Nexus’ Worker Ownership Initiative and partnership with the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce was recently featured in Finance & Commerce:

“Cooperative ownership is a solution both to the challenges facing small businesses and to larger problems in the economy…Elena Gaarder, Director of Community Wealth at Nexus, says, ‘For us, this presents this really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move where the bulk of the wealth is held in our country and create so many more opportunities for ownership’”

Sixty percent of small business owners were born before 1964, according to the University of Minnesota. Nexus and the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce are working together to address the ongoing wave of baby boomer retirements, keep businesses local, and build cooperative ownership. Read the full article here!

Learn more about the Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI) here!

By Janice Barbee, Founder and Director of Healing Roots, Member of Nexus Community Engagement Institute Advisory Committee—DOWNLOAD REPORT HERE!

More and more organizations are realizing the benefits of engaging with the people they serve.  They’re becoming interested in what authentic engagement can achieve, beyond surveys, focus groups, and advisory committees.  Such methods are typically used to get responses to what an organization is doing or plans to do, but do not do a good job of discovering what is on the minds of community members.  Organizations miss out on a tremendous amount of information, creativity, resources, and problem solving when they limit the flow of information between the organization and the communities around them. This flow of information is powered by the quality of the relationships between people in the organization and the community.

For more information and tools on community engagement, see

Small community organizations are typically best equipped to engage with community members, but large organizations can also reap tremendous benefits by engaging with diverse communities.  Nexus Community Partners worked with a local hospital system over a one-year period to support the organization to engage more effectively with the communities it serves.  This partnership yielded new knowledge, understanding, and ideas about what is needed for any large organization to better understand community engagement and integrate it into their work.

Leadership Training

For this learning series, a cohort of about 12 senior executives and managers from many different areas of the organization, from Medical Director to Vice President of Marketing, were invited to participate.  They met every month for a two-hour session for 10 months to learn about community engagement and how to implement it in their organization. The organizers of the trainings were strong leaders within the hospital concerned with diversity and inclusion and they had worked hard before the training to make the case for engagement. The result was that the participants were eager to learn more about it.  They all had some sense that deepening relationships with the diverse communities they serve would help them to better achieve the hospital’s goals.

At the conclusion of the series of trainings, the participants were committed to community engagement as a valuable approach towards achieving their mission. They agreed that it is crucial for leadership to understand community engagement in order to spread the practice and its principles throughout the organization. The leaders were in a position to support each other, through membership on committees and workgroups, and to apply their understanding in their own work and the hospital’s policies and priorities. The participants concluded that training leaders is a good place to start.


  • Start at the top with the leaders who have the power to implement engagement practices and respond to community input with changes in organizational culture and policy.
  • Training organizers should meet with potential participants beforehand to make the case for community engagement and should choose those who are interested in learning.Don’t require someone to attend who is not receptive.
  • Implement a long-term training program that engages the participants, ties in to the issues they are addressing, and includes practical ways to implement what they learn.
  • Do not put community engagement in the hands of one department or a few staff, where they often do not have the support to spread this approach to other departments or to inform practice and policy as a result of what has been learned from the community.

Everyone on the Same Page: “Authentic” Community Engagement

The participants expressed frustration that staff throughout the organization does not share a common understanding of what is engagement.  Some had witnessed outreach, where information flows only in one direction, being called community engagement. They realized that their organization needed a common language.  Some participants talked about discovering how different departments were working on projects in the same community without knowing it, and how this had led to confusion and resentment.


  • Develop a common understanding of authentic community engagement at the beginning of the training, and spread that throughout the organization.
  • Clarify the language for interactions with community, so “outreach” and “community engagement” are understood as both having value according to their purpose, but are not the same process.
  • Commit to multiple trainings of more and more staff until everyone in the organization is on the same page.
  • Create structures in the organization for people to share their experiences and learning, process difficult situations, resolve conflict, brainstorm strategies, and develop new procedures and policies together.

