What does it mean to center culture in community engagement? How do our cultural identities impact our relationships in community? How do we get closer to our own stories in order to move away from extractive relationships toward reciprocal relationships?

On November 1st, 2018, Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) hosted the final Engaged Learning Series of 2018 to explore: What’s Your Story? How Identity & Culture Impact Community Engagement.

Introductions at tables began with creating and sharing I Am Poems, many of which were left to share back with the group.

Panelists Bilal Alkatout, Roxanne Anderson, Vina Kay and Susan Phillips spent the second half of the session sharing how personal identities have influenced how they are engaged, and how they engage others in community. Listen to the video below to hear their I Am Poem introductions. 

Following introductions, NCEI program director Avi Viswanathan asked the panel three questions followed by audience-panel Q&A. Check out the videos below to hear their responses to each question.

Question 1: What does it mean to you to center culture in community engagement work? What identities are you drawing from?

Question 2: How have your cultural identities been impacted by or impacted others when engaging community – either negatively or positively?

Question 3: What advice would you give to this group to build authentic relationships centered in identity and culture?

Audience-Panel Q&A:

This Engaged Learning Series was a brief two and a half hours to begin the discussion about centering culture and identity in community engagement. Feedback from the group included a need to further explore cross-class perspectives and deeper discussion around the impact of white supremacy in community engagement. We hope to continue supporting each other at future Engaged Learning Series in these topics as well as other opportunities and challenges in community engagement.

Check back here to register for future convenings. We hope to see you then!

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

 

How AEDS is transforming the African immigrant experience in Minnesota

Entering the African Economic Development Solutions’ (AEDS) office in St. Paul, Minnesota, visitors are instantly greeted with bright-colored, floor to ceiling banners displaying African pride and the work of AEDS.

Founded 10 years ago by Gene Gelgelu, president and CEO, AEDS supports wealth building in communities, with an African-centric focus. In its early years, AEDS provided wealth building through business planning and youth enrichment programs. Over the years, with the help of Nexus Community Partners and others, the work has expanded and evolved.

“We were able to start our loan program in 2013 with the help of Nexus and the grant we received. We have expanded the program so we are able to do micro-lending for businesses, financial literacy, and credit placemaking [in the Twin Cities-Metro area],” Gelgelu said.

Through the various programs, African Economic Development Solutions impact can be felt and seen economically, physically, and socially.

“Our biggest impact through the loan program is that we are helping start businesses that create jobs. From there, people are able to buy homes that are within their budget and that they own. We have our Little Africa festival, which creates space for people to connect to the African community [in Twin Cities] and helps in attracting and retaining talent in the region. All of this creates social capital, adding vibrancy and value to the area.”

When Gene first founded AEDS, it was not the large, vibrant office space it currently is. For the first couple years of the organization, Gene was sharing a desk with another organization and could only give himself part-time pay, though he was working far more than the standard, 40 hours a week.  

“[W]hen I look back, I think about how many people have been impacted. We [African, immigrant communities] don’t get money for the planning stage like in certain communities…Nexus has supported us with funding during our planning stage and beyond. They’re not only our funders, but our friends. The [Nexus] team understands our community. They understand us because they have folks who lived through it or [who] step up to the challenge. They deeply care about what we do.”

The relationship between Nexus and AEDS dates back to 2010, when Nexus gave the organization a $10,000 capacity building grant to develop and strengthen their asset and wealth building programs. “We trusted Gene’s vision and his ability to address the needs of his community,” said Danielle Mkali, Nexus program officer. Over the years, Nexus provided funds to help AEDS communicate their story, attract additional resources and expand its programming. Today AEDS is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and in 2017, the organization received a $150,000 award from the Small Business Administration. “Gene is helping families build a legacy. It has been a pleasure to witness AEDS overcome barriers and watch the organization grow. We have learned so much from AEDS,” said Danielle.

Reflecting on next steps for AEDS, Gene wants to build out the lending program, expand benefits for existing staff, and strengthen organizational capacity; however, he also wants folks to remember how African communities are important to the Minnesotan fabric.

“We, our community, are an asset. We bring and have brought assets to this region…African immigrant communities are thriving in this region.”


Written by Nichelle Brunner

Written by Nkuli Shongwe


Nexus Community Partners and Village Financial Cooperative held the first annual Blackonomics Conference. The two organizations brought together over 60 people from the Twin Cities, Denver, Oakland, and Chicago. Blackonomics is an intentional gathering of Black folks in the Twin Cities and the Midwest that are working towards Black cooperative economics and solidarity economics.

The weekend kicked off Friday evening with a welcome dinner where we enjoyed incredible food from Chelle’s Kitchen. The air was filled with joy and celebration. The space was blessed by Amoke Kubat , a write, artist, teacher, Yoruba priestess and community elder who took part in Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. After dinner, we had a fish bowl conversation about cooperation, healing, and Blackness. One of the participants from Chicago was moved by the conversation and suggested that we needed to actually give money to the cause. He spontaneously pulled out a $20 bill and threw it on the ground. This prompted people to dig into their wallets and give what they could to the cause. By the end of the night people contributed over $180.

Saturday morning we had incredible breakfast from K’s Revolutionary Kitchen. After breakfast, everyone sauntered off to the three different morning break-out sessions. Danielle Mkali led a session about the steps of cooperative development. LaDonna Redmond Sanders and Makeda Toure led a session about the cooperative principles and values. I led a session about the historic and present local, national, and international BIPOC cooperatives. During lunch, we had the opportunity to learn about Mandela Foods Cooperative from the keynote speaker, Adrionna Fike. Adrionna is a worker owner of the BIPOC grocery coop in Oakland, California. Adrionna told the story of she found her way to Mandela Foods Cooperative, gave some history about the grocery store and the journey they are taking which included freeing themselves from a disempowering relationship with Mandela Marketplace, hiring more worker owners, and forgoing moving to a larger space which used to house the 99c store. After the Keynote, we had the last breakout sessions. Isaiah Goodman led a session about Becoming Financial, Renee Hatcher, a human rights and community development lawyer, led a session on the legal basics of starting a co-op, and Julia Ho and Salena Burch led a session an building solidarity economies.

After we adjourned the day, we headed to Coop Fest which was led by Cooperative Principles, a co-op investment club. We celebrated cooperating and had the chance to donate to up and coming co-ops incubated by Minneapolis’ C-TAP program, Women Venture, and Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. Each group gave a brief presentation about their cooperative and stated how much money they needed. There was a lot of excitement and jubilation in the air. At the end of the night, people donated money to the coops they were most interested in and the ones they supported.

Blackonomics came to a conclusion on Sunday. We spent the morning envisioning what cooperation would look like 30 years from now. Dr. Rose Brewer, a professor of Afro American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, and Irna Landrum, a digital campaign director at Daily Kos led us through and activity about how we would build, maintain and develop and Black solidarity economy in the Midwest. After a lot of robust conversation we decided to build out our networks and invite more Black folks to our movement. We then identified who wanted to take initiative and be part of the planning process for the next Blackonomics conference which would be bigger than and just as amazing as the first one. We ended our day by expressing our gratitude of being in the space and how we felt after the long yet rewarding weekend.

Blackonomics was a beautiful, melanin filled space, that provided healing, hope, love, warmth, joy, and community.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) announced eight candidates for their upcoming board of directors election – and Nexus’ very own Theresa Gardella is one of those eight! Theresa and the additional seven candidates will be on MCN’s ballot for five open positions.

Click here to read more about MCN’s board election process – voting will take place November 1, 2018.

Theresa Gardella is currently the Vice President of Programs and Operations for Nexus Community Partners, a community building intermediary in the Twin Cities, committed to advancing racial and economic justice through transforming systems and strengthening leaders and organizations.  She has over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector and has served in a number of different roles including but not limited to, program officer, facilitator, program developer, and development director.  Theresa’s experiences have helped her gain valuable insights into the nonprofit sector’s unique assets and challenges.

In her current role, Theresa builds strong relationships with Nexus partners and stakeholders, shapes strategy for the organization and helps to ensure organizational sustainability and program alignment to achieve Nexus’ mission. Theresa also oversees internal operations, organization development and supervision of program staff.  In addition, Gardella co-founded the East Side Funders Group, participated in both the Shannon Leadership Institute and GEO’s Change Leaders in Philanthropy, and served as a Commissioner for the City of Roseville.

Prior to joining Nexus in 2008, Theresa worked with domestic and international nonprofits, coalitions and government entities, helping to increase their capacity to more effectively accomplish their organization’s mission and goals. Gardella holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Connecticut.

According to Theresa, “My professional career has been dedicated to advancing social justice and strengthening the capacity of nonprofits who are committed to seeing a more just and equitable world. I believe deeply in the role of nonprofits in our society and the need to ensure they are strong, sustainable and impactful.  It is critical that MCN has the necessary tools and capacity to both remain responsive to the current needs of the nonprofit community and be proactive in ensuring its future relevance and responsiveness to a changing Minnesota.”

So mark your calendars, and don’t forget to have your organization vote on November 1st for Theresa!

