Community Leadership Learning Initiative Phase 1 Leadership Survey Report

The full report to the CLLI Team at Nexus Community Partners is now available online. This report shares findings of a pre-initiative survey completed in February 2020. Findings reveal how CLLI learning community participants define and think about community leadership values, processes, strategies, and practices. Survey responses reported here were collected before the initiative’s first session, or Phase 1. The survey will be administered again after the initiative’s final session to see if responses have changed.

During the Community Leadership Learning July 9th webinar, Nora Hall, Ph.D, and Karen Gray (GrayHall LLP) highlighted results. This snapshot provides a starting point for understanding leadership with and in communities. The CLLI Learning Community meets monthly to explore collective leadership and the many ways communities’ cultural practices impact our authorship over our lives and futures. We want to co-create a shared narrative about what constitutes healthy and vibrant community leadership.

The Leadership Survey Report shares learning community participants’ insight about nuances in community leadership and engagement, including:

  • Preferred Community Leadership Approaches
  • Leadership and Community Engagement
  • Leadership in Communities Facing Systemic Inequities
  • Community Leadership and Social Determinants of Health
  • Additional Community Leadership Comments

Read the executive summary or full report.

Interested in participating in our learning community webinars? Click here to see our learning calendar and resources.

Join our next CLLI webinar! Register here


Making Change: Discovering & Disrupting the Story of Us

August 6th at 10:30am – Noon EST (9:30 a.m. CST) 

In this session, grassroots community storytelling partners will share their experiences to better understand community culture(s) and help identify and define leadership through their practice. Participants will be naming and exploring community and cultural ways of knowing. 

Come prepared to share and make meaning together 

Survey findings from the Community Leadership Learning Initiative


The Community Leadership Learning Initiative (CLLI) goal is to deepen our collective understanding of community-driven leadership. We want to raise the visibility of community leadership to philanthropy and the broader ecosystem of leadership and community development.

CLLI welcomes people from across the country to share in regular virtual learning opportunities. Together, our learning community explores topics such as:

  • What does collective leadership look like when operating from a cultural context?
  • How does a community’s cultural practices impact their authorship of their lives and future?
  • What are the conditions and supports that allow natural community systems to flourish and evolve?

With our evaluation partners, CLLI is working to refine key findings about what constitutes healthy and vibrant community leadership. Join our next CLLI webinar to hear more about survey findings from the Community Leadership Learning Initiative. We are excited to share what we are learning. Session information and registration link for the webinar are below.

Event: Leadership WITH/IN Community

  • Thursday July 9th
  • 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST/ 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. CST
  • Sign up now!

This session gives participants opportunities to examine nuances in community leadership and engagement. Learn how community leaders define and think about community leadership values, processes, strategies, and practices based on a survey conducted in February 2020. Nora Hall, Ph.D., and Karen Gray (GrayHall LLP) will share this snapshot of how Community Leadership Learners perceived community leadership work. We will discuss preferred community leadership approaches, leadership in communities facing systemic inequities, and leadership and community engagement.


Nexus COVID-19 Emergency Funding

  • May 27, 2020
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

“We are fooling ourselves if we think the nation can recover and heal without reimagining and rebuilding the systems and institutions the virus has revealed to be inadequate and broken.”– Angela Glover Blackwell and Michael MacAfee


COVID-19 is unprecedented. This virus has left no community, no sector, no class untouched, and yet, painfully and predictably, COVID-19 is playing out along the well-worn lines of oppression. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities are being hit the hardest in this pandemic, and there are not nearly enough resources going to support these communities.

Through the MN Disaster Relief Fund, Thrivent Foundation, and Mortenson Foundation, Nexus has been awarded $175,000 to support businesses struggling because of COVID-19. We have seen billions of dollars going to large corporations, and far fewer dollars to go support the economic anchors of BIPOC communities—small businesses and cooperatives.

It may go without saying, but we did not receive enough to fund every business and cooperative that needs it. We have chosen to strategically leverage our funding to support business that are falling through the cracks—established businesses that have BIPOC ownership or a majority BIPOC employees and are cornerstones of their community.

