Introducing our newest cohort from the Neighborhood Leadership Program! These thoughtful folks will walk alongside one another for 7 months in deep self-reflection. They will build self-awareness, practice working across difference, and engage in values-based action. Read their bios here!




Meet the 22-23 North Stars!

Check out these incredible cooperators! These fellows are brilliant and imaginative and kind. You don’t want to miss them. You can get a preview below, and read all about them here.

House of Culture
✨Jayanthi RaJaSa, Yonci Peaceful Jameson, Kenna-Camara Cottman
✨House of Culture is a cooperative manifestation based in the oral tradition and griot skills that form the foundation of Voice of Culture.

A Farm Called Home
✨Cal Adeboye, Lane Brown, Mari Fitch, Izzy Vielman, Mo Hanson, Jai Jami, Sun Kai
✨A Farm Called Home invests in Black and Indigenous future farmers by providing access to land-ownership and housing stabilization through cooperative development, education and environmental stewardship.

✨ Olivia Nichols, Sophia Nichols, Syreeta Sevé
✨The mission of Lupine is to restore relationship with the land, animal, human, and plant kin in our home of Mni Sota Makoce.

The Black Prosperity Cooperative
✨Alicia Clerk, Chakita Lewis
✨Our mission is to develop a sisterhood based on mutual respect, collaboration, inclusion, and shared economic opportunity.

Cultural Crops Cooperative
✨Mujahid Layton, Tenille Foreman
✨We seek to provide sanctuary to those seeking freedom from oppressive systems by modeling our ancestral agrarian & natural lifestyles on 20 acres of land in Georgia.

Boston Black Market and Enrichment Center
✨Jihan Thomas
✨We strive to be a place where Black people can gather to ideate, share the joy of the day, and just be.

Please join us in giving our new team member, Leanna Browne, a warm welcome! Leanna is a dancer, a teaching artist, a choreographer, and a connector in community. At Nexus, she’s a program associate working on the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. Right now, Leanna’s filling her cup through sharing space with folks and being in community. 

“I’ve been thinking about how it is very easy to be isolated right now. I am thinking about how community is being cultivated. Where can people gather and be their full selves? Being a part of North Star—a Black-led and centered space—where folks are able to gather around cooperation, Black liberation, and community wealth has been really special.”

Outside of work, Leanna has been getting energy from dance. For Leanna, “dance is a way to not only be connected to your body but also to connect to others. Reconnecting with yourself and with community is powerful! I want to cultivate spaces for folks to experience that.” If you want to dance with Leanna, she has a free Umfundalai (muh-foon-duh-luh) class coming up! Learn more here:

Read her bio here

Apply to Join NLP 2022-23

  • June 8, 2022
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Apply today for Neighborhood Leadership Program 2022-23! Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) is excited to announce the 2nd year of Neighborhood Leadership Program (NLP) in Nexus soil.

NLP is a 7-month cohort experience for individuals to gather and organize stories—our personal and our shared knowledge. Our goal is to collectively clarify the narrative we want to shape the world. Narratives like these have the power to transform our future, our mindsets, relationships, power dynamics, policies, and flow of resources. The stories we tell about ourselves are everything.

Our program is open to applicants who are both early and seasoned in their leadership journey. At NLP, we are more interested in learning about your passions and commitment to shape change in community than in popularity, degrees or accolades. Everyone has something to learn and to share. Apply here and reach out to with any questions.

Last week, we wrapped up the 2021-2022 Pilot Neighborhood Leadership Program year!!! This was the first year NLP was housed on Nexus soil. Congratulations to the newest NLP Grads!

NLP celebrated by gathering in person for the first time in person, eating delicious food from Demera’s Ethiopian Restaurant, and sharing lots of hugs and laughter! Folks from the NLP community, including the cohort selection committee and Nexus Community Engagement Institute staff, joined to  celebrate the fellows.

Sydney Lattimer, also known as Divine Words, offered us a beautiful Radical Acts of Remembrance ceremony, where we honored our ancestors and remembered our way forward. Though we know we are now in each other’s ecosystems forever, we will miss regularly seeing the beautiful faces of this year’s cohort!

Are you interested in joining our next cohort? The NLP team is already busy preparing for the upcoming year—visit us here or reach out to us at for more information. Applications will open this summer! Stay tuned.

Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is excited to be featured in a new report from the Brookings Institute. Read the Saint Paul Case Study here.

“Institutionalizing inclusive growth: Rewiring systems to rebuild local economies,” is a playbook of innovative economic development strategies. Through in-depth case studies, it profiles the wide variety of local public, private, and civic institutions stewarding their communities through the four pillars that drive inclusive growth: economic development, talent development, spatial development, and asset development.


Lessons and Learnings from Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement 2021

Amid the global pandemic, the climate crisis, and the on-going reckoning with racism at all levels, everyone is doing the best they can to navigate all the things. It’s been a trip. At the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI), we have been working hard with our community to adapt our work to be joyful, life-giving, and impactful in a virtual space, amidst all that is happening.  

In 2021, we hosted our second online training for Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement, an introduction to the Field of Community Engagement. Contending with Zoom fatigue on top of all these on-going crises, we weren’t sure what participants would walk away with. Turns out, folks learned a lot. And we did too. 

We wanted to pause and offer some of our reflections from this year’s cohort to other comrades in the movement trying to host each other in this socially distanced reality.  


Before we share these reflections, we wanted to take time to share our context. Right now, NCEI is exploring what it means to do our work in this moment, and in this ecosystem of people, communities, and organizations doing the work. Taking our lessons from the natural world, dandelions have been particularly resonant with us. They help new plants grow by enriching the soil with nutrients, by pulling out toxins, and by loosening up soil structure.  

At NCEI, we are trying embrace our role as dandelions. How do we build deep roots and networks of community care while also helping community authorship, leadership and ownership take root within systems?   

One way we do this is through our annual training series, Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement. Our goal is to provide space for folks to explore how culture, healing, history, identity, power, relationships and trust impact community engagement, as well as how they are strengthened through authentic engagement processes (see our Impacts Model here). 

Tapping the Potential 2021 

From the beginning, this iteration of Tapping the Potential felt different. On average, the cohort self-identified as more experienced in communinty engagement than any cohort we hosted before.* Based on past feedback, we also added a fifth, 3-hour session to explore culture change more explicitly, bringing us to a total of 15 Zoom session hours.  

We weren’t sure what to expect—would participants come back after the first session? What would they takeaway? In the end, not only did we retain 95% of the cohort for the duration of the series, but participants also named some powerful learnings and desire to continue pausing for reflection and healing.  

Relationships and healing at the center 

What we learned is that people trying to engage community right now are thirsty to be together. They are committed to pushing systems to do better, but are dedicated to taking care of themselves, to slowing down for self-preservation and their health. Participants named their desire for pause, space for reflection, for healing, and for connection. 

  • “I feel emboldened by the series to stand firm in the approach my team takes to community engagement.” 
  • “Dominant culture/white supremacy is still here, and [I’m learning] how that shows up in myself and the work; healing through community engagement.” 
  • “I plan on building in more time to reset, reflect and repair. Take tips from Pleasure Activism and other healing. I often go 100 MPH and actually even though I am in a good space…I need boundaries and time to slow down…” 

Value the process as much as the outcomes 

In community engagement, we’ve always known that how we do our work is as important—if not more important—than what we do in our work. For our online programming, that principle remains as true as ever. It has been vital that we take time in trainings to build relationships; that we break up Zoom meetings with time for small groups and individual activities; that we dig into deep personal and group reflection; and that we still ‘read the room’ and scrap the agenda at times to make space for emerging needs.  

Participants confirmed this for us: 

  • “This series created/modeled an experience for me that I want to replicate. I want to shift to focusing on the inner circle of the community engagement model.”
  • “The importance of the ‘invitation’ and of ‘presence.’ The way your team used technology and adapted practices in real time was very thoughtful and wise. Maybe the truest expression of the values we discussed.”  
  • “When applying for grants, we will focus more on relationship building as a key goal/outcome.” 

Embed body movement and story-telling 

This year, we took another step towards integrating movement and playfulness into our sessions by mailing participants an interactive Playbook and a fidget spinner. The playbook was designed to spark the deeper dialog that community engagement requires through coloring sheets, stretching activities, I Am Poems, reflection questions, and more. Being vulnerable, speaking truth, and learning from each other’s stories to help complicate our own world view. 

  • “I feel like I learned so much about how to hold space as well as the content…the most important thing I learned is to let go of the idea of ‘knowing’ as a goal and more deeply accepted my place at the start of a powerful journey.” 
  • “The biggest takeaway was how the series modeled the main takeaway that I think you intended, which was focusing on the inner circle of community engagement and letting anything from the outer circle flow from there.” Learn more about our impact model here. 

Life-giving spaces 

There were many other take-aways shared by participants – deeper self-awareness, greater understanding of how community engagement and equity are linked, tools for how to move from outreach toward engagement, stories of successful engagement practices, and more.  

But what stood out most to us was that hosting cohort experiences online can still be life-giving. By intentionally crafting our space and time, we could create opportunities to build relationships, to embrace many ways of thinking and learning, and to let stories and healing to emerge.  

It’s always an honor to host cohort experiences with brilliant and powerful community members – this is why we love community engagement. We learned a lot from the participants in Tapping the Potential this year, and we’re excited to continue deepening our work together moving forward. 


Stay tuned for the re-launching of the Engaged Learning Series this May, and for registration for the 2022 Tapping the Potential series this fall! For more information, email us at 


*82% of participants in Tapping the Potential 2021 identified as “advanced” or “intermediate” in community engagement experience, compared to 73% in 2020, and 51% in 2019.