Science + Culture + Community = Social Change

  • February 20, 2020
  • By: Nkuli Shongwe
  • In: General

Community Wealth Building Coordinator Nkuli Shongwe recently returned from a cooperative learning trip to Puerto Rico*. Look out for upcoming blogs about her experience on the island and site visits to local cooperatives, including a hydroelectric cooperative and farming co-op. 

Adjuntas, Puerto Rico is lush and mountainous, a striking environment for our first site visit.  Casa Pueblo is a local grassroots non-profit, solar-powered community and cultural center established 39 years ago. The story of Casa Pueblo is beautiful and intricate and reveals deep roots in community engagement. Alexis Massol González, one of the Casa Pueblo’s founders, welcomed us and introduced us to the beautiful, intricate, and deeply rooted history of the organization. González’s forumula captures the essence of Casa Pueblo : science + culture + community = social change.

Casa Pueblo emerged 39 years ago in response to ecology crisis and resource extraction. When gold, silver, and copper were discovered in Adjuntas and neighboring towns Utuado, Lares, and Jayuja, the Puerto Rican government welcomed and encouraged open-pit mining in the area. With government support, mining companies from the U.S acquired 36,000 acres of land. The consequences of open-pit mining include permanent water pollution, destruction of the rainforest, and severe health, economic, and social issues. 

Deyá and González, along with other community members, worked tirelessly to educate community about the implications of open-pit mining through concerts at schools, universities, and town squares. They organized a large protest at the White House in D.C. (Casa Blanca) that resulted in some arrests, huge media coverage, and raised national awareness. Fifteen years after their coordinated organizing campaign and engagement process, they garnered support from over 10,000 people in Puerto Rico and from the mainland U.S.

Mobilizing their communities and building people power worked—Casa Pueblo was able to keep the forest space and privatize the whole forest. The forest, called Bosque Escuela la Olimpia (Olympia Forest School), is now run by Casa Pueblo and is home to many educational programs. 

In recent years, Casa Pueblo has been focusing on solar energy. After Hurricane Maria in 2017 and after the recent 2020 earthquakes, the organization provided solar energy when electricity was not available otherwise. It served as a community hub where people could come and charge their phones to connect with family, listen to the radio, and get news. In April 2020, Casa Pueblo hopes to expand the network of solar grids to local hospitals, churches, and businesses in order to build energy independence from PREPA, the island’s utility provider. Casa Pueblo is Adjunatas’ resiliency hub. This year, they will be celebrating their 40th anniversary, long history, and bright future on Earth day.

Written by Nonkululeko (Nkuli) Shongwe

*Nkuli is a first-year Masters of Human Rights student at the University of Minnesota. She participated in this trip through the Global Convergence Lab, an interdisciplinary course at the U of M that brings together students diverse backgrounds to explore the complexity of Global Resiliency issues. The lab is co-coordinated by the School of Architecture, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and the Acara Program (at the Institute on the Environment). 


People with deep lived experiences of inequities are actively leading and creating transformation in their own communities, in ways that respect and leverage their cultural ways of knowing and being. The pervasive view of leadership, as extraordinary and hierarchal individuals, reinforces dominant positions of power. Institutions that only rely on this systems-driven analysis often miss seeing and valuing these critical people, forms and patterns of leadership.

Nexus Community Partners supports strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to wealth building opportunities. We hope to bring people working in different sectors and cultural communities together to lift up absent narratives about leadership. With our Community Storytelling Project partners, our learning community will explore ways we practice community leadership.

Join us to learn more about our virtual and in-person learning opportunities to:

  • Support and explore community-driven leadership that improve the overall health and well-being of a group as defined by those individuals, families, or community members.
  • Develop and share stories of dynamic and cultural practices that support intersectional and relational shared power.

Thursday, Feb. 13th
11:00 AM – noon EST / 10:00 – 11:00 AM CST
View the Info Session slide deck here

Wednesday, Feb. 26th
10:30 AM – Noon EST/ 9:30 – 11:00 AM CST
RSVP to: and receive a weblink to participate

Learn more about the CLLI and Learning Community here!

