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.

North Star 2021: Cooperative Governance

  • May 24, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

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. 

Second in our series is our session on cooperative governance. Governance describes the shared agreements that shape how your cooperative actually works, like determining how people become members, how members share profits, who can be on the coop’s board, or how the cooperative communicates. At Nexus, we believe that when we make decisions that affect our lives, we share the power in making those decisions, and co-op governance is a big part of that.

Signe Harriday started our session off by sharing her journey with cooperatives, and how she became one of the co-founders and co-owners of Rootsprings. Rootsprings is a land-based Cooperative in greater MN stewarding space for healing and development of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, activists, healers, and community centering Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) folx. 

Rootsprings has two legal structures, a non-profit and a cooperative. This dual structure allows them to leverage tax-deductible dollars to support their start up costs while they build out a self-sustaining cooperative businesses model. Fellows really vibed with Rootsprings, the creativity of their structure, and the need for BIPOC and LGBTQ centered healing spaces where folks can connect with nature.

Renee Hatcher, a community lawyer based in Chicago, spoke about her experience leaning into Black cooperative history, and how she tries to bring that into the cooperative law field. As a cooperative lawyer, Renee helps worker-owners understand cooperative legal structures, and many different ways of governing are possible within them. Cooperatives are a space that allows us to decolonize how we govern by relying on our own indigenous democratic practices. 

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.

Cooperatives are a key part of transitioning to a just economy, and cooperative finance is a crucial piece of the process. But, with banks’ and lenders’ histories of racism in lending to Black and Brown communities, applying for loans can be daunting. The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship exists to help Black-led cooperatives navigate these processes in community and with support. 

Last month, the North Stars dove into finance with our partners at Shared Capital, Jessica and Samantha, Social Impact Strategies, Elaine Rasmussen, E Coco Consulting and Nexus’ own Christina Nicholson, the Worker Owner Initiative Program Manager. Our speakers and teachers were thoughtful, supportive, realistic as they shared their expertise and answered fellows’ questions. 

Shared Capital is a CDFI (community development financial institution) that finances cooperatives across the nation. Jessica and Samantha walked the fellows through the loan application process, the different types of investments they can make in cooperatives, and the ways the cooperative principles guide Shared Capital’s work. 

Afterwards, our partners had a panel discussion about their experiences with cooperative finance, including different opportunities and obstacles Black-led cooperatives can face when raising capital. Elaine talked about how to get connected to and build relationships with investors. Coco talked about opportunities to raise money to support cooperatives in an unexpected place—philanthropy. She gave fellows insights into how to navigate spaces with funders and find opportunities for funding that might not be obvious. 

Fellows and speakers supported each other in this conversation about financing. Together, they unpacked how banks, lenders, and foundations have extracted wealth from Black communities while also denying them support—this historical and present discrimination can make financing an exhausting process. It was powerful for fellows and speakers to talk about these barriers together and find support in their shared experiences. Black people have built cooperatives throughout history to support each other and thrive, and there is a tight community of folks ready to dig in and help other cooperators out.

Do you want to learn more about North Star? Mark your calendars for graduation next Wednesday! 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. 

Nexus BCLI Graduates 8th Cohort!

  • April 30, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Congratulations to the 16 graduates of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute’s 8th cohort! On April 1st, 2021, we gathered virtually with BCLI fellows, their families, and community members to celebrate all they learned and accomplished in the past 7 months. These graduates join a community of 99 BCLI alumni. 

The first all-virtual BCLI cohort, these fellows navigated the unique personal, local, national, and global challenges of the past 7 months with grace and determination. It was truly an honor to witness their dedication to community and justice, and to join them on their journey.  