Specifically, Nexus COVID-19 relief grantees meet the following criteria:

  • Businesses with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) owners, or that employ a majority of BIPOC employees.
  • Located in our priority areas of East Side of St. Paul (primarily Dayton’s Bluff and Payne-Phalen), North Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, and South Minneapolis.
  • Have less than 50 employees
  • Have been in operation for at least a year

Grants range up to $20,000 depending on the size of the business and are for general operating expenses. Businesses can use them at their discretion. UPDATE: At this point in time, we have distributed all of the funding.

We have compiled a list of recovery resources for business and, through the Nexus Business Legacy Program, we are offering free consultations for business owners to learn about transitioning to employee ownership.


In Solidarity,

The Nexus Team

Please contact Benjamin Tsai at if you have questions.

Nexus Business Legacy Program

  • May 17, 2020
  • By: Benjamin Tsai
  • In: General

At Nexus, we recognize the difficult choices many business owners face right now. We have expanded our business services and created our new Business Legacy Program, which implements a  3-pronged strategy to help keep local legacy businesses stabilized in our community.

  • Consulting on succession planning: helping businesses explore succession planning and restructuring options provided by employee-ownership.
  • Technical assistance for emergency funds: assisting in finding and applying for emergency loans and grants.
  • Grants for businesses: limited funding is available to clients that are exploring employee-ownership options.

Many local businesses are considering their liquidity, exit, and succession planning options. Selling all or part of a business to the employees is a viable option for owners looking to exit or revitalize their business and can be an opportunity to access new capital, gain tax benefits, motivate employees, and secure the legacy of the business. Owners can opt to stay with the business as a co-owner, or transition out at their own pace.

The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative offers free consultations for business owners to learn about transitioning to employee ownership. Our full suite of services includes:

  1. Learn about succession planning and restructuring via employee ownership models
  2. Feasibility studies to assess a fair sales price and tax benefits for the seller
  3. structuring the sale
  4. Lining up financing with our CDFI and philanthropic partners
  5. Training employees on governance (management structures often stay the same)

Find out if employee ownership is a fit for your business. For many business owners, it is the ideal way to receive fair market value, gain tax benefits, and to ensure that it will live on as an asset for your employees and your community.

Contact us for a free consultation below.
We keep all private information confidential, and never share with 3rd parties without written permission.

Hello folks! Today ​we are pleased to announce that we are opening up the application for ​cohort 8 of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)! ​The BCLI is a 7 month leadership program that trains and helps place Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities on publicly appointed boards and commissions in support of a racial and economic equity agenda. Now more than over we need BIPOC voices at many decision making and policy monitoring tables!

If you are an alumni and you know someone that would be a GREAT FIT for BCLI, please nominate them. Or, if you are an organization who has someone in their network would  be a good fit for the program, we welcome your nominations too – we’d love to have them participate. The application open​s today, May 13th and closes Friday, June 12th, 2020 at midnight. New this year is that our application is now online! Don’t hesitate, apply now!

If you are interested in learning more about BCLI because you’re not sure what it is, please join us May 21st at 6PM for an online information session ​where BCLI staff and alumni will join us to answer questions. Sign up on Eventbrite and RSVP with Chai Lee via email: to get a zoom link to the future info session on May 21, 2020!

A summary of different response and recovery resources for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

In conversation with businesses and experts in the field, we have been gathering information on resources for small businesses and co-ops (emergency loans, grants, and etc). The situation is constantly changing and we are working to keep this document updated regularly. It also includes specific advice that can help co-ops navigate some of the application processes. You can access it here.

In addition to assisting with immediate economic impacts, The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is  still available to talk with businesses about succession planning and exit strategies. We specialize in working with owners and employees who are interested in exploring employee-owned business models. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.

We invite you to learn alongside grassroots community leaders, funders, leadership practioners and intermediary organizations as we explore the many ways we practice community leadership. Learning opportunities include virtual gatherings and in-person site visits.

In case you missed the Community Leadership Learning Initiative launch session last week, you can listen to the meeting recording here.

