Join us to celebrate the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship 2017-18 Graduating Cohort!
Come help us honor this year’s graduating North Star fellows: Amoke Kubat, Carl Crawford, Harrison Bullard, Lashunda Roberts, Lavasha Smith, Nicque Mabrey, Selah Michele and Sheronda Orridge and their efforts in establishing Black led Cooperative initiatives. Fellows’ initiatives vary from housing, worker owned, healing networks, hair care and hair product cooperatives.
Join us to learn more about their work and how you can be in cooperation with them. A keynote address will be made by Collie Graddick, our local north and south cooperative leader.
Dates: June 1, June 8, June 22, June 29 Time: 9:00 am – 12 Noon Where: UROC Room 105, 2001 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411
Description: This 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 1: What is Community Engagement? Why is it Important?
Session 2: Effective Tools for Community Engagement
Session 3: The Link between Community Engagement and Equity
Session 4: Integrate Community Engagement into your Organization’s Work and Culture
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.
*NEW THIS YEAR: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Cultural Exploration Pre-Work Option: Culture, healingand relationships are central to authentic and sustainable community engagement. Thus, this year we are piloting 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, as well as challenges and opportunities connecting across difference and commonality. 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 May 2018 prior to the beginning of the workshop series.*
Fee: A few scholarships are available, no one will be turned away. Contact Angie for details (see below).
Individuals: $450 for all four sessions
**Groups of 3-5 from one organization: $400 per person for all four sessions**
*Individuals Plus IDI Pre-Work Option: additional $150 per person for IDI group session and individual feedback session in May 2018 – 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 Institute: Nexus 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 Presenters: The presenters and facilitators are staff and partners of Nexus Community Partners and Nexus Community Engagement Institute.
Contact Angie Brown at email@example.com questions or for more information about scholarships.
Ana Clymer of United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) was one of the participants in Nexus Community Engagement Institute’s (NCEI) Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series in the fall of 2017 – a four-part introduction to the field of community engagement.
Ana and her colleague, Laura Columbus, drove four hours for each session, giving them ample time to discuss how they may incorporate more community engagement principles and practices into UWECI’s work:
How does community engagement lead to equity? One example includes the age-old proverb, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” This may be true in some cases, but we need to ask, “Do people want to learn to fish?”, “Will teaching people to fish really solve the problem?”, and “Do people already know how to fish, and there’s another problem we can’t see?”
By asking these questions, we might learn people of the community won’t eat fish, or fish isn’t enough to sustain them, or the fish are not edible. If we don’t live there, we don’t know until we ask.
In the summer of 2016, Nexus along with other Community Engagement Team members (CURA and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability) supported 11 community-based organizations in engaging their communities to find out what bus stop improvements are important to them. The Better Bus Stops engagement process concluded in the spring of last year. Recently, Metro Transit announced changes to their policies that resulted from the engagement process:
“After receiving community feedback and reviewing wait time data we recently revised those guidelines. Under the new guidelines, shelters will be considered at any site where there are more than 30 boardings a day, with a priority on sites that have more than 100 daily boardings.
The guidelines also place a higher priority on locations that serve people with disabilities, older adults and those who are less likely to own a vehicle. Transfer points and boarding locations near healthcare or social service centers will also get greater consideration.
The new criteria are a clear demonstration of how equity, defined as equal access to opportunity for all, is guiding our work.”
For Nexus Community Partners, business conversions to worker ownership is part of its community wealth building initiative that seeks to promote local and broad-based ownership and encourage economic practices rooted in cultural communities.
This work received a shout out in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s “Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability.”
“If you’re a boomer business owner planning for succession, you can’t afford to overlook the employee ownership option,” writes Lori Shepherd in Entrepreneur.
At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business owner to do so?
While the ability to defer capital gains tax is a factor, it turns out there are also powerful market incentives. A wave of retirements (2.4 million, Shepherd estimates) has long been expected in the decade or so to come, and as Shepherd points out, “In a crowded marketplace, transferring full ownership to the workers may represent [retiring owners’] best chance to sell their businesses at fair market value.”
Many of the neighborhoods that the light rail extension would pass through are home to a population of majority people of color and immigrants who would likely be left out of the conversation if traditional planning processes were followed. As Patrick Troska, Executive Director of the Phillips Family Foundation said, ‘If the community wasn’t engaged in this decision from the very start, then the outcomes the community needed wouldn’t have been accomplished.’
Nexus and Phillips are organizations committed to living out the values of community engagement and working alongside community leaders and organizations. They believe that every community member, especially those who have been historically oppressed or ignored, should have access to opportunities to influence decision-making that affects their lives. Using their resources to fund and support community engagement was critical to ensuring all of the community could benefit from this large public infrastructure investment.”
To answer this question, we turn to the story of the Blue Line Coalition:
With the landscape of our cities ever-changing, the Metro Blue Line light rail extension is planned to connect North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, running through neighborhoods with a majority population of people of color and immigrants. Major infrastructural investments like the light rail extension will impact our communities for decades to come, with economic impacts in the billions.
There is a long and damaging history in this country of transit planning and development negatively impacting communities of color, especially historically African American communities. We need look no further than the Rondo Community in St. Paul, decimated by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950’s and 60’s when highway planners failed to engage and listen to the concerns of the community. To ensure that this damaging pattern was not repeated, several community organizations came together in 2012 to form the Blue Line Coalition to advocate for community engagement in the planning process of the Blue Line light rail extension.
Today, Blue Line Coalition members have seen their impact on the policies and structure of the light rail plans, and in building community capacity. The Blue Line Coalition has created a couple of videos that demonstrate the power of community engagement as a key strategy to advance equity in our communities.
Check out the below video for a message to our partners in philanthropy about resourcing community engagement.
Watch the below video for a perspective from BLC member organizations on their experience organizing community.
“At Nexus we think it’s very important for people to take vacations to get away, spend time with family or to concentrate on things outside of work. However, you shouldn’t have to vacate your job or the work experience in order to relax and experience a sense of wellness. We believe that wellness should be integrated into the work environment and that people should be able to engage in wellness in addition to any vacation they take.”- Repa Mekha, President & CEO, Nexus Community Partners.
A little over a year ago, Nexus Community Partners’ President and CEO, Repa Mekha, took a three-month sabbatical. He spent this time traveling, learning, and reflecting on his ten years of leadership at Nexus. The time away was invaluable for Repa and the organization, and both were stronger when he returned. While on sabbatical, Repa reflected on the importance of wellness, and how too often our organizational structures and cultures discourage staff from taking care of themselves. “I think we often think that not being able to keep on pushing means there is something less about us when in reality, we’re just human and we can only drive for so long without our minds, our bodies, and our spirits needing rest”. Upon his return, Repa and staff began articulating what it would look like if we integrated personal and collective wellness into our work – what would it look like if we made an organizational commitment to the nourishment of our whole selves.
Nexus’ Wellness Program is a collective experience that promotes valuing individuals and the work they engage in. We believe this should be the way forward for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Valuing the wellness of your staff; valuing the whole person, changes the way they approach the work and the way they show up. It allows those who wish to dedicate their life to social justice, to do so and to do so in such a way that doesn’t sacrifice their minds, bodies, and spirits.
Nexus’ Wellness Program is unique in its approach, being both flexible and responsive to the personal wellness practices of the staff. Nexus’ Wellness Program is a human based approach that reinforces the importance of self-care. Since wellness practices look different for everyone, Nexus staff decide the activities that are suitable to their mental, physical and/or spiritual needs and interests. Nexus’ Wellness Program includes a $250 wellness stipend every six months and two paid wellness hours per week which are blocked off on calendars and used for activities defined by individual staff. In addition, Nexus staff participates in a collective wellness activity such as group meditation instruction, a boat cruise, a trip to the Como Conservatory, and a self-defense class led by a Nexus staff member. The group time provides a space for Nexus staff to engage and experience each other while strengthening relationships.
We believe that our wellness practices are necessary. As an organization led by people of color and working in communities of color, we know the toll this work can take on our minds, bodies, and spirits. At Nexus, we welcome the whole person into the work and believe that our passion and dedication to the work should be valued. We believe a person can step away from their work to take care of them self and their work is better for it when they return. Allocating financial resources for wellness reinforces the value we place on the mental, physical, and spiritual wellness of the staff.
Unfortunately, too many nonprofits overwork their staff and send the message that taking time off, taking care of oneself and/or your family, means you’re not fully committed to the work. Foundations, too, can create and/or perpetuate this culture by refusing to pay adequate overhead, asking for “efficiencies” in staffing, and looking for long-term change in short-term grant cycles. The result? Burnout – a loss of dedicated, passionate and compassionate individuals who are no longer able to contribute their skills and expertise to the work.
Repa’s sabbatical was an important time for the organization and a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on how we are sustaining ourselves in this work. We encourage other organizations to think deeply about how they’re taking care of themselves while working to advance social justice throughout our communities.
“Now in its fifth year, the Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. As models of true problem solving, they work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make their communities better for all.
“’The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that are creative, fierce and dogged in the way they work and in what they accomplish,” said Bush President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “As models for problem solving, they consistently pick a path of innovation that drives profound results for their communities.’”
Wealth disparities across the country are at an all-time high, and in Minnesota growing racial and economic inequalities threaten our economic vitality. The Twin Cities has the third highest employment gap between whites and people of color among the large metropolitan areas.1 In 2015, the overall poverty rate in Minnesota was 10.2%, but it was 16.4% for Asians, 20.8% for Latinos, 32.4% for blacks, and 25.1% for American Indians.2 According to a recent Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) report, it will take the average African American family 228 years to amass the same level of wealth as the average European American family.3
At the same time the trend in disparities threatens our economic vitality, the unprecedented wave of baby boomer retirements could further entrench the wealth gap. Nationally, approximately 50% of privately held businesses are owned by baby boomers, with 85% of owners having no succession plan.4 One-third of business owners over the age of 50 report having difficulty finding someone to purchase their business.5 This could result in the loss of millions of jobs, billions in tax revenue; leading to significant economic instability.
But the ‘silver tsunami’ doesn’t have to be an economic disaster. The trend could actually provide opportunities to mitigate wealth disparities and root ownership in communities of color. Across the country, the strategy of converting businesses to worker cooperatives is gaining traction as a means to redefine the traditional notion of ownership and build community wealth. In the worker cooperative business model, employees become the new owners; sharing the profits, accumulating wealth, and participating in decision making through a one worker, one vote structure. Worker cooperatives offer a way to promote local and broad-based ownership, provide dignified employment and eliminate racial and economic disparities.
In 2016, Nexus Community Partners and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota began conducting a landscape analysis to assess the potential impact on our local economy and to identify potential opportunities for conversions to worker cooperatives. What follows are the results, a case for worker cooperatives and a set of recommendations for how the Twin Cities region can support the growth of the cooperative sector in communities of color.