Nexus Community Partners Announces the 9th Cohort of their Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) 

At Nexus Community Partners, we believe that when we make decisions that affect all of our lives – across race, place, gender, and more – we all must share the power in making those decisions.   

But for too long, publicly-appointed boards and commissions have been a “hidden” layer of power making decisions about our communities, without our communities. And, increasingly, it is clear we need people in government who are accountable to their communities, and who are fighting for policies that direct resources to the people that need it most. We need to build the government that we want to see.    

Over the past nine years, Nexus been this work through our adaptation of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI),* a seven-month leadership program that supports, trains and helps place BIPOC community members on publicly appointed boards and commissions.  

Today, Nexus is pleased to announce the 16 fellows in our ninth cohort of the Twin Cities BCLI. From Woodbury to St. Louis Park, from St. Paul to Brooklyn Center, they represent a wide swath of geography and demographics, talent, and life experiences. Fellows are working to advance equity across sectors and issue areas, such as economic development, health, housing, transit, and workforce development. The 2021-2022 cohort kicks off this week with a private virtual opening dinner and online training session. 


The Ninth BCLI cohort members are:  

  1. Aimee Vue, nominated by Youthprise
  2. Akia Vang, nominated by BCLI alumni
  3. Chonburi Lee, nominated by Hmong American Partnership
  4. Chrissie Carver, nominated by BCLI alumni
  5. Danielle Swift, nominated by BCLI alumni
  6. Kabao Xiong, nominated by BCLI alumni
  7. Mai Tong Yang, nominated by BCLI alumni
  8. Ricky Williams, nominated by BCLI alumni
  9. Robert Boos, nominated by BCLI alumni
  10. Saundra Massey, nominated by BCLI alumni
  11. Stephanie Jones, nominated by Brooklyn Center
  12. Stephanie Shider, nominated by Nexus staff
  13. Temitayo Olasimbo, nominated by Woodbury
  14. Veronica Rono, nominated by BCLI alumni
  15. Yariet Montes, nominated by St. Louis Park
  16. Yasmin Muridi, nominated by BCLI alumni


The BCLI continues to build momentum and challenge the status quo within local government by supporting fellows and alumni to bring their full selves, their responsibility to their communities, and their distinctive cultural perspectives to these governing positions. 

The incoming BCLI fellows join a network of 114 alumni. Over half of them have been appointed to a board or commission or hold a high-level policy position, and all of them are building racial and economic equity in their communities.   

 Alumni of the Twin Cities program include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05); MN House Representative Hodan Hassan (DFL-62A); Metropolitan Council Representative for the 8th District Abdirahman Muse; Bush Fellows Roxxanne O’Brien and Carmeann Foster; Lower Phalen Creek executive director Maggie Lorenz; Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Minneapolis Ron Harris; Executive Director of Minnesota Voices HwaJeong Kim; and local entrepreneur and former Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory Board member Jamez Staples. 

Biographies of each fellow can be found on Nexus’ website, 

For more information about the BCLI, the launch or ways to become involved, please contact the program director, Terri Thao at or program manager Chai Lee at You can also check out Nexus’ website,, and on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @nexuscp. 



*The BCLI is adapted from a model created by Urban Habitat in Oakland, California. 



Did you hear that the People’s Canvass (formerly Knock Knock LLC) has become a worker-owned cooperative?

The Minneapolis team that built the nation’s largest deep canvassing team in November, and collected 16,000 signatures to put the Yes ‘4’ Minneapolis public safety initiative on the ballot, has broken new ground as the United States’ first political canvassing worker cooperative. Nexus Worker Ownership is proud to have supported them through this process.

“I’ll be the first to say it — I knew nothing about how any of this co-op stuff worked. I’m a canvasser. I go to the door and I talk to people about issues in their community,” said Charlie Bartlett, a lead trainer at The People’s Canvass and a member of the co-op transition team. “But working with Nexus gave us a vision and a pathway to achieve that vision. In the same way we feel called to do the work to improve our communities, the folks at Nexus are called to make that work itself more equitable.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative for a free consultation at

It’s September! There’s a new chill in the air, and some eager trees are starting to turn warm shades of yellow and orange. It also means that Terri Thao is back from her Sabbatical! In the spring, Terri took 3 months off to rest, reflect, and focus on her wellness. Now that she’s back in the swing of things, we caught up over the phone about her time off and what she’s learned. 


What did you end up getting up to?

I really just rested. It was so nice to not have the pressure of work and the day to day grind. I was able to relax
and learn at my own pace. For once, I was invested in my own relaxation, without feeding into the machine of productivity. I colored! I could set my own schedule. If I didn’t want to do something, or couldn’t do something, I didn’t have to and I could say that. I loved not having to email! 

This time allowed me to do more reflection, and I was able to actually sit down and journal. I reflected on what it means “to win,” what it would look like, smell like, and taste like. I thought about what sustainability looks like in social justice work when we are undoing hundreds of years of oppression. I was also able to read some meaty books and take Roxanne Gay’s master class on writing for social justice and social change. I’m still in the process of digesting it all.  (Books included: Caste by Isabel Wikerson, the Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, We Will Not Cancel Us by Adrienne Maree Brown.)

Of course, we’re in a global pandemic right now, and things came up. What does liberation in a pandemic look like? As a parent and as a daughter-in-law, I still had to do my role as a caretaker, with all the gendered expectations around who does the carework and the emotional labor.  I was getting up in the middle of the night for weeks to help my son recover from a medical procedure. The first day of my sabbatical was the day Daunte Wright was murdered. 

With all of it though, even if it wasn’t all restful, I was able to show up better because I didn’t have as much on my plate—I can really only care-take one thing well at a time. 


What advice do you have for other people taking Sabbaticals?

You know what works best for you! It’s great to have more time for leisure and not feel pressured by time, but rest looks different for different people. You are moving at your own pace. This is time for you to do you, centering yourself and your own needs. For me, I can’t sit around and do “nothing.” Even when I’m resting, I’m still in motion. But, moving from ten projects to just one project is a big shift and is rest for me. I had to remind myself that there is no such thing as “not resting well enough”—it is not a competition or “sabbatical-off!” 

I also recommend people get an accountabili-buddy. Cheng, my husband, was mine. He helped me stick to the goals I set for myself. If I did more, he would remind me to not overcommit and to honor my own boundaries.


Why are Sabbaticals important?

Rest is so important for everyone.  As leaders, we need to set the way, model the behavior, and stake a claim—rest is non negotiable. We need to own our ability to influence others by prioritizing our own rest. When I shared that I was going on sabbatical, a lot of people resonated my experience and desire to rest. We really need the time and space to do this! It matters. Now that I’m back, people have been asking me a lot of questions about what I did, even though my answer is that I didn’t do a whole lot. 

It was an extremely powerful experience overall. I joke that my last sabbatical was when I had my now 11 year old son. But we shouldn’t need to birth a whole human to get a break. And that wasn’t even a break! It was work. We shouldn’t have to wait for rest. I have been seeing this quote online that says “If you don’t make room for wellness, you make room for illness.” I used to get sick a lot because of that. I would push myself to the limit and I got burnt out!

I’m trying to be more disciplined in my own care and wellness. It’s really hard for women in my community though. Capitalism and patriarchy reinforce this push to “get things done.” I’m learning that the doneness is me though, and that I am enough. Self-care for me is something collectively defined by communities of color and Indigenous communities. While some part of self-care is spa days and treating yourself, we need to explore what deeply nurtures our souls and spirits as a community. 


Want to learn more about Terri? Check out her 15th anniversary profile!


Meet Kai Andersen, North Star Research Assistant!

  • September 9, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: Staff

Kai Andersen is a Gemini, Minneapolis born and raised, and chock full of thought-provoking questions. He joined Nexus in July 2021 as our North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship – Research Assistant. He also is a student pursuing his Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) at the University of Minnesota.

For Kai and North Star, Black cooperation is a path to self and collective healing and transformation. As a part of The North Star Team, Kai will be helping to expand and deepen their curriculum on Black cooperative thought and practice. He will be taking a deep dive into the history and cultural lineages and legacies of Black cooperation, a journey that will span cooperation and survival after Slavery, cultural ways of living and working collectively, and present-day, formally incorporated cooperatives led by Black folks. Some people and co-ops already on his list include Fannie Lou Hamer and Freedom Farmers, Cooperation Jackson, Boston Ujima, and East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative.

Cooperatives are an economic development strategy that are particularly interesting to Kai, as an Urban Planning student. Historically, planners and their practices have harmed Black communities through extracting resources, redlining, disinvestment, Jim Crow laws and racist policies. As a Black, mixed race Urban Planner, Kai is reckoning with that history and learning about reparative planning practices that can help return those resources to Black communities. 

For Kai, shared ownership is one of the most powerful and promising solutions out there. Unlike traditional economic development, cooperation and collective ownership are paths to big structural changes. He said, “doing work with coops is really energizing because of the self-determination that is central in it. Cooperatives allow our communities to explicitly develop what we want, and that can be reparative, transformative, and healing.” 

When Black and Brown communities have ownership—of their own businesses, housing, or spaces—they are able to become powerful decision makers, protecting themselves and the interests of their neighborhoods, while also building community and intergenerational wealth. Community ownership offers an alternative to the all-too-common story: outside developers buy land and/or buildings in BIPOC neighborhoods, make decisions with little regard for the people who live there, resulting in the displacement of families, small businesses and communities. In his year with Nexus, Kai’s driven to explore “how cooperatives play a role in growing and dreaming…and in protecting our neighborhoods from displacement, gentrification, disinvestment and extraction.”

Before coming to Nexus, he worked at the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and co-facilitated a workgroup on livability from a BIPOC, healing justice lens. Outside of work, he loves soaking in the energy of the Mississippi on river walks, enjoying herbal tea, and sharing food with people. Kai self-identifies as eclectic and renaissance-y, loving creative writing, theatre, music.


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.