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative is proud to announce the completion of its first cooperative conversion! Starting in 2020, Happy Earth Cleaning Cooperative is now in business. 

Nexus, in partnership with Project Equity, helped provide technical assistance for Happy Earth Cleaning LLC to become an employee-owned co-op.  Over a period of 10 months the previous business owners and employees were guided through a proven conversion process that included feasibility studies, structuring the deal, and training employees to become owners of their own business.

MPR rounds out the story with their article, “Supporters see worker co-ops as way to spread the wealth. How one housecleaning business joined the workers’ cooperative movement”. An excerpt of the story is below. You can listen to the audio and read the full article here.

“With the support of the cleaning company’s founders, employees in January officially transitioned the company into the Happy Earth Cleaning Co-op — a cooperative owned and run by workers. Employees at worker cooperatives get a say in how their business is run and a cut of the profits. As wealth disparities continue to increase in the country, some are hoping co-ops can make the economy more equitable and democratic.”

Thanks also go out to The City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP), Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), The Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD). Project Equity, and Erin Heelan Consulting.

Happy Earth Press Release

January 9, 2020

Contacts: Theresa Gardella
Vice President of Programs and Operations Nexus Community Partners

Erin Jerabek Heelan
Consultant, WOI Nexus Community Partners

New Year Brings Employee Ownership to Happy Earth Cleanin

Happy Earth Cleaning LLC is the first employee-owned cleaning company in Minneapolis

The new year began at Happy Earth Cleaning with employee ownership. Marion and Jesse Dunbar, founders of Happy Earth Cleaning, completed the sale of the business to their employees on December 30, 2019, and new ownership took effect on January 1, 2020. Five staff members became employee-owners with a plan for additional owners over time.

In 2010, Marion founded Happy Earth Cleaning LLC in Minneapolis, MN, with a mission of providing environmentally-safe cleaning with a people-first culture. In the beginning, Marion was the only staff member: she did all the cleaning, management and client cultivation. In 2013, her husband Jesse joined the business. Today, Happy Earth Cleaning has 19 employees, and they pride themselves on their culture and community impact. This includes participating in community events, offering full-time employment to their staff, and now employee ownership.

In 2018, Marion and Jesse needed to create a succession plan for the business because they decided to move back to their hometown of Seattle, Washington. They valued the unique “people first” culture that they had built in an industry that has been known to exploit its workers, and employee ownership was something Marion had always envisioned for the business.

Additionally, they didn’t want a new owner to dismantle their culture or take their customer list and lay off their employees. These aspirations and concerns fueled a desire to explore employee ownership as part of their succession planning.

In search of answers, Marion, Jesse, and a core group of employees took a nine-week course through the City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (CTAP). The course helped them understand co-op development and solidified their choice that transitioning to employee ownership was the right choice for the business.

To help with the business transition, Happy Earth Cleaning connected with Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity. “We worked with Nexus and Project Equity to sell to our employees because they provided us with the knowledge, expertise and guidance to ensure our team was set up for success after our departure,” Marion said. “It gave us the confidence to know we are doing the right thing for the employees and ourselves.” In addition to the help from

Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity, the new owners received finance and business plan training from Neighborhood Development Center, and the sale was financed locally through Shared Capital Cooperative.

Nexus and Project Equity formed a partnership to respond to the changing business landscape in the Twin Cities region. A Project Equity data analysis shows that in the Twin Cities Metro alone, an estimated 26,180 businesses are owned by baby boomers. Over 80% of the owners have no succession plans. The partners believe employee ownership provides a solution that keeps businesses and jobs rooted locally. For Nexus, employee ownership is part of a larger initiative that seeks to build community wealth. “The model is not only good for business, it’s good for workers and good for our communities,” said Elena Gaarder, Director of Community Wealth Building at Nexus. Marion and Jesse do not fit the “baby boomer” profile that this initiative was originally created to target, yet, they are part of a growing number of entrepreneurs that are environmentally and/or socially-minded who want to leave a legacy when they choose to exit their business.

