dynamic experience. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about this requirement.  

Feedback from Previous “Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement” Participants: 

  • “The series is a challenging, inspiring experience that anyone and everyone can learn and grow from.” 
  • “I would recommend this workshop series….the conversations, connections, and knowledge learned will help them go from outreach to engagement; from equality to equitable approaches.” 
  • “It’s very helpful both as an introduction to CE as well as providing more in-depth training for people already working in CE.” 
  • “Prepare to be challenged and accept that what you’ve been doing needs a new perspective.” 

About Nexus Community Engagement InstituteNexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. NCEI is continuing the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement collaborative (BTF). 

Facilitators and PresentersThe presenters and facilitators are staff and partners of Nexus Community Partners and Nexus Community Engagement Institute. 

Contact Angie Brown at abrown@nexuscp.orgwith questions or for more information about scholarships.