Written by Nkuli Shongwe 

The Humanist Philosophy of Ubuntu was introduced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African cleric and theologian, one of the main Leaders of the South African anti-Apartheid, and Human Rights movement. One of the many meanings of Ubuntu is: I am because we are. The word holds a meaning of collectiveness and interconnectedness in humans. The humanist philosophy can be used to advocate for the economic and social justice through cooperative economics for people who identify as identify as women, LGBTQIA, African, and African American. Economic justice is a tool that promotes sustainable economic growth and restorative community wealth in historically marginalized and continuously exploited communities.

It’s been a year since I was introduced to the cooperative movement. Before that, I never thought much of co-ops, I barely knew of co-ops- in the formal sense.  I was fascinated with cooperatives and became interested in learning more about their history. I had this burning question about the first coops and where they were established. As I was doing more research to familiarize myself, I quickly discovered that most of the information I found online and the narrative in the coop world  stated that cooperatives started in Europe in the 19th century and  the Rochdale pioneers were  established  as pioneers whole catapulted the  modern cooperative movement in the 20th century.

During my research, I was introduced to Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book– Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Dr. Nembhard’s book is the only book written in the 21st century about African American cooperative business ownership and its place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality. It is one of two books ever written recollecting the history of black cooperatives. The only other text in existence W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1907 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans.

What was fascinating about Dr. Nembhard’s book was the she debunked the dominant narrative about the establishment of the first cooperatives. She details incredible history and stories proving that African Americans have had a long-rich history of cooperative ownership driven by market failures and racial discrimination that predates that cooperatives established in England during the 19th century. The revelation came when I read that coops were not always formal structures. There were many informal forms of cooperating that were powerful such as the underground rail road, programs led by the Black Panthers,  mutual aid societies, tilling kitchens- and list goes on.

Essentially we have been cooperating as since the beginning of time. After pouring, through the research and learning more about the informal coop structures used  and how they were used for survival, I began asking myself- where are my people in this story? Do my people have a history of cooperating and where can I find this history and information. I put in the words South African coops in google and google scholar and I was met with an extensive list of formal cooperatives existing in all  provinces in South Africa.

I was astonished and found myself going down rabbit holes. Once I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole, I thought of   the informal ways of cooperating and the list was also endless. I thought of family weddings or funerals where all the mothers and women of the family would gather to make a beautiful feast. Each woman would have a task from cutting the vegetables or meat, cooking, plating up, and washing the dishes- there were no formal procedures. Women would come together and contribute where they were needed. I thought of stockvels- invitation only clubs of twelve or more people serving as rotating credit unions or saving scheme in South Africa where members contribute fixed sums of money to a central fund on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Stockvels have been around since the 19th century and were used fight against colonialism.

The philosophy of UBUNTU is prevalent throughout the cooperative movement and the fight for economic justice. Cooperatives use a human based approach to build community wealth.  Cooperation is driven by trust, care, and empathy for each other.  The cooperative movement encourages us to participate in a liberatory economy that is regenerative and works to actively challenge a racialized and gendered economic system.

Nexus Community Partners is proud to be recognized by the Bush Foundation as a 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation winner! Nexus Community Partners has been at the center of innovative community capacity building efforts for 15 years. Our role as a community partner has served as a vehicle to bring partners from community, government, philanthropy and community development  together to design and implement solutions to persistent challenges. The solutions have emerged over the years because of how we set the table; grounding partnerships in shared values and principles, nurturing authentic relationships, and creating intentional space for shared learning and impact. We want to thank all of our partners who we have had the honor of working with over the years. Together we are building more engaged and powerful communities of color.

Read more from The Bush Foundation

 

Nexus’ longtime partner and board member, Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), was recently featured in The New Food Economy:

Pakou Hang, 42, was born in Thailand, but she’s been an American for all but two weeks of her life. Hang, the child of Hmong refugees resettled in the United States and grew up in Wisconsin, where her parents supported the family by farming. Today, that history deeply informs Hang’s own work: She’s co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), headquartered on a 155-acre research and incubator farm 15 miles south of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Facing persecution as U.S. allies in the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War, more than 100,000 Hmong refugees have relocated to the United States since the 1970s. They brought their agricultural prowess with them. In past decades, Hmong-American farmers helped to pioneer the contemporary local food movement in California and the Midwest, popularizing ingredients like Thai chili peppers and bok choy; today, Hmong farmers account for more than half of the produce sold in St. Paul’s farmers’ markets. Founded in 2011, HAFA helps to sustain that legacy by providing pilot plots, professional training, and a food hub—the key piece of processing and distribution infrastructure that makes doing business possible. 

Hang spoke about her upbringing, her childhood resistance to the farm life, and why she decided to come back home and make agriculture her calling and career.

Read the full story here.

We are so proud to call Pakou a partner, and are excited to see the continued growth and support for HAFA and Hmong farmers both locally and nationally! Cheers to you Pakou!!

The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship is proud to announce our 2018-19 cohort! Please help us welcome the following fellows:

  1. Chalonne Wilson
  2. Duaba Unenra
  3. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski
  4. Ini Augustine
  5. Jasmine Boudah
  6. Jolene Mason
  7. Kadijah Parris
  8. Marcus Harcus
  9. Quanda Arch
  10. Quincy Ballard
  11. Roxxanne O’Brien
  12. Shiranthi Goonathilaka
  13. Stacey Rosana
  14. Tia Williams
  15. Tyree Gulley

Keep following us here for more updates on their cooperative focus, photos and progress!

Top Left to Right: Stacey Rosana, Quincy Ballard, Ini Augustine, Marcus Harcus, Duaba Unenra, Repa Mekha (Nexus President),  Tyree Gulley, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Chalonne Wilson, Quanda Arch, Tia Williams, Roxxanne O’Brien

Middle Left to Right: Danielle Mkali (Nexus), Nkuli Shongwe (Nexus), Selah Michele (Guest facilitator & NSBCF Alumni 17-18), Shiranthi Goonathilaka

Front Left to Right: Kadijah Parris, Jasmine Boudah

How do you effectively tell the story and impacts of authentic community engagement? How can we capture, evaluate and communicate the power of community engagement?

Join us for our next Engaged Learning Series to explore Storytelling & Evaluating Community Engagement with a dynamic panel of community leaders.

The session will begin with a facilitated panel with community engagement practitioners from Frogtown Neighborhood Association and another local organization (to be confirmed), who will share how storytelling has been a means of capturing the process and outcomes of authentic community engagement. Following Q&A, we’ll break into small group dialogue to explore challenges and questions regarding effective storytelling and evaluation of community engagement, and what opportunities you see in your own engagement practices to more authentically tell the story of engagement with community.

Date: Thursday, August 9, 2018
Time: 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Breakfast & Networking: 9-9:30am
Program: 9:30-11:30am

Location: International Institute of Minnesota
1694 Como Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55108

Click here for more info and to register!

Nexus’ Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) is Now Taking Applications for the 2018-2019 Cohort!

Nominations Packets due Friday, June 15th, 2018

Nexus Community Partners is proud to announce that we are now seeking nominations for our sixth cohort for the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute.

The BCLI is a 7-month cohort leadership program that supports, trains and helps places people of color and other underrepresented community members on city and county publicly appointed boards and commissions that influence and impact equity in the Twin Cities Metro Area in economic development, health, housing, transit and workforce development.

In the past five years, The Twin Cities BCLI has trained 69 alumni, half of which have gone on to serve on boards and commissions at all levels of the state (local, regional, and state). We are excited to be recruiting a new cohort of leaders dedicated to equity work in the region and hope you will help us spread the word to friends and networks who want to be a part of a network of leaders on boards and commissions! We are pleased to add two new geographies to our nominations packet this year: welcome aboard, Roseville and Woodbury!

Learn more about the Nominations Packet (Application) Here


Moving BEYOND A SEAT at the table TO A VOTE in the decision-making process.

“We need to be running our own folks for seats by building power that pursues true democracy… We need to be developing leaders to be bold at those decision-making tables and to never leave their community behind. This is how we tell our own story. This is a story that tells everybody they can belong, and this is how we build our movement.”  – Kandace Montgomery, BCLI ’14


Please join us for the following Info Sessions to learn more about the nominations process and the program!

Info Session One
Brooklyn Park
Thursday, May 10, 2018
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Brookdale Library, Creekside Room
2156, 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430

Info Session Two
Saint Paul
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Rondo Library, Flex Room
461 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55104

Info Session Three
Roseville
Thursday, May 31, 2018
5-6:30 PM
Ramsey County Library – Roseville, Community Room
2180 Hamline Avenue N.
Roseville, MN 55113

Info Session Four
Minneapolis
Wednesday, June 5, 2018
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
North Regional Library, South Half Room
1315 Lowry Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55411


Click here for more information about BCLI, or contact BCLI program staff:

Terri Thao
Program Director
tthao@nexuscp.org

Chai Lee
Program Coordinator
clee@nexuscp.org

In a recent Next City article titled “City Halls Now Hiring for Community Wealth Building,” Reggie Gordon lifted up community wealth building as a strategy that cities across the country are beginning to invest in.

Reggie Gordon is the director of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building, the first of its kind in the nation. As he says, minorities all too often suffer from high unemployment or are pushed into low quality, service-sector jobs that don’t give them the opportunity that they need.

“The first step is to call it out,” says Gordon. “This isn’t fictional. Sixty years ago, there was intentionality around redlining and segregation that led to concentrated poverty. And here we are in 2018 receiving the byproduct of those intentional decisions … It’s up to us to be just as intentional about solving these problems.”

Check out how Community Wealth Building is gaining momentum around the country!

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.

RSVP by April 18th here!

Nexus Community Engagement Institute invites you to: 

Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement:
A 4-part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement

REGISTER HERE

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 Topics:

  • 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

Learning Goals:

  • 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*

NOTEAttendance 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.”

REGISTER HERE

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 abrown@nexuscp.org with questions or for more information about scholarships.

Artwork referenced in the blog: Nothing About Us by Twin Cities artist activist Ricardo Levins Morales

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.

Check out Ana’s full blog here: “Community Engagement and Equity.”