Engagement Leads to Equity

One of the most transformative sessions of the series with the executives was the session focused on equity.  Several in attendance were not aware of the practice of redlining (which denied mortgages to people of color), an example of institutionalized racism and a major contributor to the inequities of today. This session helped people see the connection between equity and engagement, and to realize that staff needs training in equity alongside or even before learning about community engagement.  These leaders learned how cultural communities have been historically excluded, not just from opportunities, but also from the processes for solving the problems that affect them most intensely. They learned how community engagement is not just a way to achieve their organization’s goals, but how it can also be a healing process.  These sessions on equity also shone a light on the organization’s internal equity practices and supported the hiring of more people of color.


  • Include at least one or two sessions on equity in your trainings. Include the history of racism in your neighborhood and the history of the relationship between your institution and communities of color. Interacting with community members without this context can blindside staff when community members bring up past injustices.
  • Make the connection explicit between the need for equity and the need and benefits of community engagement.
  • Allow for both personal and professional exploration of this topic. These discussions can challenge people’s identity and understanding of their own history and can bring up strong emotions. Use experienced facilitators that can create safe spaces where people can reflect, express and understand their emotions, revise their understanding, and integrate their new learning.

Setting Priorities and Expectations

Several of the members of the cohort expressed frustration during and after the trainings on the difficulty of implementing the principles of community engagement.  They saw staff trying to do as much as they could and getting discouraged that they weren’t seeing a lot of positive change. They realized that top leadership needed to set priorities, to create a coordinated effort to make change in a focused way. Participants also told stories of engagement efforts that had backfired because the community members wanted things that the organization couldn’t provide.  Their reflection revealed disconnections, inefficiencies, and weak links within the organization that need to be addressed.


  • Set priorities for your staff for community engagement efforts.
  • Support staff to communicate with each other and to make sure that what is learned from the community makes a difference in the organization.
  • Make sure staff is trained to be explicit with the community about what they can and cannot do.


The shortage of time, tight timelines, and over-stuffed schedules were a constant theme throughout the trainings. Members of the cohort expressed frustration that they don’t have the time to build relationships in the community and maintain them.  Too often, they said, one staff member has established relationships with a community only to leave within a couple of years.  The next person has to start from scratch. The leaders also talked about the limitations of their advisory committee, where representation of the community was extremely limited, and the meeting process did not afford the opportunity for creative input from community members.


  • Do not expect a one-time training to be sufficient. As with any training that seeks to produce a shift in culture and understanding, this is a long-term process. Build in multiple trainings over several months with time for debriefing and follow-up.
  • Allow time for several staff members to build relationships in the various communities your organization serves. Don’t let all the responsibility rest on one person’s shoulders.
  • Not every meeting with community members needs to have a task to complete; the goal is to build relationships and trust.
  • Develop many ways to build relationships between multiple staff and community members, from one-to-ones, to personal interviews, to listening circles, to community dinners, meetings, and other events.

Changing “Old” Thinking

Many times during the trainings, the members were confronted with examples of old, entrenched ways of thinking getting in the way of learning and applying new knowledge.  They realized that many of these ways of thinking are deeply engrained into the organization’s culture, are extremely difficult to change, and need to be constantly challenged.  The participants in the cohort named several examples of “old” thinking that get in the way of integrating community engagement into the organization:

  • Lack of awareness of one’s culture: People operate from a “default” way of thinking, which assumes that their culture and ways of doing things are “just the way things are.”They need more awareness of the assumptions and beliefs of their own culture.
  • The expert /professional model in our society teaches that the staff should be the ones to solve the problems. Staff may feel a tension between what is expected of them as professionals, community members’ perception of them, and their ability to act as a resource and liaison for the community.
  • Being professional often means one needs to be “objective” and detached and it can be considered inappropriate to express emotion in one’s workplace. One of the most memorable sessions in the hospital cohort was when the participants were asked to share an experience of being in community when they were growing up.Many stated that this was the first time that they had shared personal stories with each other in the many years they had worked with each other, and it bonded them together in ways they never had before.


  • Include trainings on cultural awareness and cultural identity. Trainings that challenge attitudes and perceptions require both personal and professional work. In our individualistic society, people often don’t realize how much their culture is the “water” through which they understand the world.
  • Allow for people to express emotion, to tell personal stories, and to bring their full selves into the discussions. Giving space for this can transform attitudes and practices more effectively than words can. Strictly professional relationships don’t build trust and transparency. 

Don’t Stop the Conversation

The participants in these trainings are very committed individuals who want to do what they can to lead their organization to do a better job at improving health and preventing illness. They took a lot of time over 10 months to learn about the power, principles, and potential of community engagement. The hope for the trainings was that, because they are leaders in the organization, they were in the best position to apply this learning and spread it throughout the organization.  They are doing this to the best of their ability, but they also realize that this requires a cultural shift. It takes challenging some entrenched ways of doing things; it requires a re-alignment of values and incentives. Just as community engagement takes time, so learning about it and how to integrate it will take time.  Trainings on engagement and equity are investments in a future where everyone has a voice and the opportunity to make positive change for the common good.


  • Create structures for senior leadership to regularly re-evaluate procedures, incentives, practices, and policies in the light of both what staff are learning from the process of engagement and from community members.
  • Regularly ask your staff what they need to better understand in order to serve the different communities and accomplish your organization’s mission. Continue to offer trainings and workshops accordingly.
  • Keep asking questions such as:
    • What is not working, according to community members?
    • Who else do we need to hear from?
    • What does the community want us to do that we’re not doing?
    • How could we support community members to strengthen their community?


 Janice Barbee is the director and founder of Healing Roots, and has the honor of being named an Elder in our European American community. She is currently a consultant in community engagement and an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota, teaching on culture and health. She designs and conducts workshops for organizations who want to better understand culture and respectfully and productively engage with people of different cultures.

We’re Hiring! WOI Program Manager

  • July 1, 2019
  • By: efireside
  • In: General


Nexus Community Partners Worker Ownership Initiative

Title: Program Manager Salary Range:  $60,000 to $67,000 Position Closes: July 18, 2019
Department: Community Wealth Building (CWB) Hours: Full-time, 40 Hours Start Date: August 2019
Reports to: Dir. of CWB Classification: Exempt Location: St Paul, MN


ORGANIZATION OVERVIEW:  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.”

We are seeking an energetic and creative individual to fill the role of Program Manager for Nexus Community Partners’ Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI). Join our dynamic and diverse staff of thoughtful, equity-driven individuals who are deeply committed to the organization’s values.


POSITION SUMMARY: The WOI is a bold effort to promote worker cooperatives through the conversion of privately-owned businesses to worker ownership. The Initiative builds community wealth, grows the region’s economy and encourages workplace democracy by implementing strategies in 7 key areas:

  • Public Sector Engagement- Shifting policies and practices at the local, county and state levels.
  • Private Sector Cultivation- Building relationships with owners, chambers of commerce and business connectors.
  • Business Conversion Services- Providing professional services to support owners and new work-owners in transitioning to worker cooperatives.
  • Community Engagement- Build relationships with community leaders, organizers and labor groups to activate their networks to increase awareness of worker ownership.
  • Investment Capital- Ensuring access to capital and financial supports through CDFI’s, social investors, credit unions and banks.
  • Workforce Development- Embedding work-ownership in workforce and job creation efforts.
  • Field Building- Contributing knowledge, evaluation tools and raising awareness in the field.



Program Management (60%)

  • Coordinate Business Conversion Services Program, including acting as the first point of contact for interested business owners, assembling and coordinating teams of professional and technical assistance providers to support owners and new work-owners throughout the stages of the conversion process and facilitating worker-owner training sessions.
  • Develop relationships with business owners and business connectors to build a pool of prospective business interested in converting to worker ownership.
  • Implement a communication strategyfor the WOI including promotional materials, outreach materials, monthly blogs, website updates, paid media buys and the coordination of additional communication support, such as with consultants.

 External Relations/Community Engagement (40%)

  • Actively build connections, locally and nationallyon behalf of the WOI that will enhance the work and continue to build the field of worker ownership.
  • Identify and develop relationships with content experts to help deliver content for Business Conversions program.
  • Support the development and delivery of presentations at forums, conferences, workshops, etc.
  • Lead the development and implementation of a community engagement strategy to elevate worker ownership in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.



Assets of most interests to the hiring committee include the following:

  • 3-5 years relevant experience in nonprofit, business and/or community work.
  • 3+ years’ experience in leadership positions, either in community, a volunteer position, or past employment.
  • 3+ years’ experience working in partnerships and collaborations across-sectors and with multiple partners.
  • Demonstrated experience working in the small business sector (e.g. business technical assistance provider, business owner, sales)
  • Experience in developing and implementing communication tools.
  • Proven ability to facilitate dynamic groups that have different levels of knowledge and understanding.
  • Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.
  • Demonstrated understanding of culture and history as a foundation for building strategies in cultural communities.
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills.
  • Competent computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint). Design skills a plus.



  • Experience designing and/or delivering high quality, interactive learning opportunities.
  • Experience in designing and implementing community engagement strategies.
  • Knowledge of cooperative principals and cooperative development models.


The ideal individual would be able to start on or before August 26, 2019.

Nexus offers a competitive salary, generous wellness and benefits package. We are committed to the personal and professional growth of all staff.

Individuals should send a resume and cover letter via email, attention Human Resources

by July 18, 2019 to:


In your cover letter, please explain what motivates you to work with Nexus Community Partners, and how your experience, skills and commitment will advance our work to create a more equitable economy.

(email receipt confirmation will be sent)




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

“I’ve come to believe that you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” – Grace Lee Boggs

Sida has been on the Nexus team for a little over a month, having recently left the public sector where she worked to advance health equity. She joins us as the National Community Engagement Program Manager for the Leadership and Learning Initiative (LLI). The LLI is a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and is a partnership between Nexus Community Partners, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and Gray Hall Evaluation Consultants. 

The Leadership Learning Initiative

The initiative aims to understand and better support community-driven leadership for health equity as a Culture of Health expands across communities, organizations, partnerships. The LLI aims to be “an immersive learning experience” that will challenge assumptions about leadership and accountability. In Sida’s words, “community-centered leadership is constantly shifting and evolving because our identities and our communities, who we belong with and to, is contextual and fluid.” 

The initiative will rely on everyday leaders to help us define leadership, health and well-being in their respective communities. Though the partnership and with an ecosystem of health equity leaders, we will explore these key questions: How do we, as institutions and individuals, define and express community-driven leadership? How do we reinforce and reimagine leadership that supports community well-being? 

Even in this early stage as we explore these questions, more questions emerge: How does one foster a culture of health, both theoretically and specifically? What does leadership look like in different contexts and how could it look in the future? How do we support and understand a community-centered worldview?

Reimagining, unlearning, and leaning in

For Sida, it has been exciting to challenge assumptions while co-creating with people who “have been thinking deeply about the intersections between adaptive leadership and community engagement.” In fact, that collaborative journey of discovery, where no one individual has the answer, is the most exciting part of the work for her. 

So far, Sida has been energized by her new work environment and the deeper connection between health equity and racial equity. Also, it has been exciting to be in a different work culture at Nexus where “the things you find fun and funny aren’t separated from your 40 hour [work] week.” She sees bringing more parts of herself and her lived experiences into the work as a chance to reimagine, unlearn, and lean into other ways of being. 

In her free time, Sida spends time with her family, where, instead of making plans, they let life take them where it may. She has particular excitement around fishing, which is “the intersection of everything [she] like[s] including: sustainability, being outside, the environment, eating well, cooking, and dissecting things.” She once had a 14in arowana in her home aquarium and dreams of an aquaponics system in her future Hawaiin home. 

Joy and Mindfulness: Introducing Karen Law

  • May 8, 2019
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Nexus’ newest staff member, Karen Law, joined the team a little over a month ago as the new Director of Human Resources and Organizational Culture. In her role, she oversees all aspects of Human Resources and intentionally stewards an environment of continuous learning where staff feels energized and valued. Her work at Nexus builds upon more than 27 years working in the nonprofit sector and addressing systemic oppression and injustice. Learn more about how she approaches her job and the values she carries to the role.

Wellness and Culture

“Wellness and culture are not separate,” Karen shares, “usually they are put in separate boxes, but they are interrelated and both core components of the work.”  Most of her experience with wellness in the workplace has been in the non-profit sector, though she points out that she also once worked for an airline. Through these different experiences, she has seen glimpses of what wellness looks like, and more importantly, opportunities to push and expand what wellness could look like. To Karen, “wellness [and culture] are joy and mindfulness in the workplace, feeling respected and valued…[they are the] environment, physical space, your team, benefits, outings and more.”

Ongoing Reflection

Karen is always thinking, “How can we continue to reflect, look, and ask why? Why do we do things the way we do?” Her sharp eye brings her down to the details: safety, adherence to law, policies. Her visionary nature, though, draws her up to the overarching questions: how do these policies affect the people who work here, how can we be a leader in workplace practices, how do we support the broader movement for labor and economic justice? In her role, Karen aims to “lift and enhance,” not to “replicate and recreate.”

Self-care and Boundaries

Part of what drew Karen to Nexus is the organization’s intentionality around culture and wellness—“if employees are encouraged to care for themselves, this is an opportunity for me to reflect and grow, to put myself first and explore what good boundaries might look like.” With this renewed commitment to mind, body, and spirit, and a workplace that encourages it, Karen is dedicating time to co-writing a screenplay 15 years in the making.

Areas of Excitement

Karen is energized and excited to learn from all the staff working at Nexus. Because there is a mix of people with varied experience, there are many opportunities to learn and see how people do work. She wants to “learn again [and] learn a lot, [instead] of just doing.” After spending some time on her own as an entrepreneur, she also looks forward to doing work “in community with a team of folks.”

When she isn’t at work or writing a screenplay, she enjoys beautifying her yard, watching volleyball, and spending time with family.

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, Nexus Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) graduated its sixth cohort at the Bullard Rainforest Auditorium in the Como Zoo’s Visitor Center. With the addition of these year’s 16 fellows, Twin Cities BCLI has a grand total 85 alumni.

Similar to previous BCLI graduation ceremonies, Nexus President and CEO Repa Mekha officially welcomed everyone, and BCLI program director Terri Thao provided highlights from the 2018-2019 program year. Minnesota Lieutenant Governor and former BCLI trainer Peggy Flanagan provided opening remarks about the value that indigenous people, people of color and underrepresented groups bring to policy-making tables from which they have been historically shut out. She discussed the need to lift up more voices especially on boards and commissions at all levels of government. She stressed the importance of people who are most impacted being at the tables instead of being removed from the conversation.

After the Lieutenant Governor spoke, two graduating fellows Jamaica DelMar and Vincent Henry shared their personal stories and touched on the way the BCLI has inspired their confidence, reinvigorated their drive to get on boards, and do impactful work in community.

The keynote address was given by Minnesota State Representative Rena Moran (DFL-65A) of Saint Paul. Representative Moran talked about the importance of bringing each other along and holding each other accountable in the work we do in community and at policy tables. She reminded the fellows that this work often begins with one of the basic steps of organizing: conducting one-on-one’s with your colleagues to get a better grasp of who they are, what matters to them, and understanding the larger landscape.

Both speakers also shared a common message in their remarks—we need as many leaders of color and indigenous leaders as possible in racial and economic equity work. Both expressed appreciation for the work of the BCLI and other programs which prepare POCI folks for leadership positions in larger systems where they will represent community and bring equity to the table. The evening ended with BCLI fellows being honored with certificates and a poster from local artist Ricardo Levins Morales. Nexus is grateful to all of the alumni, friends, family and funders who helped make this year’s graduation a success.

“I do a little bit of this, a little bit of that”

While Chalonne joined the Nexus family almost two years ago, she is just settling into a new role with the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI)—National Community Engagement Program Manager. In the position, Chalonne provides guidance around community engagement to folks across the country while also facilitating local events.

Her national work focuses on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. This initiative aims to reduce the number of people incarcerated across the US at over 50 sites across the country. After several years of advocacy by NCEI and others, MacArthur is in the early stages of shifting to a community engagement-centered approach, specifically focusing on currently and formerly incarcerated people and their families. As a new member of the team, Chalonne is working with sites to develop and implement community engagement strategies.

Lessons Learned about Community Engagement

Giving community money isn’t as risky as people think. Millions of dollars have already been invested in eliminating disparities between white communities and black, indigenous, people of color communities, to little avail.

“What’s the bigger risk? Continuing to fund things the way we’ve been funding them and getting the same results? It feels more risky to keep doing the same thing. Instead, we need to consider how to actually get money into the hands of communities. How might we allow communities to drive how this funding is spent?”

For example, in Philadelphia, a criminal justice innovation fund has been established to provide microgrants to community-based organizations working on jail reform. Additionally, this site established an community advisory council with a paid staff person and financial resources for advisory members. This would not be possible without the supplemental community engagement funding from the MacArthur Foundation to select Safety and Justice Challenge sites. While people have concerns about what might happen if community, instead of institutions, were given money, the worst case scenario is that issues like mass incarceration stay the same.

What is Energizing about the work?

Chalonne gets life from all of the people doing community engagement, the way they hold events, and how they share space and power. Especially energizing are informal, grassroots spaces that engage individuals and families across generations. Being a part of a family with five living generations, her vision for the future is that families of multiple generations will have more opportunities to be engaged together in their communities.


As much as she wishes that she could “snap my fingers and put an end to the unjust systems,” she knows that it takes work, creativity, and engagement. “We have to usher out this system, and usher a new one in. That will take time and all of us engaging in the changes we want.”


When Chalonne isn’t traveling the country doing community engagement, she works on cooperative initiatives in the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship, she is a magical and gifted facilitator, and she is a certified IDI consultant and coach. She also enjoys all the laughs, drama and joy of a large and beautiful family.

Saint Paul, Minnesota— On Wednesday, March 6, Nexus staff member Chai Lee was sworn in to serve on the Metropolitan Council (The Met Council), representing District 13, which includes the eastern half of Saint Paul, Lilydale, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake and West St. Paul. Lee is a program coordinator for the Boards & Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) at Nexus. He joins 15 other members of the Met Council being sworn in March 6. The 16 members appointed on March 6 represent the 16 districts of the Met Council, which covers the seven county metro area. The chair of the Met Council, Nora Slawik, makes the 17thmember of the body, but is not appointed by geography. Chair Slawik was recently appointed by Governor Tim Walz to lead the council and is the former mayor of Maplewood, MN.

The Metropolitan Council is the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region. It is a unique regional body unlike any other in the nation, whose roots date back to the 1960s, and was created with bipartisan support by the governor and legislature of Minnesota. The appointments were made by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, from a pool of over 200 applicants.

“I am humbled and honored to be appointed to the Met Council by Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. I will do my best to bring to the table divers perspectives as I reach out and work toward engagement between Council staff, advisory boards, and my deep community relationships. Most of all, I am proud to be at the table as someone in coming into this work from the unique viewpoint of Nexus, and the nonprofit sector, as well as my local government experience,” says Lee. “What I look forward to most is the opportunity to work on issues which impact all our communities so deeply, from planning for economic opportunity to affecting affordable housing and improving our infrastructure, I will work hard to strengthen the national and global competitiveness of our metro region through my work on Met Council. I am so proud and lucky to be working at Nexus, and my work and passion in diversifying boards and commissions will continue, and I can’t wait to help affect that as a Met Council Member as well,” Lee continued.

Lee brings many years of community involvement to the table. He has served on his neighborhood board, District 1, on Saint Paul’s east side, as well as a three-year term on Saint Paul’s Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee (CIB), which is a board that reviews, ranks and recommends capital projects to the city.

The newly inaugurated Met Council is the most diverse class of appointments in its history, and Lee will be the second Hmong person ever to serve. Prior to coming to Nexus, Lee worked in the administration of Saint Paul Mayor Christopher B. Coleman. Learn more about theMet Council and its geographical districts here. An official bio of Lee can be found here, and he may be contacted at:

Nexus is seeking an experienced Program Manager to manage the national Leadership Learning Initiative (LLI), a new program in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The LLI will strengthen RWJF’s personal and institutional skills to understand and honor community-based leadership and improve RWJF’s leadership programming and investments to bring about greater health equity.

Working closely with Nexus staff, our partners and RWJF, the position will coordinate and support the work through curriculum design and implementation, setting strategy and ensuring the initiative is reaching its goals. Determining how Nexus’s local community engagement and leadership development efforts can inform engagement and leadership strategies at a national level is the keystone for this position.

The Program Manager will work closely with the Nexus staff and partners and will report to the President and CEO.

Primary Duties

Program Management

• Plan and facilitate partnership meetings that help shape direction, strategy, and implementation of the LLI.

• Provide details, guidance, and resources to partners and stakeholders in order to work efficiently and maintain positive and productive relationships.

• Work with project team to identify tools and strategies necessary to advance LLI goals.

• Plan and coordinate program and meeting logistics for the LLI.

• Assist with tracking of expenses for LLI to ensure compliance with program budget. Evaluation and Capacity Building

• Participate in data collection and evaluation to ensure the LLI is reaching its goals and maintaining accountability to the LLI, partners, and community.

• Enhance and develop tools, based on learnings, to further advance the fields of community engagement and leadership development. Outreach and Engagement

• Coordinate and facilitate learning opportunities for the LLI, partners and stakeholders.

• Identify and develop relationships with community experts and other stakeholders to help develop and deliver content for the LLI and to build the fields of community engagement and leadership development.

• Lead and participate in the development and delivery of presentations at forums, conferences, panels, workshops, etc. Communications and Development

• Support the communications strategy as determined by the partnership. Components may include, the production of tools and resources, blogs, website, and social media.


• Communicate progress and learnings to Nexus staff to ensure LLI is in alignment with and being informed by other Nexus programs.

• Represent Nexus and the LLI partners to national audiences, especially those in the community engagement and leadership development fields.

• Function effectively as a leader and problem solver by supporting organizational and programmatic goals.

• Provide support as needed for other projects, such as the broader evaluation and communication for Nexus.

• Other duties as assigned.



• At least 3-5 years relevant experience in nonprofit and/or community work.

• 3+ years’ experience in leadership positions, either in community, a volunteer position, or past employment.

• Experience working in partnerships and collaborations cross-sectors and with multiple partners.

• Proven ability to facilitate dynamic groups that have different levels of knowledge and/or understanding.

• Demonstrated understanding of and experience with authentic community engagement and leadership development within communities of color.

• Experience designing and/or delivering high quality, interactive learning opportunities.

• Ability to think strategic and long-term while managing multiple projects and deadlines.

• Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.

• Demonstrated understanding of the role culture and history has as a foundation for building strategies in cultural communities. • Knowledge of evaluation and data collection tools.

• Knowledge of marketing/communications including blogs, social media, etc.

• Excellent oral and written communications skills.

• Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint). Design skills a plus.

• Must have personal transportation available for use, ability and willingness to travel on occasion.

Additional Information

THIS IS A GRANT DEPENDENT POSITION: May 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020.  The ideal candidate would be able to start May 1, 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 range: $60,000-$67,000 annually, 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, and PTO. 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.

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER Qualified Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

How to Apply

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by March 22, 2019 to:

Lynette Condra

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18 St. Paul, MN 55114


More information


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!