As is BCLI tradition, two graduating fellows, Shawn Sorrell and Stephannie Lewis, shared their personal experiences and biggest takeaways from the fellowship. For Shawn, he spoke on the different roles different people have in making change, and how wherever fellows show up, “we need to demand change or risk maintaining the status quo.” Stephannie Lewis emphasized the importance of reflection, and how central reflection is for effective and just governance—”to make sense of messy and confusing policymaking, reflection is not placating or appeasement, it is wisdom. It anchors us to our community and our why.”

Our keynote speaker, Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, delivered a message about collective leadership, the importance of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and marginalized folks being at the table, and bringing their communities with them. She said, 

“We’re living right now in a moment in our society where we have the possibility to reimagine and transform so much. I want to remember where you came from so you can always remember where you are going.”

As the first African American elected to the Hennepin County Board, Commissioner Conley knows how difficult it can be to navigate those spaces, and how much pressure there can be to fix things—“for real transformational change to occur, the onus is not on any one individual. It is our collective responsibility to lock arms and GET IT DONE!!!”

All the speakers expressed gratitude for the fellows and how much they learned over the course of the cohort. The evening ended with Terri and Chai honoring each graduating fellow. Celebration packages including certificates and original art by BCLI Alumnae PH Copeland on the way. We also want to give a HUGE thank you to Three Sisters Event Rentals for their tech support, event coordination, and courier services. Check them out here! 

Nexus is truly humbled to be able to share space with such powerful people, and we thank the fellows, alumni, friends, family, and funders for making this happen. 



*The Nexus Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) brings together Black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) and other community members who have been shut out of governing to support, train, and help place them on city, county, metro and state boards and commissions. Alumni of the program challenge current systems by bringing their full selves, their responsibility to their communities, and their distinctive cultural perspectives to these governing positions. Learn more here.


A Message of Solidarity: Chauvin Verdict

  • April 21, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Art by @JohnLeeDraws

First and foremost, we ground ourselves in our love of George Floyd, his family, Black life, and Black futures. 

We sit in this moment with many feelings—joy, grief, anger, love, relief, tension. This is a historic conviction that comes out of months of organizing, mutual aid, collective care, protest, uprising, rebellion by people in the streets. A conviction that also comes on the heels of police killings of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant. Justice is no one being murdered at the hands of the police ever again. Justice to us means safety for everyone, and a world where people have everything they need. 

Our work is to repair and heal our individual and collective trauma, knowing those are interconnected. As we endure trauma after trauma on so many levels, we invite you ground and settle as you can. 


Grounding tools (@traumaawarecare):


  • explore the texture of your clothing
  • smell something comforting like hot tea or lavender
  • touch your thumb to each finger while counting: 1-2-3-4, 4-3-2-1
  • wrap yourself in a warm blanket
  • move your body in a way that feels good to you – stretch, walk, shake


  • drink something cold or chew on ice
  • gently turn your head to look around the room
  • run cool water on your wrists
  • count by color – how many blue objects do you see?
  • take a brisk walk or shake your limbs/hands/body

Terri’s Taking A Sabbatical!

  • April 6, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Big news for a big leader at Nexus! Terri Thao is taking a sabbatical! For the past 16 years, Terri has helped shape the organization with her vision, dedication, love, warmth, 80’s ringtones, and strong Virgo vibes.

For the next 3 months (April 12 – July 12), Terri will be taking time to reflect and rest. Ever the avid learner, Terri will be taking a deep dive into different governance models and tackling her ever-growing reading list, including Adrienne Maree Brown’s “We Will Not Cancel Us,” and Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ “The Undrowned.” She hopes to use writing as a creative outlet to express herself and to unpack what she has learned over her time in the leadership development field. In between the learning, Terri looks forward to doing sticker puzzles, spending time in nature, and getting out of her house!!

By taking a sabbatical, Terri not only hopes to come back renewed and rejuvenated, but also with a new sense of what is possible! She shared that “so much of the work is supporting others, but we can’t do that if we aren’t also being supported.” This time dedicated to herself and inward reflection will help her come back with a huge well to support others.