We welcome everyone interested in community leadership to register for our upcoming virtual gatherings:

Framing Leadership: Community Ownership & Authorship

  • Apr 20, 2020 01:00 – 2:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
  • Register for the April 20th meeting here.

Making Change: Discovering & Disrupting the Story of Us

  • Jun 3, 2020 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
  • Register for the June 3rd meeting here.

In addition to these virtual gatherings, we offer intentionally small-group settings for in-person, onsite learning co-hosted by community storytelling partners. Learners must apply and seats are limited. Early application is encouraged. Apply here for one or more site visits.


May 6, Boston MA—Unique Perspectives & Shared Power: Leadership as Solidarity

  • Integrating convivir to re-establish intergenerational and cross-cultural responsibility
  • Intentional code-switching to break silos and share power
  • Enhance skills for telling and interpreting messages across context/culture

June 24-25, Washington DC—Identity & Intersectionality: Leadership & Belonging*

  • Claiming LGBTQ identity and stories of belonging in multiple communities
  • Core practices of healing internalized oppression and resilience
  • Creating intentional community spaces to disrupt traumatic response behaviors

July 29, Buffalo NY—Recentering Culture: Celebrating & Shifting Norms

  • Combatting stereotypes that assume healthy, sustainable food is for affluent, white consumers
  • Highlighting core relationships between food, culture, environment and economy
  • Creating collective systems that reflect community values, history and experiences

Sept 24-25, Baton Rouge LA—Inverting Power Structures: Leadership as Movement

  • Creating fluid processes to collectively activate wisdom from those most impacted
  • Defying false boundaries between public and private, formal and informal
  • Leaning into a new leadership paradigm


And don’t forget to save the date for our final Storyshare Convening, November 11-13th!


Nexus Community Partners supports strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to opportunities. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we created the Community Leadership Learning Initiative to deepen our collective understanding of community-driven leadership, while raising the visibility and demonstrating the value of this powerful work to the field of philanthropy and the broader ecosystem of leadership and community development.

We will convene three virtual gatherings for stakeholders across the country who are interested in exploring community leadership practices. We also offer opportunities, co-hosted by grassroots community partners, to experience community leadership in context.

Through this learning journey, we hope to identify and co-create:

  • Shared narratives and a framework for supporting community-driven leadership, offering people in different sectors and cultural communities new ways to talk about community leadership
  • Tools to help people think and act differently in support of community-driven leadership
  • Opportunities for resources to flow to communities more effectively
  • Shifts in systems so that institutions are internally organized and operating with community leadership at the center
  • Shifts in practice so that people own their roles and act with agency to effect change as part of the community

As a Leadership for Better Health initiative funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we will be hosting a virtual convening for funders to better understand our relationship and role in supporting community leadership. (Funders only, please.)

Community Leadership Learning Initiative – Funder Convening

Mar 26, 2020 01:30 – 3:00 PM Central Time

Register for this funder convening here.


Science + Culture + Community = Social Change

  • February 20, 2020
  • By: Nonkululeko Shongwe
  • In: General

Community Wealth Building Coordinator Nkuli Shongwe recently returned from a cooperative learning trip to Puerto Rico*. Look out for upcoming blogs about her experience on the island and site visits to local cooperatives, including a hydroelectric cooperative and farming co-op. 

Adjuntas, Puerto Rico is lush and mountainous, a striking environment for our first site visit.  Casa Pueblo is a local grassroots non-profit, solar-powered community and cultural center established 39 years ago. The story of Casa Pueblo is beautiful and intricate and reveals deep roots in community engagement. Alexis Massol González, one of the Casa Pueblo’s founders, welcomed us and introduced us to the beautiful, intricate, and deeply rooted history of the organization. González’s forumula captures the essence of Casa Pueblo : science + culture + community = social change.

Casa Pueblo emerged 39 years ago in response to ecology crisis and resource extraction. When gold, silver, and copper were discovered in Adjuntas and neighboring towns Utuado, Lares, and Jayuja, the Puerto Rican government welcomed and encouraged open-pit mining in the area. With government support, mining companies from the U.S acquired 36,000 acres of land. The consequences of open-pit mining include permanent water pollution, destruction of the rainforest, and severe health, economic, and social issues. 

Deyá and González, along with other community members, worked tirelessly to educate community about the implications of open-pit mining through concerts at schools, universities, and town squares. They organized a large protest at the White House in D.C. (Casa Blanca) that resulted in some arrests, huge media coverage, and raised national awareness. Fifteen years after their coordinated organizing campaign and engagement process, they garnered support from over 10,000 people in Puerto Rico and from the mainland U.S.

Mobilizing their communities and building people power worked—Casa Pueblo was able to keep the forest space and privatize the whole forest. The forest, called Bosque Escuela la Olimpia (Olympia Forest School), is now run by Casa Pueblo and is home to many educational programs. 

In recent years, Casa Pueblo has been focusing on solar energy. After Hurricane Maria in 2017 and after the recent 2020 earthquakes, the organization provided solar energy when electricity was not available otherwise. It served as a community hub where people could come and charge their phones to connect with family, listen to the radio, and get news. In April 2020, Casa Pueblo hopes to expand the network of solar grids to local hospitals, churches, and businesses in order to build energy independence from PREPA, the island’s utility provider. Casa Pueblo is Adjunatas’ resiliency hub. This year, they will be celebrating their 40th anniversary, long history, and bright future on Earth day.

Written by Nonkululeko (Nkuli) Shongwe

*Nkuli is a first-year Masters of Human Rights student at the University of Minnesota. She participated in this trip through the Global Convergence Lab, an interdisciplinary course at the U of M that brings together students diverse backgrounds to explore the complexity of Global Resiliency issues. The lab is co-coordinated by the School of Architecture, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and the Acara Program (at the Institute on the Environment). 


People with deep lived experiences of inequities are actively leading and creating transformation in their own communities, in ways that respect and leverage their cultural ways of knowing and being. The pervasive view of leadership, as extraordinary and hierarchal individuals, reinforces dominant positions of power. Institutions that only rely on this systems-driven analysis often miss seeing and valuing these critical people, forms and patterns of leadership.

Nexus Community Partners supports strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to wealth building opportunities. We hope to bring people working in different sectors and cultural communities together to lift up absent narratives about leadership. With our Community Storytelling Project partners, our learning community will explore ways we practice community leadership.

Join us to learn more about our virtual and in-person learning opportunities to:

  • Support and explore community-driven leadership that improve the overall health and well-being of a group as defined by those individuals, families, or community members.
  • Develop and share stories of dynamic and cultural practices that support intersectional and relational shared power.

Thursday, Feb. 13th
11:00 AM – noon EST / 10:00 – 11:00 AM CST
View the info session slide deck here

Wednesday, Feb. 26th
10:30 AM – Noon EST/ 9:30 – 11:00 AM CST
View the recorded meeting here

Learn more about the CLLI and Learning Community here!

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative is proud to announce the completion of its first cooperative conversion! Starting in 2020, Happy Earth Cleaning Cooperative is now in business. 

Nexus, in partnership with Project Equity, helped provide technical assistance for Happy Earth Cleaning LLC to become an employee-owned co-op.  Over a period of 10 months the previous business owners and employees were guided through a proven conversion process that included feasibility studies, structuring the deal, and training employees to become owners of their own business.

MPR rounds out the story with their article, “Supporters see worker co-ops as way to spread the wealth. How one housecleaning business joined the workers’ cooperative movement”. An excerpt of the story is below. You can listen to the audio and read the full article here.

“With the support of the cleaning company’s founders, employees in January officially transitioned the company into the Happy Earth Cleaning Co-op — a cooperative owned and run by workers. Employees at worker cooperatives get a say in how their business is run and a cut of the profits. As wealth disparities continue to increase in the country, some are hoping co-ops can make the economy more equitable and democratic.”

Thanks also go out to The City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP), Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), The Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD). Project Equity, and Erin Heelan Consulting.