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.



Meet Lavasha Smith!

  • August 4, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General


We are excited to introduce Lavasha Smith, our new program associate with the Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI)! Part of Nexus’ Community Wealth Building Strategy, WOI helps retiring business owners sell their businesses to their employees and convert them into worker-owned cooperatives. 

Lavasha’s passion for cooperatives started when she was a member of the Nexus North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship in 2017. There, she learned about the historical value of cooperatives within Black communities. “Us as black people have been cooperating forever!! There’s so much generational history there,” she reflected. 

Through her own experience helping to build a cooperative herself, she’s learned some invaluable lessons about Black cooperation. Cooperatives push back against white dominant culture messages that tell us we need to be independent and do things all on our own. Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks have always been doing this work, centering community and looking out for friends, family, and neighbors. She shared that:

“There’s a misconception that Black people, especially Black women can’t work together. That is not true! We CAN work together and have been doing it for generations. Working together might look different than traditional business,…[but] we keep things going with one another. It really does take a village.”

In our lives and in cooperative work, we must lean into trusting one another, while fighting those toxic narratives that serve to isolate us. Lavasha is committed to this work because cooperatives are a tool of transformation, and a powerful way for Black and Brown people to own their wealth, labor, and time. 

As both a Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute Alum and a North Star, Lavasha has been connected with the Nexus community for some time. Her first month so far has been a time of growth and constructive challenge. She said, “I’m unlearning some of the ways I’m used to working; I’m re-learning how to be a part of a healthy team, and adapting to a new organizational culture. I am constantly growing alongside my team at Nexus who pushes me and listens with intent.” She hopes that through her work at Nexus, “the idea of cooperative business structures amongst Black and Brown people becomes tangible. It is feasible, we have been doing it together, and we’ll keep doing it together.”

In her free time, Lavasha enjoys cooking, being a chauffeur for all of her son’s activities, and spending time with her large family, laughing and telling jokes.  


The Twin Cities BCLI is proud to announce that one of its most recent alumni, Steven Nelson was recently appointed to Public Health Community Health Services Advisory Committee (CHSAC) for Ramsey County. Steven is a graduate of the most recent cohort (#8: 2020-2021).

Steven has a great lived and work experience in the areas of mental health and addiction counseling. His passionate voice and valuable background will be a great asset to this committee. We want to also give a shoutout to Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo for her help in guiding Steven in this endeavor and on this appointment. Congratulations Steve!

Nexus Community Partners believes that when we make decisions that affect all of our lives, we all must share the power in making those decisions. Guided by that vision, the Nexus BCLI is a 7-month leadership program that supports, trains and helps place BIPOC and other shut out community members on city and county publicly appointed boards and commissions. Look out for more information about our 9th cohort this Fall!

Introducing Karen Quiroz, Development Manager

  • July 26, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Introducing Karen Quiroz! Karen is an INTJ, a Cancer, and our fearless development manager, as of late March. Throughout her work, starting at the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy and continuing at Nexus, Karen keeps seeing connections between the ways exploitative systems concentrate wealth in fewer and whiter hands, locally and globally. In development, Karen sees her role as an opportunity to push philanthropy to do better, and to create change at the intersection of wealth and racial justice. 

As a musician and dancer, she knows how essential and energizing it is to develop a personal and collective vision for the world we want to be in. Naming and breaking down injustice is only one piece of the puzzle. Karen is drawn to art because of the ways it creates opportunities for us to reconnect deeply with culture and embody other worlds. 

In her free time, Karen embraces and builds community and culture through Brazilian roots music. The recipient of three Artist Initiative grants (Minnesota State Arts Board), she leads her own band Samba Meu and plays percussion with Batucada Do Norte. Other than that, she is busy raising two boys, dancing Samba and swimming whenever she gets the chance.

Susy and Alex are Public Allies Grads!

  • July 9, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Today, after 10 months of creating and learning with us, Susy and Alex are graduating from Twin Cities Public Allies! They have accomplished so much during their terms—from creating an employee handbook to facilitating community engagement trainings. It has been a real gift to work with these two brilliant and caring people. THANK YOU!


“Something that I’ll be taking with me from these last few months at Nexus is a genuine sense of accomplishment and a whole lot of knowledge. I’m extremely grateful for this experience and for everyone at Nexus who made these last few months wonderful.” – Alex Zapata, Human Resources and Organizational Culture (HROC) Associate

“Having an ally over the last 10 months has been quite the journey. While the program is focused on the development of those in the cohort, I wouldn’t be surprised if I learned more than Alex. In working with Alex, I have learned a lot about how I can best support leaders in doing justice work. Perhaps my biggest takeaway, though, was that one of the best ways I can support leaders working towards justice is to model what it looks like to hold my own self accountable to them both as a human and as a staff member.

It’s been a pleasure working with Alex. I appreciate their offerings to Nexus and ultimately myself. I hope we at Nexus have been as generous and provided a valuable experience. I can’t wait to see what Alex goes on to do!” ” – Chalonne Wilson, Director of HROC


“One thing I have learned stems from Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Emergent Strategy – critical mass is a way to create change however critical deep connections is what leads us to emergence. This is something that the NCEI team has shown me and practiced in our work together. I am looking forward to strengthening relationships with my co-workers as well as deepen my learnings around emergent strategies in the community engagement institute’s work. Thank you Nexus for investing in my growth as a human being!” – Susy Morales, Community Engagement Coordinator

“Working with Susy has been a godsend! Her support to the Institute allowed us to expand our capacity and work with additional clients. We were so happy to see Susy grow her facilitation skills. We could not be more appreciative of Public Allies for bringing Susy to our lives. We are proud to welcome her as a staff member of Nexus Community Partners.” – Octavia Smith, Co-Director of Nexus Community Engagement Institute

When this North Star cohort started in October, it was our first virtual cohort, our first cohort organized around collective land ownership, and our first cohort where entire cooperatives participated together. In anticipation of North Star graduation this Wednesday, we will be revisiting some of the North Star sessions, what they learned, and sharing some resources. 

Cooperatives provide a different model of ownership and wealth sharing, and in the process, we are asked to invest deeply in one another, identify and communicate our needs, and skillfully navigate conflict. At Nexus, we realize that we are all connected – what affects one person or community, affects another – and this kind of approach to decisions and conflict is one part of learning how to honor our responsibility for each other. In April, Autumn Brown joined our North Star to discuss democratic decision making and conflict resolution. 

A co-owner at AORTA, Autumn taught us about different models of democratic decision making and strategies for working through conflict. Autumn emphasized the importance of breaking down HOW decisions are made, identifying who has the final say, and thinking about if you like how it is. These considerations are key for any group of people starting a cooperative. 

A key piece of democratic decision making is navigating conflict—a natural and healthy part of people working and/or living together. Autumn talked about how to prepare and plan for conflict before it even happens, making it easier for conflict to be handled well, and be generative and healthy for the group. For example, self-evaluations of conflict styles, helping cooperative members understand how they feel about conflict, and how they like to address it, help cooperatives determine their approach to conflict before it starts. 

Conflict resolution skills are foundational in cooperatives, and in our lives, communities, and movements as well. Dealing with conflict in grounded and centered ways can be difficult, but is essential. As we fight for better futures for all of us, we must simultaneously consider how we govern ourselves—how we want to be together, how to make decisions together, how we want to deal with hurt and harm, and what accountability means to us.

Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation this Wednesday (5/26)! Learn about our incredible fellows, and hear some of our keynote speaker Noni Session’s wisdom (East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative). Click here to RSVP.

North Star 2021: Cooperative Governance

  • May 24, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

When this North Star cohort started in October, it was our first virtual cohort, our first cohort organized around collective land ownership, and our first cohort where entire cooperatives participated together. In anticipation of North Star graduation this Wednesday, we will be revisiting some of the North Star sessions, what they learned, and sharing some resources. 

Second in our series is our session on cooperative governance. Governance describes the shared agreements that shape how your cooperative actually works, like determining how people become members, how members share profits, who can be on the coop’s board, or how the cooperative communicates. At Nexus, we believe that when we make decisions that affect our lives, we share the power in making those decisions, and co-op governance is a big part of that.

Signe Harriday started our session off by sharing her journey with cooperatives, and how she became one of the co-founders and co-owners of Rootsprings. Rootsprings is a land-based Cooperative in greater MN stewarding space for healing and development of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, activists, healers, and community centering Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) folx. 

Rootsprings has two legal structures, a non-profit and a cooperative. This dual structure allows them to leverage tax-deductible dollars to support their start up costs while they build out a self-sustaining cooperative businesses model. Fellows really vibed with Rootsprings, the creativity of their structure, and the need for BIPOC and LGBTQ centered healing spaces where folks can connect with nature.

Renee Hatcher, a community lawyer based in Chicago, spoke about her experience leaning into Black cooperative history, and how she tries to bring that into the cooperative law field. As a cooperative lawyer, Renee helps worker-owners understand cooperative legal structures, and many different ways of governing are possible within them. Cooperatives are a space that allows us to decolonize how we govern by relying on our own indigenous democratic practices. 

Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation this Wednesday (5/26)! Learn about our incredible fellows, and hear some of our keynote speaker Noni Session’s wisdom (East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative). Click here to RSVP.

Cooperatives are a key part of transitioning to a just economy, and cooperative finance is a crucial piece of the process. But, with banks’ and lenders’ histories of racism in lending to Black and Brown communities, applying for loans can be daunting. The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship exists to help Black-led cooperatives navigate these processes in community and with support. 

Last month, the North Stars dove into finance with our partners at Shared Capital, Jessica and Samantha, Social Impact Strategies, Elaine Rasmussen, E Coco Consulting and Nexus’ own Christina Nicholson, the Worker Owner Initiative Program Manager. Our speakers and teachers were thoughtful, supportive, realistic as they shared their expertise and answered fellows’ questions. 

Shared Capital is a CDFI (community development financial institution) that finances cooperatives across the nation. Jessica and Samantha walked the fellows through the loan application process, the different types of investments they can make in cooperatives, and the ways the cooperative principles guide Shared Capital’s work. 

Afterwards, our partners had a panel discussion about their experiences with cooperative finance, including different opportunities and obstacles Black-led cooperatives can face when raising capital. Elaine talked about how to get connected to and build relationships with investors. Coco talked about opportunities to raise money to support cooperatives in an unexpected place—philanthropy. She gave fellows insights into how to navigate spaces with funders and find opportunities for funding that might not be obvious. 

Fellows and speakers supported each other in this conversation about financing. Together, they unpacked how banks, lenders, and foundations have extracted wealth from Black communities while also denying them support—this historical and present discrimination can make financing an exhausting process. It was powerful for fellows and speakers to talk about these barriers together and find support in their shared experiences. Black people have built cooperatives throughout history to support each other and thrive, and there is a tight community of folks ready to dig in and help other cooperators out.

Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation next Wednesday! Learn about our incredible fellows, and hear some of our keynote speaker Noni Session’s wisdom (East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative). Click here to RSVP. 

Nexus BCLI Graduates 8th Cohort!

  • April 30, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Congratulations to the 16 graduates of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute’s 8th cohort! On April 1st, 2021, we gathered virtually with BCLI fellows, their families, and community members to celebrate all they learned and accomplished in the past 7 months. These graduates join a community of 99 BCLI alumni. 

The first all-virtual BCLI cohort, these fellows navigated the unique personal, local, national, and global challenges of the past 7 months with grace and determination. It was truly an honor to witness their dedication to community and justice, and to join them on their journey.  

As is BCLI tradition, two graduating fellows, Shawn Sorrell and Stephannie Lewis, shared their personal experiences and biggest takeaways from the fellowship. For Shawn, he spoke on the different roles different people have in making change, and how wherever fellows show up, “we need to demand change or risk maintaining the status quo.” Stephannie Lewis emphasized the importance of reflection, and how central reflection is for effective and just governance—”to make sense of messy and confusing policymaking, reflection is not placating or appeasement, it is wisdom. It anchors us to our community and our why.”

Our keynote speaker, Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, delivered a message about collective leadership, the importance of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and marginalized folks being at the table, and bringing their communities with them. She said, 

“We’re living right now in a moment in our society where we have the possibility to reimagine and transform so much. I want to remember where you came from so you can always remember where you are going.”

As the first African American elected to the Hennepin County Board, Commissioner Conley knows how difficult it can be to navigate those spaces, and how much pressure there can be to fix things—“for real transformational change to occur, the onus is not on any one individual. It is our collective responsibility to lock arms and GET IT DONE!!!”

All the speakers expressed gratitude for the fellows and how much they learned over the course of the cohort. The evening ended with Terri and Chai honoring each graduating fellow. Celebration packages including certificates and original art by BCLI Alumnae PH Copeland on the way. We also want to give a HUGE thank you to Three Sisters Event Rentals for their tech support, event coordination, and courier services. Check them out here! 

Nexus is truly humbled to be able to share space with such powerful people, and we thank the fellows, alumni, friends, family, and funders for making this happen. 



*The Nexus Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) brings together Black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) and other community members who have been shut out of governing to support, train, and help place them on city, county, metro and state boards and commissions. Alumni of the program challenge current systems by bringing their full selves, their responsibility to their communities, and their distinctive cultural perspectives to these governing positions. Learn more here.


A Message of Solidarity: Chauvin Verdict

  • April 21, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Art by @JohnLeeDraws

First and foremost, we ground ourselves in our love of George Floyd, his family, Black life, and Black futures. 

We sit in this moment with many feelings—joy, grief, anger, love, relief, tension. This is a historic conviction that comes out of months of organizing, mutual aid, collective care, protest, uprising, rebellion by people in the streets. A conviction that also comes on the heels of police killings of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant. Justice is no one being murdered at the hands of the police ever again. Justice to us means safety for everyone, and a world where people have everything they need. 

Our work is to repair and heal our individual and collective trauma, knowing those are interconnected. As we endure trauma after trauma on so many levels, we invite you ground and settle as you can. 


Grounding tools (@traumaawarecare):


  • explore the texture of your clothing
  • smell something comforting like hot tea or lavender
  • touch your thumb to each finger while counting: 1-2-3-4, 4-3-2-1
  • wrap yourself in a warm blanket
  • move your body in a way that feels good to you – stretch, walk, shake


  • drink something cold or chew on ice
  • gently turn your head to look around the room
  • run cool water on your wrists
  • count by color – how many blue objects do you see?
  • take a brisk walk or shake your limbs/hands/body