Ten years after its conception, the Happy Earth Cleaning team has made history by becoming the first employee-owned cleaning company in Minneapolis. They credit their philosophy and culture with the reason they have been able to retain employees and build a strong client base. Through their efforts, they’ve shown how employee-owned initiatives can lead to a happy team. It’s a new year for employees at Happy Earth Cleaning as they celebrate employee ownership. Zach Dennis, Happy Earth’s Dispatcher, has been serving on the cooperative development team with four of his colleagues. He shared, “I think employee ownership is a valuable opportunity to have a democratically controlled workplace allowing for worker control over growth, wages and benefits that directly affect employees.”


Happy Earth Cleaning Employee Ownership Case study: https://www.project

About Happy Earth Cleaning: Happy Earth is “A People Company that Cleans.” Their business philosophy recognizes the intersectionality between a happy planet, happy community, and happy people – employees and customers. Happy Earth stays true to this philosophy by using environmentally friendly products, participating in community events, and offering full-time employment to their staff. They credit their philosophy and culture with the reason they have been able to retain employees and build a strong client base.

Facebook @HappyEarthCleaning Twitter: @HappyEarthClean Instagram: @happyearthcleaning

About Nexus Community Partners: Nexus is a community building intermediary that works at the intersection of philanthropy, government, community development and community leaders. The organization builds strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to ownership opportunities. Nexus supports efforts that build strong, local economies and provides services to business owners and their employees to transition to worker cooperatives. To learn more about the Worker Ownership Initiative and Nexus’ Business Transition services, visit:

About Project Equity: Project Equity is a national leader in the movement to harness employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities, honor selling business owners’ legacies, and address income and wealth inequality. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Project Equity works locally and with partners around the country to raise awareness about employee ownership as an exit strategy for business owners, and as an important approach for increasing employee engagement and wellbeing. A nonprofit organization, Project Equity provides hands on consulting and support to companies that want to transition to employee ownership, as well as to the new employee-owners to ensure that they, and their businesses, thrive after the transition. Read more at

Marion and Jesse Dunbar sold their successful cleaning company to the people who know their company best—their employees.

*text-based job details are at the bottom*

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.”    

POSITION SUMMARY:  Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. (NCEI) is seeking a dynamic and deliberate individual who will provide community engagement coaching, consultation, and implementation support to national and local community partners and government stakeholders within the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC). The SJC is an initiative that provides support to leaders from across the country who are determined to tackle one of the greatest drivers of incarceration in America—the misuse and overuse of jails. Out of state travel is required approximately every month. The position reports directly to the National Engagement Program Manager and works with the NCEI team, including the Program Director and Local Engagement Manager, to provide expertise, planning, and facilitation to ensure programming and consultation are adaptive and effective. The Community Engagement Associate builds strong relationships with all Nexus staff, while promoting and modeling equity and accountability. The Community Engagement Associate will join our dynamic and diverse team of thoughtful, equity-driven individuals who are deeply committed to the organization’s values. This position is a one-year grant-dependent position funded by the Catherine D. and John T. MacArthur Foundation. 


National Site Support (60%) 

  • Provide coaching and consultation to national sites and community partners related to their engagement activities and or strategies (long-distance travel is required to sites and initiative-wide convenings) 
  • Manage logistics for interviews, meetings, programming/ training spaces, phone calls, travel itineraries, and trainings 
  • Facilitate & implement sitespecific engagement strategies, environmental scans, trainings, and convenings 
  • Assist in curriculum development for the national SJC sites and support curriculum development for local MN communities and sectors. 
  • Facilitate programming for the SJC sites, the SJC network, and other NCEI programs and convenings such as the Engaged Learning Series, Tapping the Potential, and others 
  • Maintain positive relationships between staff, consultants, and partners 
  • Assist in the planning and coordination of program and meeting logistics for the SJC body of work and as needed for the NCEI local convenings 
  • Synthesize & analyze findings from environment scans  
  • Prepare memos and other reports 
  • Track program-related expenses and activities   

Outreach and Engagement (25%) 

  • Build new, collaborative relationships locally and nationally on behalf of the NCEI that will continue to grow the field of community engagement 
  • Participate (as needed) in the development and delivery of presentations at forums, conferences, panels, workshops, etc. 