At Nexus, we know that people working hard for community, inside or outside of organizations, need and deserve time for themselves. As an organization, we believe in supporting our staff with ample time to rest and reinvest in the work. Expanding our wellness practices to include staff sabbaticals is aligned with our values of learning, reflection, and rest.

Learn more about Terri and her journey with Nexus

BCLI March 2021: Health Equity

  • April 6, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Huge congratulations to graduates of our 8th BCLI Cohort! It is an honor to work with such powerful people who deeply believe in community leadership, accountability, and justice.

Leading up to graduation, the BCLI fellows took a deep dive into health equity. Antonia Wilcoxon, longtime community leader and former MN Dept of Human Services staff, shared her experiences about tackling institutional racism in health. Fellows learned so much from her experiences advocating with confidence for equity in a system as huge as the MDHS.

In their second March session, fellows got hands on experience in a simulated Planning Commission discussion. In this simulation, a fictional company was trying to develop a piece of land. While fellows debated the future of this parcel, they raised important issues and values at the intersections of health and environmental equity, economic development, and land use. Each fellow was able to practice using Robert’s Rules of Order, advocate for local hiring clauses, ask for environmental impact studies, and more. It was so engaging that the fellows asked for an additional simulation later this month!

Look out for some photos and stories from graduation next week! Until then, check out this health equity video from the BCLI curriculum:

At our last session, Mapping Prejudice set the context of racist and Anti-Black housing discrimination in the Twin Cities, while Angela Dawson of 40 Acre Coop showed us an alternative: Black cooperative ownership and land reclamation.

After learning more about racial covenants and the rigged rules that barred Black communities from building wealth, we had a vibrant discussion about what culturally-rooted home ownership can in Black communities. In the context of hundreds of years of oppression, focusing on the individual alone is not enough—we need a village of folks who rely on each other and work together.

Angela Dawson, President & CEO of 40 acre coop and 4th gen Midwest Farmer, shared a vision of cooperation. Existing and taking up space as a Black person in Rural Minnesota, in the white-dominated hemp industry, is challenging because many systems are not designed for us. However, 40 Acre Coop is thriving and relishing in the power of reclaiming ancestral knowledge and Black folks’ ties to the land, farming, growing, and plants—and making those opportunities accessible to other Black farmers in Minnesota and throughout the US.

On day 1 of the Chauvin Trial, we ground ourselves in powerful projects that invest in and nourish Black life and joy, like 40 Acre Coop. Justice is transformation and radically reimagining how our world can and should look. The courts will not and have never given that to us—community is building the future we need, now and always.  #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

Justice for George Floyd

  • March 11, 2021
  • By: efireside
  • In: General

Art by Mr. Johnson Paints

As the trial of former MPD Officer Derek Chauvin gets underway, we anchor ourselves in our vision of a world where everyone has what they need, where we honor our responsibility for one another knowing that we are all connected, a world where we all feel safe. We know that for everyone to be safe, we must usher out the rigged rules, attitudes, and practices that concentrate wealth and power in ever fewer white hands.

Last summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, community demanded transformation, real safety, and investment in the resources that keeps us alive, not those that kill us. In response to our calls for justice, the police brutalized protestors, the national guard occupied our city and terrorized us on our doorsteps. And now, months later, government leaders have only gotten better at protecting themselves, mobilizing millions of dollars to put up barricades and deploy the national guard, the opposite of what Black, Indigenous, and POC communities have been asking for.

We protect us. The police do not. We know this truth deeply within our bodies and intergenerationally. While we hope for a fair trial for Chauvin, the legal system cannot provide the justice George Floyd deserves or the justice Black and Brown communities need.

At Nexus, we stand firmly with our communities, in rage, grief, and love, and in our collective power. We will keep doing our part to usher in ways of living, working, and making decisions together that will nourish communities now and into the future.

We need safety for everyone, now. Residents of Minneapolis can sign the people’s petition, a petition to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public of Safety. Learn more and find more places to sign here: