Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is excited to announce that The People’s Canvass has transitioned into a worker-owned cooperative. Through this conversion, they combine highly-skilled, community-based organizing power with a democratic, sustainable workplace. Congratulations!

Transitioning a business to employee-ownership is a triple win—business owners secure the future legacy of their business; employees get a voice in their workplace and are able to share in the wealth they help create; and communities retain important local businesses.

Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative has been working closely with workers at The People’s Canvass to make their vision a reality. Laura Kiernan, lead trainer at TPC, said, “Nexus has been such an invaluable companion on our journey towards workplace democracy. You could not ask for a better knowledge base and network to have on hand during a legal transition…I’m so grateful we were able to partner with them.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact us for a free consultation!

On this Worker Ownership Wednesday, we’re celebrating Christina Nicholson’s 1 year anniversary at Nexus.

Christina came to Nexus last year with so much fire, humor, and warmth—and 25 years of cooperative experience! She’s one third of the talented Worker Ownership Initiative team, and a lovingly curious and supportive co-worker.

After one year at Nexus, Christina shared with me one big thing she learned: “Over the past year, I’m really learning how much of Nexus’ work is building strong root systems. These root systems connect us deeply to each other, as individuals, organizations, and communities. But we don’t always see them there under the ground. Strengthening our connections to each other is a huge part of building alternatives to unjust and extractive systems. I am so humbled and grateful to be a part of organization that is dreaming a better world into existence by working hard everyday to love the hell out of it”.

Are you interested in learning more about Christina’s work? Visit us at to explore how worker ownership can transform small businesses and communities.

A Note from Terri Thao

  • December 8, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

This year makes it 17 years I have been lucky enough to work for Nexus. And like 17-year-olds on the cusp of adulthood, it is with great sadness that I am announcing my departure from Nexus at the end of this year, on December 31, 2021.

When I started at Nexus, I didn’t realize what an adventure this would be to engage community and build wealth with amazing colleagues and community members who are helping to build a better world for all of us. 

For the past 17 years I have been fortunate enough to be apart of this work through the East Side Housing Initiative, Center for Working Families, and even the Beehive technology project. Interwoven throughout was being able to fund amazing BIPOC-led organizations and organizations engaging and working with BIPOC communities in places like North and South Minneapolis, and my East Side of St. Paul.

And for the last ten years, I have been so honored to have adapted and run the Twin Cities Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). I cannot believe that we are in our 9th cohort. I am so proud of what we have done with the BCLI. I truly believe that we are contributing to the movement and helping set up our communities for long term success. I leave the Twin Cities BCLI to my super amazing partner in crime, Chai Lee.

Over the course of my 17 years at Nexus, I have been honored to get to know and work alongside some of amazing community leaders— like Lupe Serrano, Elder Atum Azzahir, Ricardo Levins Morales, and Paul Fate—all who have provided much wisdom and amazing models of leadership. 

And to all the other amazing folks I’ve met—I have enjoyed building connections with you all in community and across different sectors (even over Zoom!). Not only is it about the work, but I love hearing stories about your families, your communities, and what drives you to do this work. And of course, I want to send love to my awesome Nexus colleagues who have made the 17 years so enjoyable. From the bottom of my heart, this Hmong girl says ua tsaug/thank you!

As for my next adventure, I won’t be too far away. Starting in mid-January 2022, I will be a Program Director at the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies leading their Local Initiatives and Opportunities program. I am excited and will certainly be bringing all that I have learned to this new position. I know our paths will cross again and look forward to connecting with you all to create a powerful future together.


Introducing the Tapping the Potential Playbook

  • November 12, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

These past few years have been hard. As we navigated the hardships of transitioning to online trainings starting in 2020, the team at the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) longed for ways to connect to community and share a little bit of us with those we hold so dear despite being physically apart.

When we were in physical space with each other, we invited people to bring their full-selves, we engaged senses and centered wellness and joy, surrounding participants with food, music, people, toys, coloring sheets, and more throughout the sessions. There was something special about being present with community members—giving hugs, sharing stories, laughs, and food together.

It was challenging to transfer that beauty to online sessions, whether we were hosting, attending or facilitating. We longed to and needed to engage and welcome our whole selves and bodies in our training spaces.

After hosting our first online Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series in 2020, the NCEI team and co-facilitator Nicque Mabrey brainstormed ways we could host virtual trainings while engaging with our bodies in the ways we did when hosting the series in-person. From this desire emerged the idea of creating our Playbook!

What is the Playbook?

Designed by Nexus Communications Manager, Elly Fireside-Ostergaard, the Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement Playbook is intended to be another resource for people to learn about community engagement while interacting with music, dance, body stretches, coloring, and reflection questions. While enjoying the Playbook, we invite you to connect with your inner child that embraces messiness, goofiness, and joy.

Who is this for?

The Playbook was made for participants in the Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series to follow along the curriculum but is also a resource for any community members looking to engage in fun activities and community engagement practices and principles from home.

Check it out!

We encourage you to print the Playbook, use its resources, and ignite your inner playfulness as we continue to move through this global pandemic and remain connected to each other and our joy!

Download the Playbook here!

Nexus Community Partners Announces the 9th Cohort of their Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) 

At Nexus Community Partners, we believe that when we make decisions that affect all of our lives – across race, place, gender, and more – we all must share the power in making those decisions.   

But for too long, publicly-appointed boards and commissions have been a “hidden” layer of power making decisions about our communities, without our communities. And, increasingly, it is clear we need people in government who are accountable to their communities, and who are fighting for policies that direct resources to the people that need it most. We need to build the government that we want to see.    

Over the past nine years, Nexus been this work through our adaptation of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI),* a seven-month leadership program that supports, trains and helps place BIPOC community members on publicly appointed boards and commissions.  

Today, Nexus is pleased to announce the 16 fellows in our ninth cohort of the Twin Cities BCLI. From Woodbury to St. Louis Park, from St. Paul to Brooklyn Center, they represent a wide swath of geography and demographics, talent, and life experiences. Fellows are working to advance equity across sectors and issue areas, such as economic development, health, housing, transit, and workforce development. The 2021-2022 cohort kicks off this week with a private virtual opening dinner and online training session. 


The Ninth BCLI cohort members are:  

  1. Aimee Vue, nominated by Youthprise
  2. Akia Vang, nominated by BCLI alumni
  3. Chonburi Lee, nominated by Hmong American Partnership
  4. Chrissie Carver, nominated by BCLI alumni
  5. Danielle Swift, nominated by BCLI alumni
  6. Kabao Xiong, nominated by BCLI alumni
  7. Mai Tong Yang, nominated by BCLI alumni
  8. Ricky Williams, nominated by BCLI alumni
  9. Robert Boos, nominated by BCLI alumni
  10. Saundra Massey, nominated by BCLI alumni
  11. Stephanie Jones, nominated by Brooklyn Center
  12. Stephanie Shider, nominated by Nexus staff
  13. Temitayo Olasimbo, nominated by Woodbury
  14. Veronica Rono, nominated by BCLI alumni
  15. Yariet Montes, nominated by St. Louis Park
  16. Yasmin Muridi, nominated by BCLI alumni


The BCLI continues to build momentum and challenge the status quo within local government by supporting fellows and alumni to bring their full selves, their responsibility to their communities, and their distinctive cultural perspectives to these governing positions. 

The incoming BCLI fellows join a network of 114 alumni. Over half of them have been appointed to a board or commission or hold a high-level policy position, and all of them are building racial and economic equity in their communities.   

 Alumni of the Twin Cities program include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05); MN House Representative Hodan Hassan (DFL-62A); Metropolitan Council Representative for the 8th District Abdirahman Muse; Bush Fellows Roxxanne O’Brien and Carmeann Foster; Lower Phalen Creek executive director Maggie Lorenz; Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Minneapolis Ron Harris; Executive Director of Minnesota Voices HwaJeong Kim; and local entrepreneur and former Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory Board member Jamez Staples. 

Biographies of each fellow can be found on Nexus’ website, 

For more information about the BCLI, the launch or ways to become involved, please contact the program director, Terri Thao at or program manager Chai Lee at You can also check out Nexus’ website,, and on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @nexuscp. 



*The BCLI is adapted from a model created by Urban Habitat in Oakland, California. 



Did you hear that the People’s Canvass (formerly Knock Knock LLC) has become a worker-owned cooperative?

The Minneapolis team that built the nation’s largest deep canvassing team in November, and collected 16,000 signatures to put the Yes ‘4’ Minneapolis public safety initiative on the ballot, has broken new ground as the United States’ first political canvassing worker cooperative. Nexus Worker Ownership is proud to have supported them through this process.

“I’ll be the first to say it — I knew nothing about how any of this co-op stuff worked. I’m a canvasser. I go to the door and I talk to people about issues in their community,” said Charlie Bartlett, a lead trainer at The People’s Canvass and a member of the co-op transition team. “But working with Nexus gave us a vision and a pathway to achieve that vision. In the same way we feel called to do the work to improve our communities, the folks at Nexus are called to make that work itself more equitable.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative for a free consultation at

It’s September! There’s a new chill in the air, and some eager trees are starting to turn warm shades of yellow and orange. It also means that Terri Thao is back from her Sabbatical! In the spring, Terri took 3 months off to rest, reflect, and focus on her wellness. Now that she’s back in the swing of things, we caught up over the phone about her time off and what she’s learned. 


What did you end up getting up to?

I really just rested. It was so nice to not have the pressure of work and the day to day grind. I was able to relax
and learn at my own pace. For once, I was invested in my own relaxation, without feeding into the machine of productivity. I colored! I could set my own schedule. If I didn’t want to do something, or couldn’t do something, I didn’t have to and I could say that. I loved not having to email! 

This time allowed me to do more reflection, and I was able to actually sit down and journal. I reflected on what it means “to win,” what it would look like, smell like, and taste like. I thought about what sustainability looks like in social justice work when we are undoing hundreds of years of oppression. I was also able to read some meaty books and take Roxanne Gay’s master class on writing for social justice and social change. I’m still in the process of digesting it all.  (Books included: Caste by Isabel Wikerson, the Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, We Will Not Cancel Us by Adrienne Maree Brown.)

Of course, we’re in a global pandemic right now, and things came up. What does liberation in a pandemic look like? As a parent and as a daughter-in-law, I still had to do my role as a caretaker, with all the gendered expectations around who does the carework and the emotional labor.  I was getting up in the middle of the night for weeks to help my son recover from a medical procedure. The first day of my sabbatical was the day Daunte Wright was murdered. 

With all of it though, even if it wasn’t all restful, I was able to show up better because I didn’t have as much on my plate—I can really only care-take one thing well at a time. 


What advice do you have for other people taking Sabbaticals?

You know what works best for you! It’s great to have more time for leisure and not feel pressured by time, but rest looks different for different people. You are moving at your own pace. This is time for you to do you, centering yourself and your own needs. For me, I can’t sit around and do “nothing.” Even when I’m resting, I’m still in motion. But, moving from ten projects to just one project is a big shift and is rest for me. I had to remind myself that there is no such thing as “not resting well enough”—it is not a competition or “sabbatical-off!” 

I also recommend people get an accountabili-buddy. Cheng, my husband, was mine. He helped me stick to the goals I set for myself. If I did more, he would remind me to not overcommit and to honor my own boundaries.


Why are Sabbaticals important?

Rest is so important for everyone.  As leaders, we need to set the way, model the behavior, and stake a claim—rest is non negotiable. We need to own our ability to influence others by prioritizing our own rest. When I shared that I was going on sabbatical, a lot of people resonated my experience and desire to rest. We really need the time and space to do this! It matters. Now that I’m back, people have been asking me a lot of questions about what I did, even though my answer is that I didn’t do a whole lot. 

It was an extremely powerful experience overall. I joke that my last sabbatical was when I had my now 11 year old son. But we shouldn’t need to birth a whole human to get a break. And that wasn’t even a break! It was work. We shouldn’t have to wait for rest. I have been seeing this quote online that says “If you don’t make room for wellness, you make room for illness.” I used to get sick a lot because of that. I would push myself to the limit and I got burnt out!

I’m trying to be more disciplined in my own care and wellness. It’s really hard for women in my community though. Capitalism and patriarchy reinforce this push to “get things done.” I’m learning that the doneness is me though, and that I am enough. Self-care for me is something collectively defined by communities of color and Indigenous communities. While some part of self-care is spa days and treating yourself, we need to explore what deeply nurtures our souls and spirits as a community. 


Want to learn more about Terri? Check out her 15th anniversary profile!


Meet Kai Andersen, North Star Research Assistant!

  • September 9, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: Staff

Kai Andersen is a Gemini, Minneapolis born and raised, and chock full of thought-provoking questions. He joined Nexus in July 2021 as our North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship – Research Assistant. He also is a student pursuing his Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) at the University of Minnesota.

For Kai and North Star, Black cooperation is a path to self and collective healing and transformation. As a part of The North Star Team, Kai will be helping to expand and deepen their curriculum on Black cooperative thought and practice. He will be taking a deep dive into the history and cultural lineages and legacies of Black cooperation, a journey that will span cooperation and survival after Slavery, cultural ways of living and working collectively, and present-day, formally incorporated cooperatives led by Black folks. Some people and co-ops already on his list include Fannie Lou Hamer and Freedom Farmers, Cooperation Jackson, Boston Ujima, and East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative.

Cooperatives are an economic development strategy that are particularly interesting to Kai, as an Urban Planning student. Historically, planners and their practices have harmed Black communities through extracting resources, redlining, disinvestment, Jim Crow laws and racist policies. As a Black, mixed race Urban Planner, Kai is reckoning with that history and learning about reparative planning practices that can help return those resources to Black communities. 

For Kai, shared ownership is one of the most powerful and promising solutions out there. Unlike traditional economic development, cooperation and collective ownership are paths to big structural changes. He said, “doing work with coops is really energizing because of the self-determination that is central in it. Cooperatives allow our communities to explicitly develop what we want, and that can be reparative, transformative, and healing.” 

When Black and Brown communities have ownership—of their own businesses, housing, or spaces—they are able to become powerful decision makers, protecting themselves and the interests of their neighborhoods, while also building community and intergenerational wealth. Community ownership offers an alternative to the all-too-common story: outside developers buy land and/or buildings in BIPOC neighborhoods, make decisions with little regard for the people who live there, resulting in the displacement of families, small businesses and communities. In his year with Nexus, Kai’s driven to explore “how cooperatives play a role in growing and dreaming…and in protecting our neighborhoods from displacement, gentrification, disinvestment and extraction.”

Before coming to Nexus, he worked at the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and co-facilitated a workgroup on livability from a BIPOC, healing justice lens. Outside of work, he loves soaking in the energy of the Mississippi on river walks, enjoying herbal tea, and sharing food with people. Kai self-identifies as eclectic and renaissance-y, loving creative writing, theatre, music.


North Star Info Session #1

  • August 23, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Did you miss our first North Star Information Session this morning? Thankfully we recorded it! Watch it below to learn about the 2021 North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship and our focus on Housing Coops and Land Trusts, and Investment Cooperatives.

You can apply here by filling out the application, or you can submit a video response with your answers to the application questions.



Read or print blog as a PDF

At Nexus, we believe that community engagement is central to ushering out the rigged rules, attitudes, and practices that concentrate wealth and power in fewer and whiter hands, and ushering in ways of living, working, and making decisions together that nourish communities for this generation and generations to come. 

The Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) is committed to establishing beloved communities by co-creating transformation and healing through community engagement. NCEI cultivates our community engagement practices with community through three main bodies of work, which we call growing, gathering and harvesting

As for many others, 2020 brought for us transition, heartache, anger, deeper community love, care, and transformation into new ways of thinking and living into our mission. Within NCEI, this included an explicit, reinvigorated determination to restore power to the people and communities who continue to be harmed by the legacy of cultural genocide, colonization, enslavement, white supremacy, toxic patriarchy, and other systems of oppression. Communities, particularly those directly harmed by oppressive systems, have the right to self-determination and to enjoy full participation in any society.

New Pathways: Where we’ve come and where we’re headed

NCEI honors what has come before, and what is yet to come through broad engagement and co-creation with people doing community engagement on-the-ground. Since 2016, NCEI has been advancing and strengthening communities through equity-based community engagement both locally and nationally. We’ve grown and developed from the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement collaborative, a four-year initiative designed to magnify and elevate the power of community engagement to change the way problems are solved and resources are invested.

Now, we are re-imagining our bodies of work using the language grow, gather and harvest to more closely align with Nexus values of nourishing and cultivating our relationships with community and one another, as well as healing current and ancestral trauma. We believe using land-based language helps us be in better relationship with community engagement work, knowing that the seeds for systems change we plant now can transform and nourish future generations. 


Grow – in this body of work, we welcome people to the practice of community engagement as a means of achieving racial equity and abolishing oppressive systems. In addition, we expand the tools and networks for folks already doing this work. We call this “grow” because this is where we grow the field through training and workshops in what community engagement is, and how to do it.

Growing includes: 

Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement: a 4-part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement. This cohort-based workshop series introduces participants to foundational community engagement practices and principles.

Coaching and Consulting: working with institutions, systems and communities to strengthen their ability to implement authentic community engagement policies and practices.

Safety & Justice Challenge: providing community engagement coaching and support to grantees within the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety & Justice Challenge. We work with people in the criminal legal system to rethink public safety and reduce jail populations in the U.S.

GatherGather – in this body of work, we convene folks together in communities of practice. In these gatherings and cohorts, we deepen our practice in using community engagement to eliminate systems of oppression and transform organizations and communities. We call this “gather” because we bring folks together to learn from each other, support one another, and heal from the harm of working within historically oppressive systems.

Gathering includes:

Engaged Learning Series: convenings for community members to learn more about issues and opportunities emerging in the field of community engagement through deep dives and open conversations.

Neighborhood Leadership Program: an annual cohort-based program to support diverse community members to explore awareness of self, work effectively through cultural differences, and take meaningful action in their communities and neighborhoods (see below for more on NLP).

Harvest – in this body of work, we build on the collected wisdom of the folks we’Harvestve grown and gathered with. From this knowledge, we co-create tools and resources to nourish the field of community engagement. We call this “harvest” because we’re harvesting the wisdom that we’ve cultivated together.

Harvesting includes:

Tools such as our Community Engagement Assessment Tool and Impacts of Community Engagement Model.

Stories of Impact of community engagement to support people, communities and systems to explore, embed and expand community engagement principles and practices in their work.


Welcoming the Neighborhood Leadership Program to Nexus Community Engagement Institute 

As we grow, gather, and harvest with communities, we know we must center and remain tethered to people who are powerfully building with their communities. The Neighborhood Leadership Program (NLP), formerly a program of Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, does exactly that—it supports community leaders on their healing and transformation journeys, while grounding them in the engagement practices necessary to build permanently organized communities. 

NLP has been a staple resource in the Twin Cities region for over 20 years, and it has a robust and engaged alumni network with over 600 community members. Each year, NLP brings 25 people together across neighborhoods and identities—like race, class, gender, age, and others—to deepen self awareness, learn skills to work effectively across difference, and create change in their communities. As NLP becomes a core piece of NCEI’s work, we commit to honoring the past, being mindful in the emergent present, and building toward an irresistible future. 

Since early 2021, NCEI staff have been connecting with alumni and partners of NLP to explore how to best honor its legacy and envision its future. The first NLP cohort at Nexus is slated to launch this Fall. Contact mk nguyen for more information or to connect about NLP: NLP @ nexuscp . org.

New Co-Leadership Structure for NCEI staff 

 For us, the transformation and healing had to begin internally. To better reflect our belief in the power of collective leadership to shift oppressive narratives and change systems for the better, NCEI has transitioned into a co-leadership model. This change is an intentional way for us to:

  • Collaborate. More closely reflect the collective way we do our work, allowing for deeper relationship-building across staff and community. By working together more closely day-to-day, we can prevent the isolation that organizational leaders can all too often experience, especially BIPOC leaders.
  • Practice wellness. Distribute a more equitable workload that allows for better work-life balance, time to invest in our own personal healing, and alleviate burnout for directors and staff.
  • Share decision-making. Co-leaders are able to make better decisions by bringing together their experiential knowledge, intersecting identities, and diverse and complementary skill sets.
  • Be more sustainable. Create greater stability and continuity moving forward as we shift, grow and adapt. As individuals transition through their leadership roles at NCEI, our collaborative leadership model will help sustain knowledge, relationships, and practice throughout the Institute.

 We are excited about this new structure, knowing it won’t always be easy. It will require more intentionality, deeper self-awareness and togetherness, which requires more time. It will take longer and be messier – and we’re here for that beautiful, messy, ambiguous and emergent process – because that’s how healing and transformation happens.