Evaluation and Capacity Building (5%) 

  • Support implementation of evaluation to ensure the NCEI is reaching its goals and maintaining accountability to our key stakeholders 

Communications and Development (5%) 

  • Support implementation of communication strategy for the SJC body of work including, the production of tools and resources, blogs, website, and social media 

Organizational (5%) 

  • Develop local and national awareness of Nexus by identifying opportunities to expand the organization’s geographic reach and building relationships within the expansive SJC network 
  • Provide support as needed for other projects, such as subcommittees, the broader evaluation, and communications for Nexus. 
  • Other duties as assigned. 


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

  • 3+ years of experience in community engagement and community building work 
  • Deep commitment to the history of organizing for economic, racial and social justice. 
  • Project management skills: ability to multitask, problem-solve, prioritize, delegate, and create systems and processes. 
  • Requires knowledge, skills and abilities in data analysis and insight generation, translation of complex issues into actionable efforts. 
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment and juggle multiple sites and priorities, and able to react and adjust quickly to changing conditions. 
  • Excellent communication skills; able to communicate effectively and articulately in writing and orally. 
  • Solid relationship management skills enhancing internal and external community interactions. 
  • Ability to develop and write case studies  
  • Skilled facilitator for diverse audiences 
  • Comfortable with engaging in and working through conflict 
  • Comfortable navigating political settings and environments 
  • Ability and willingness to travel out of state (Up to 25%, may be required) 


Nexus offers medical, dental and vision insurance with premiums paid for individuals and family members at either 90% or 80% dependent on the chosen plan. In addition, we offer life, short-term disability and long-term disability insurance with premiums paid in full. Benefits also include paid time off each year (earned on an accrual basis), 12 paid holidays, health club benefits, Wellness Bucks & Wellness Hours and participation in an employermatched 401k plan. Nexus also provides professional development funds to all staff.  


Please submit a resume and cover letter via email subject line: Application Community Engagement Associate. Please label each document with your first and last name and mention how you found out about the position. 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 more engaged and powerful communities of color.  


Attn: Karen Law, Director of Human Resources (An email confirmation will be sent upon receipt of your application) 

Phone: 651-289-7025 


The hiring committee will review resumes as they are submitted.  


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

Job Details

Title: Community Engagement Associate

Salary Range: $55,000-$60,000

Position Closes: 12/27/19

Department: Nexus Community Engagement Institute

Hours: Full-time, 40 Hours

Start Date: January 2020

Reports to: National Engagement Program Manager

Classification: Exempt, Salaried

Location: St Paul, MN

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative and Kendeda’s radical grant making strategy was featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy! The excerpt on Worker Ownership is below and you can read the full article here.

“Some grant makers, including the Kendeda Fund, which was founded by Diana Blank, the former wife of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, have made grants to organizations that give workers more say in running the companies that employ them.



The Kendeda Fund has committed more than $24 million to groups trying to increase the number and awareness of worker- owned companies, such as Evergreen Cooperative Laundry.

In August, Kendeda committed more than $24 million to four such organizations: the Fund for Employee Ownership, which buys companies from retiring baby boomers and coverts them to worker-owned outts; the ICA Group, which will support conversions to employee ownership in the home-care and child-care industries; Nexus Community Partners, which will work to promote conversion to employee ownership in industry sectors likely to employ people of color, and Project Equity, which works to raise awareness about employee ownership.

Making those changes in a few select business sectors is minor compared to the task of securing shifts among publicly traded companies that do business in the global market, admits Diane Ives, Kendeda’s adviser for people, place, and planet. Currently only about 450 worker-owned cooperatives exist in the United States. But, she says, the number of startups and business conversions is growing. She hopes Kendeda’s grants can help build a network of worker-owned businesses that advocate for employee-friendly regulations and that distribute profits to employees and benefit the cities where they work.

“There are a lot of motivations for running a business. Profit is not the only one,” she says. “Transitioning to employee ownership allows a business owner to tap into some of those other values, like an appreciation for the work force and the role the business plays in the community.”

Read the full article here

We’re Hiring! Director of Finance

  • November 11, 2019
  • By: efireside
  • In: General
Title: Director of Finance Salary Range:  $82,000 to $90,000 Position Closes: Open until filled
Department: Admin & Operations Hours: Full-time, 40 Hours Start Date: January 2020
Reports to: President and CEO Classification: Exempt, Salaried Location: St Paul, MN


Download job description here 

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.”

POSITION SUMMARY: We are seeking an energetic and creative individual who will provide leadership and implementation of essential finance & administration needs of the organization.  The position reports directly to the President and CEO and works closely with the leadership team and Board to provide strategic leadership and to ensure financial strength, flexibility and sustainability. The Director of Finance builds strong relationships with all staff, while promoting and modeling equity and accountability. The Director of Finance will join our dynamic and diverse staff of thoughtful, equity-driven individuals who are deeply committed to the organization’s values.


Financial Performance

  • Responsible for the hands on and daily management of the accounting and financial processes within the organization.Balances the organization’s fiscal needs with available resources.
  • Plan, develop, organize, implement, direct and evaluate the organization’s accounting, and financial function and performance.
  • Responsible for the development and management of the organization’s budget and for communicating progress towards meeting financial objectives to all stakeholders, including the Board of Directors.
  • Develops and presents accurate reports to assist in the overall financial management of the organization.
  • Ensures that assets are properly controlled, resources are utilized appropriately, and activities are reported accurately and in a timely manner.
  • Responsible for the development of a reliable cash flow projection process and reporting mechanism.
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement, cost reduction, and systems enhancement.
  • Monitors financial performance by measuring and analyzing results; initiating corrective actions; minimizing the impact of variances.Provides accurate, timely and meaningful financial analysis.
  • Responsible for management of agency compliance filing and tax preparations.
  • Oversite and supervision to the audit processes, ensuring favorable outcomes and continual improvement.
  • Evaluate and advise on the financial impact of strategic and long-range planning, introduction of new programs/strategies and regulatory action.
  • Enhance and/or develop, implement and uphold financial policies and procedures of the organization that will improve the overall operation and effectiveness of the agency.
  • Support program staff in financially managing their contracts, program budgets and program activities.
  • Informs the President and CEO and Board of Directors of financial and operational issues on a timely basis.Identifies obstacles and risks to the financial or operational health of the agency.  Assists in developing risk mitigation strategies to address contingencies that may arise.
  • Optimize the handling of bank and deposit relationships and initiate appropriate strategies to enhance cash position.
  • Manages the accounting system (QuickBooks) and any processes/systems in which data is imported into or exported from this system.
  • Be an advisor, from the financial perspective, on any contracts into which the organization may enter.
  • Manage and complete all aspects of accounts payable and accounts receivable process.


  • Clearly articulate organizational goals for financial and programmatic stability and growth; motivate and inspire others to support the vision and enthusiastically model the values of the organization.
  • Maintain strong and effective internal relationship with the Board and staff.
  • Foster a culture of cooperation and mutual respect among staff; supporting programs to be effective, efficient and impactful in their work.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to learn about and contribute to the budgeting process.
  • Responsible for leading the finance and operations of the organization in a manner that supports and guides the organization’s mission as defined by the Board of Directors.
  • Responsible for communicating effectively with the Board by providing, in a timely and accurate manner, all financial information necessary for the Board to function properly and to make informed decisions.
  • Provide support activities for the Board, such as participating in the Finance Committee meetings, or other Committees as requested.
  • Support a respectful, inclusive work culture and environment to engage and support all employees. Act with intention to create and promote equity within the organization.


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

  • BA in accounting or finance preferred; CPA a plus or comparable work experience
  • Experience working with nonprofits in a financial leadership position is strongly preferred
  • Personal qualities of integrity, credibility, trustworthiness, and unwavering commitment to the organization’s mission; a proactive, hands-on strategic thinker who will own the responsibility for finance and administration
  • Solid experience coordinating audit activities and managing reporting, budget development and analysis, forecasting, accounts payable and receivable, general ledger, and accounting for investments
  • Technology savvy with advanced knowledge of accounting and reporting software, including QuickBooks for Nonprofits
  • 5+ years’ experience in leadership positions, either in community, a volunteer position, or past employment.
  • Keen analytic, organization, and problem-solving skills, which allows for strategic data interpretation vs. simple reporting
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills; experience in effectively communicating key data, including presentations to leadership team, board, or other outside stakeholders
  • Ability and desire to translate complex financial concepts to individuals
  • 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.


Nexus offers medical, dental and vision insurance with premiums paid for individuals and family members at either 90% or 80% dependent on chosen plan. In addition, we offer life, short-term disability and long-term disability insurance with premiums paid in full. Benefits also include:  Paid time off each year (earned on an accrual basis), 12 paid holidays, health club benefits, Wellness Bucks & Wellness Hours and participation in an employer matched 401k plan. Nexus also provides professional development funds to all staff.


Please submit a resume and cover letter via email subject line: Application Director of Finance. Please label each document with your first and last name and mention how you found out about the position. In addition, 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 more engaged and powerful communities of color.


Attn: Karen Law, Director of Human Resources (An email confirmation will be sent upon receipt of your application)

Phone: 651-289-7025


The hiring committee will review resumes as they are submitted and will remove the posting once hired.


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


For Nexus Community Partners’ 15th anniversary, Director of Community Wealth Building, Elena Gaarder, reflects on creating wealth in communities of color, working with private businesses to transition to cooperatives, and imagining abundant communities. 

Words by Nichelle Brunner • Downloadable Version

When Elena came to Nexus, there was a central question being asked: how to better create economic vitality on St. Paul’s East Side? 

“In 2013, we brought together our partners to ask this question and from these conversations grew 2 game-changing efforts- the East Side Funders Group, originally founded by  Nexus and the McKnight, McNeely, St. Paul and Northwest Area Foundations, and the East Side Economic Growth Initiative, which was a collaborative of 9 non-profit organizations and Metropolitan State University.  

Nexus partners and staff celebrate the launch of the Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative.

While both efforts have evolved over time, their aligned work created new partnerships and  new pathways for building wealth on the East Side. This work also inspired Nexus to begin exploring models that go beyond individual asset and wealth building and traditional economic development.

As part of this exploration, Nexus began connecting with stakeholders across the country,  including The Democracy Collaborative, an organization that played a key role in developing the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio, and Oakland-based Project Equity, a group that supports businesses in transitioning from privately-owned companies to broad-based employee-ownership.

What emerged from Nexus’ travels was a deeper understanding of the importance of local and broad-based ownership models, including worker cooperatives.  “We always looked at the community as a resource and were committed to providing people with ownership opportunities. In the past, however, we were not explicitly addressing the ways in which people’s labor is commodified and how this has created the bulk of wealth in our country. We can’t shift  economic systems if we, as an organization, are not addressing the commodification of labor. 

So in 2015, Nexus adopted a community wealth building framework, which has at its core a commitment to building broad-based ownership models .The adoption of the framework also brought up more questions: how could Nexus influence a shift in traditional economic development practices ? What do regenerative economies look like? How can Nexus create a culture of ownership?

Currently, Nexus is working through all of those questions. 

In April 2019, Nexus launched the Worker Ownership Initiative, which knits together an ecosystem to support cooperative development and to support Twin Cities businesses in transitioning to employee-owned and democratically-control  workplaces. The idea is to normalize worker co-ops as tangible business model and over the next three years, convert five to seven businesses to worker-owned cooperatives.

Public sector leaders at the Government Equity Summit on Cooperative Development in San Francisco, CA, organized by Nexus Community Partners and Project Equity.

The organization is also hosting a co-op learning events where community members come together to learn about cooperative movements and the cooperative framework. They are supporting members of the Black community in starting cooperatives through the Northstar Black Cooperative Fellowship and by providing grants to organizations like the Hmong American Farmers Association and BiiGiiWiin who are exploring cooperative ownership models.

“Even having the conversations around community wealth building has helped to elevate how  cultural communities have always worked collectively to support one another . In the end, you do not need direct services or non-profits to engage because the community has built its own wealth. Direct service work is necessary, but it’s not really getting folks out of poverty,” said Elena

When asked about the future of community wealth building and what abundant communities feel like, Elena creates an almost poetic imagery. 

“This sounds corny, but the weather is beautiful, there’s a light breeze, and you never have to be afraid. Everyone has the means to live how they want to live. Oppressive systems that cloud people’s views have been replaced by regenerative economies where things can grow.  With community wealth building, we don’t have to choose people over profit. Communities don’t have to look at things through a scarcity lens. Everyone can just breathe easy.”


Nexus Community Partners and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce (SPACC) are partnering to host an event to highlight options for retiring business owners to sell their enterprises to their employees. Businesses transitioning to employee ownership are a trending alternative in business succession.

Two thirds of small businesses listed for sale never sell, and only 15% are passed on to family members. Acquisitions by larger firms or out-of-state buyers often lead to layoffs and restructuring. But a local buyer may be closer than you think! Join Nexus Community Partners and SPACC for our upcoming event Next Generation Business Models: Exploring Benefits of Employee Ownership and find out why more and more employers are securing their company’s legacy by selling to the employees who helped to build it in the first place!

The event is an opportunity to learn from companies that have transitioned to employee ownership including Terra Firma Construction and Isthmus Engineering. We will also hear from industry experts including: Equal Exchange, Dorsey Whitney Law Firm, and Project Equity.

To register for the event, click here.

Here, is access to the Facebook Event.

Thursday, November 14, 2019 7:30 AM – 11:30 AM CST

Sunrise Banks – The Bridge

2525 Wabash Avenue

Saint Paul, MN 55114

Cost: $35.00, Breakfast included.

Keynote speaker : Ole Olson, Engineer, Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing.

Agenda and panelists to be announced soon!



2019 BCLI Cohort 7 Announcement

  • October 8, 2019
  • By: Danielle Mkali
  • In: General

Leadership Development that Creates Ecosystem Change:  Nexus Community Partners Announces the Seventh Cohort of their Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)

They are organizers, government workers, parents and pastors. They work in the fields of food justice, housing, and education advocacy. They represent Woodbury to Shakopee. And they come from various multiracial backgrounds. Nexus Community Partners is proud to announce our 7th cohort of Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) fellows in the Twin Cities.

For more than 15 years, Nexus Community Partners has been dedicated to building more engaged and powerful communities of color. Through the work of BCLI, Nexus has continued to build sustainable and replicable models for community engagement and community orientated leadership development that strengthens communities.

The BCLI is a seven-month leadership program that identifies, trains, and supports placement of dynamic leaders of color and underrepresented communities onto publicly appointed boards and commissions in the Twin Cities. BCLI fellows help advance a racial and economic equity agenda across several sectors and issue areas. The cohort kicks off the week of October 7th.

The seventh BCLI cohort members are:

  1. Abdulrahman Wako, nominated by BCLI alumni
  2. Ana Vergara, nominated by BCLI alumni
  3. Benjamin Yawakie, nominated by BCLI alumni
  4. Cherita Tenhoff, nominated by Simpson Housing Services
  5. Diego Guaman, nominated by BCLI alumni
  6. Erica Valliant, nominated by the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood
  7. Fatu Magassouba, nominated by BCLI alumni
  8. Jae Hyun Shim, nominated by BCLI alumni
  9. Linda Garrett-Johnson, nominated by the MN Council on Foundations
  10. Magdalena O’Connor, nominated by Project for Pride in Living
  11. Que Vang, nominated by BCLI alumni
  12. Ricardo Perez, nominated by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs
  13. Said Ahmed, nominated by Metro State’s MAPL Program
  14. Tara Roberts, nominated by BCLI alumni
  15. Timothy Brewington, nominated by the City of Woodbury

The BCLI continues to build momentum within local governing bodies by creating opportunities for community members to become active decision makers. The incoming BCLI fellows join a network of 84 alumni, 44 of which have been successfully appointed on a board or commission or hold a high-level policy position, and all of whom are building and pushing racial, social and economic equity in the community. Alumni of the Twin Cities program include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, MN House Representative Hodan Hassan, Metropolitan Council Representative for the 8th District Abdirahman Muse, Bush Fellows Roxxanne O’Brien and Carmeann Foster, Lower Phalen Creek executive director Maggie Lorenz, 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, Ms. Terri Thao at or program coordinator Mr. Chai Lee at You can also check out Nexus’ website: