Elena Gaarder

Whether in front of a group or in the halls of Nexus, you will often hear Elena describe this work as her heart. She is currently a program officer with Nexus Community Partners and directs its Worker Ownership Initiative. As part of the Nexus team, Elena focuses on elevating shared-ownership models and spearheading programs that demonstrate the power of building community wealth. She has 22 years of community economic development experience, serving as the executive director of several place-based non-profit organizations and working as a community organizer. Elena was a founding member of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and serves on the Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board and the East Side Funders Group. For 10 years, she worked as a consultant with Family Philanthropy Advisors, providing support to the James Ford Bell and Fran and Warren Rupp Foundations.

As a recognized thought leader in her field, Elena was awarded a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship in 2015. As a result of this experience, she helped to build Nexus’ Community Wealth Building framework, which is now being practiced by foundations, nonprofit organizations and government institutions in the Twin Cities. Elena holds a bachelor of science in Urban Planning from St. Cloud State University and a master of science in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.

Elena is a proud mother and grandmother, and lives in South Minneapolis with her partner and 3 hairy dogs.