Update 10/25/18: Deadline to apply extended to November 2, 2018. 


Nexus Community Partners Seeks a Full-time Finance and HR Associate (32 hours/week).

Nexus Community Partners is a community-building intermediary whose mission is to “build more engaged and powerful communities of color by supporting community-building initiatives and fostering social and human capital.” We work to make sure that communities of color are at the forefront of making decisions that impact them and that they have the power and tools to generate and maintain wealth.

The major activities that Nexus engages in are:

  • Systems Change: As an intermediary, we bridge partnerships between other funders, partners in the public sector, and community partners (such as neighborhood organizations and small nonprofits) to develop more equitable systems in areas like transit planning, philanthropy, and public health.
  • Capacity Building Support: As a funder, we strengthen the power of on-the-ground organizations in communities of color through financial support and technical assistance. We help these organizations build their leadership and organizational infrastructure, develop programs, implement community engagement strategies, improve their fundraising, and more.
  • Building Leaders: We provide leadership development opportunities for people of color interested in influencing public policy and developing community wealth through cooperative economics.

Position Responsibilities

Finance

  • Manage the Accounts Payable process including processing invoices and check requests, recording monthly automatic payments, processing monthly employee expense reports, recording monthly credit card and debit reports, printing checks, and mailing payments.
  • Assist with Accounts Receivable including recording and preparing deposits of checks received via mail, record electronic deposits, record grants received, and assist with Nexus’ invoices.
  • Assist with the annual audit by preparing electronic and paper files in accordance with Nexus’ financial policies and working with the Director of Finance and HR.
  • Assist the Director of Finance and HR in the areas of budgeting, financial reporting, and expense analysis.

HR

  • Assist with the hiring process including the posting of new positions, managing incoming resumes and inquires, printing resumes for review committees, responding via email to all applicants, and assist with onboarding.
  • Assist with administering PTO including following up with Nexus staff and updating ADP.
  • Assist with benefits administration as needed.
  • Assist the Director of Finance and HR in other areas as needed.

Qualifications:

  • Associate’s degree preferred and/or 2-3 years relevant experience in nonprofit and/or community work.
  • Must be detail oriented.
  • Experience working in A/P and/or A/R.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Excel, required.
  • Experience working in QuickBooks and/or QuickBooks for Nonprofits a plus.
  • Curiosity and a willingness to learn.
  • Ability to self-motivate and self-direct; organize own work, set priorities and meet critical deadlines.
  • Flexibility regarding work assignments and ability to respond positively to changing demands and priorities.
  • Understands and embraces efforts that promote racial, social and economic equity and asset-based community change.
  • Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.
  • Ability to work in a team environment.
  • Demonstrated experience in exercising a high level of discretion and integrity in carrying out financial and HR support duties of a confidential nature.
  • You need to be able to both see possibility and ask hard questions with respect and discretion.
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills.

The ideal candidate would be able to start December 2018 or January 2019.

Nexus offers competitive compensation commensurate with experience and a highly participatory, mutually supportive workplace.  We are committed to the personal and professional growth of all staff.

Salary & Benefits:

Salary range: $19.00 – $23.00/hour plus a comprehensive benefits package as a full time employee. Nexus offers two health insurance options and pays for 80-90% of the coverage for the entire family.  Employees receive 6 holidays and 6 optional holidays.  Nexus has a wellness program that offers 2 hours of wellness time each week, $500 of reimbursable wellness dollars each year, and staff wellness events.

The Finance and HR Associate will report to the Director of Finance and HR.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by November 2, 2018 to:

Felicia Ring

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114

Email:  hr@nexuscp.org

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

Qualified Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) is proud to welcome Caitlin Schwartz, Sindy Morales Garcia and Venessa Fuentes to our NCEI Advisory Committee!

NCEI advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. The NCEI Advisory Committee is composed of local community engagement practitioners who guide and support the work of the Institute, helping to provide vision and strategy as well as to develop and co-lead trainings and workshops on community engagement with NCEI staff.

We’re honored to have the wisdom and experience of Caitlin, Sindy and Venessa to help ground and guide this work moving forward – please help us welcome them to the team!

Get to Know the New NCEI Advisory Committee Members


Caitlin Schwartz

Caitlin Schwartz has over 12 years of experience in community engagement, organizing, and grassroots leadership development, most recently working on Metro Transit’s Community Outreach & Engagement Team and serving as board member and development committee chair with the Headwaters Foundation for Justice. Her passion is in constituent leadership and ensuring that people are centered in the planning and decision-making that impact their lives. A first-generation college student, she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas, studying Justice & Peace Studies and Sociology.

Sindy Morales Garcia

Driven by a commitment to equity and wholeness, Sindy works with Wilder’s Community Initiatives team to catalyze the cultural shifts needed to co-create transformational and sustainable change. Her work is informed by a rich tapestry of experiences in higher-education advocacy, community collaborations, and faith-based activism. As a facilitator, Sindy enjoys cultivating spaces of meaningful reflection and dialogue that enable participants to strategically advance new thinking and action in their lives and work.

Originally from Quetzaltenango Guatemala, Sindy comes from a family of community organizers. Her family’s narrative of struggle, resilience, and strategic disruption led her to center her personal and educational journey on deepening her understanding of liberation, healing, and social justice. This includes a degree in Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University, community organizing and public policy at the Silberman School of Social Work, and liberation theology and social ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

Venessa Fuentes

Venessa is a local artist and advocate who, since 1997, has worked in Twin Cities arts, community development, and grantmaking nonprofits. Recently, she held positions at the Bush Foundation and Jerome Foundation – both in grantmaking and communications. Venessa is an alum of the inaugural cohort of the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship.

Saying Farewell to Annelise

As Annelise prepares to leave Nexus, read her journey from the beginning

Annelise’s Nexus journey began summer 2016, when she joined the staff as a New Sector Alliance intern. She worked on Metro Transit’s Better Bus Stops Project, handling project coordination and reporting around bus stop accessibility and revitalization. During her work with Nexus on the project, Annelise had a realization.

“It was my first experience in programming, and I realized, I loved my job and I loved Nexus. From there, I wanted to learn Nexus’ operations, communications, development — literally everything about the organization,” Annelise said.

Once the summer ended, Annelise was able to continue her internship at Nexus as the Capacity Building Assistant while finishing her degree at the University of Minnesota. As the Capacity Building Assistant, she focused primarily on development and HR, deepening her knowledge of Nexus and philanthropy. 

She continued to work at Nexus throughout her senior year and when Annelise graduated in May 2017, she had a job waiting for her; however, mental health challenges had her in and out of the office and she was eventually hospitalized. Despite this, Nexus supported her.

“I was told, ‘don’t worry about Nexus. Your job will be here. We just care about you.’ I felt like I could be authentically myself in a professional environment. Never before did I feel comfortable telling a supervisor I was being hospitalized, and here I was — bringing my full self to this space and being vulnerable,” she said.

When she returned, she was accepted with open arms — and a new job title: Program and Operations Associate. In this role, she focused more on development, grantmaking, and communications. While molding her professional career, Annelise felt herself transforming and growing personally.

“I did more growing at Nexus in two years, than I did in my four years of college — and I didn’t have to pay $40,000. I’ve learned to communicate my love for my work and my coworkers. I know what it feels like to be nourished and cared for. I am a damn fool for leaving because I don’t know if I’ll ever work at another place that makes me feel so good.

So what’s next for Annelise?

She’s off to Boston to become a Jewish Organizing Institute and Network (JOIN) for Justice fellow. As a fellow, she will continue to explore her role in racial equity work, participate in community organizing, and develop strategies for wealth distribution. Though she’s preparing to work on the east coast, Annelise is keeping her Nexus experience close.

“It’s so weird being in your 20s and you hear everyone talking about how they hate their job. But after being at Nexus, I know it is possible to be in an environment where you love what you do and do it well.”


Written by Nichelle Brunner

Nexus Community Partners seeks a full time Director of Strategic Development (40 hours a week, Monday-Friday), to join a dynamic staff of thoughtful, equity-driven individuals who are deeply committed to the organization’s values.

Nexus Community Partners is a community-building intermediary whose mission is to “build more engaged and powerful communities of color by supporting community-building initiatives and foster social and human capital.” Nexus addresses the deep isolation within communities of color and Indigenous communities caused by personal, institutional and structural racism by promoting an equity centered engagement model; supporting the development of leaders; democratizing wealth; and by reclaiming culture as an asset.

We are looking for a creative and strategic individual who can grow with the position and the organization. The Director of Strategic Development will be an integral part of Nexus’ leadership team and work in partnership with the staff and the Board to meet annual and long-range strategic development goals. This position will work to ensure the organization has the resources it needs to remain strong, impactful and sustainable through programmatic and organizational growth. This position will work closely with and report directly to the President and CEO.

Click here for the full job description and to apply

Hiring – Leadership Intern

  • April 4, 2018
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Are you interested in building leadership capacity for people of color in the Twin Cities? Come join our team as a part-time, paid intern for the Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute this summer!

Apply here!