Written by Nkuli Shongwe 

The Humanist Philosophy of Ubuntu was introduced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African cleric and theologian, one of the main Leaders of the South African anti-Apartheid, and Human Rights movement. One of the many meanings of Ubuntu is: I am because we are. The word holds a meaning of collectiveness and interconnectedness in humans. The humanist philosophy can be used to advocate for the economic and social justice through cooperative economics for people who identify as identify as women, LGBTQIA, African, and African American. Economic justice is a tool that promotes sustainable economic growth and restorative community wealth in historically marginalized and continuously exploited communities.

It’s been a year since I was introduced to the cooperative movement. Before that, I never thought much of co-ops, I barely knew of co-ops- in the formal sense.  I was fascinated with cooperatives and became interested in learning more about their history. I had this burning question about the first coops and where they were established. As I was doing more research to familiarize myself, I quickly discovered that most of the information I found online and the narrative in the coop world  stated that cooperatives started in Europe in the 19th century and  the Rochdale pioneers were  established  as pioneers whole catapulted the  modern cooperative movement in the 20th century.

During my research, I was introduced to Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book– Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Dr. Nembhard’s book is the only book written in the 21st century about African American cooperative business ownership and its place in the movements for Black civil rights and economic equality. It is one of two books ever written recollecting the history of black cooperatives. The only other text in existence W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1907 Economic Co-operation Among Negro Americans.

What was fascinating about Dr. Nembhard’s book was the she debunked the dominant narrative about the establishment of the first cooperatives. She details incredible history and stories proving that African Americans have had a long-rich history of cooperative ownership driven by market failures and racial discrimination that predates that cooperatives established in England during the 19th century. The revelation came when I read that coops were not always formal structures. There were many informal forms of cooperating that were powerful such as the underground rail road, programs led by the Black Panthers,  mutual aid societies, tilling kitchens- and list goes on.

Essentially we have been cooperating as since the beginning of time. After pouring, through the research and learning more about the informal coop structures used  and how they were used for survival, I began asking myself- where are my people in this story? Do my people have a history of cooperating and where can I find this history and information. I put in the words South African coops in google and google scholar and I was met with an extensive list of formal cooperatives existing in all  provinces in South Africa.

I was astonished and found myself going down rabbit holes. Once I pulled myself out of the rabbit hole, I thought of   the informal ways of cooperating and the list was also endless. I thought of family weddings or funerals where all the mothers and women of the family would gather to make a beautiful feast. Each woman would have a task from cutting the vegetables or meat, cooking, plating up, and washing the dishes- there were no formal procedures. Women would come together and contribute where they were needed. I thought of stockvels- invitation only clubs of twelve or more people serving as rotating credit unions or saving scheme in South Africa where members contribute fixed sums of money to a central fund on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Stockvels have been around since the 19th century and were used fight against colonialism.

The philosophy of UBUNTU is prevalent throughout the cooperative movement and the fight for economic justice. Cooperatives use a human based approach to build community wealth.  Cooperation is driven by trust, care, and empathy for each other.  The cooperative movement encourages us to participate in a liberatory economy that is regenerative and works to actively challenge a racialized and gendered economic system.

Nexus’ longtime partner and board member, Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), was recently featured in The New Food Economy:

Pakou Hang, 42, was born in Thailand, but she’s been an American for all but two weeks of her life. Hang, the child of Hmong refugees resettled in the United States and grew up in Wisconsin, where her parents supported the family by farming. Today, that history deeply informs Hang’s own work: She’s co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), headquartered on a 155-acre research and incubator farm 15 miles south of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Facing persecution as U.S. allies in the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War, more than 100,000 Hmong refugees have relocated to the United States since the 1970s. They brought their agricultural prowess with them. In past decades, Hmong-American farmers helped to pioneer the contemporary local food movement in California and the Midwest, popularizing ingredients like Thai chili peppers and bok choy; today, Hmong farmers account for more than half of the produce sold in St. Paul’s farmers’ markets. Founded in 2011, HAFA helps to sustain that legacy by providing pilot plots, professional training, and a food hub—the key piece of processing and distribution infrastructure that makes doing business possible. 

Hang spoke about her upbringing, her childhood resistance to the farm life, and why she decided to come back home and make agriculture her calling and career.

Read the full story here.

We are so proud to call Pakou a partner, and are excited to see the continued growth and support for HAFA and Hmong farmers both locally and nationally! Cheers to you Pakou!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The newest member of the Nexus team discusses titles, collectivism, and the power of love

Joining a little over a month ago, Chao currently serves as the Director of Strategic Development; however, she is quick to note that, “titles are just titles,” and it does not say much about her job. In her role, she focuses on development, but also communications, evaluation, fund management and relationships, and strategic planning.

Before coming to Nexus, Chao worked at a corporate foundation for close to three years where she funded communities in East Asia, United States and Minnesota; however, the experience taught her that she belonged in community.

“Here [at Nexus], community is everything, where corporate philanthropy is more about reputational giving. Being Hmong and coming from a collective community, I was missing out on being a part of an organization that valued me and my lived experiences as an asset.  Before Nexus, I was serving communities globally, but I knew I could do more at home.”

With the first month under her belt, Chao is enjoying the new organizational culture of Nexus.

“What’s really amazing is Nexus has this deep, profound culture that leans towards collectivism. The relationships here are good and real. Being here reminds me of who I am and what my purpose is. I went through an emotional journey from self-reflection to acceptance.”

When asked to describe herself, Chao does away with the professional titles and jargon.

“I’m a walking contradiction. Often when people are asked to describe themselves, they jump to characteristics and titles. I live in moments, I’m complicated, and I’m complex. I can go from one spectrum to another depending on the context. I’m a big believer in love. Everyone’s motivations, at the end of the day, are to be loved and to love. My growth game is strong. If I’m not growing, I see it as a problem.

Outside of Nexus, Chao is staying busy with writing a memoir on her aunt, who is the oldest missing persons case in the Twin Cities; starting a healing-focused podcast; and providing career coaching for professionals.


Written by Nichelle Brunner

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


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

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

The major activities that Nexus engages in are:

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

Position Responsibilities

Finance

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

HR

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

Qualifications:

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

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

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

Salary & Benefits:

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

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

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

Felicia Ring

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114

Email:  hr@nexuscp.org

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

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

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


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 designed to identify, train, and support 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.

We’re pleased to announce our 2018-2019 cohort of 16 racially and ethnically diverse leaders. They come from the community, nonprofit, private, and public sectors and represent the Twin Cities metro area. The sixth BCLI cohort members are:

Aarica Colemannominated by BCLI Alumni
Abdi Alinominated by Center for Multicultural Mediation
Annie Chennominated by YWCA Minneapolis
Bao Leenominated by BCLI Alumni
Carmeann Fosternominated by Rebound Inc.
Christine McCleavenominated by National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
Clara Ugarte Perrinnominated by Center for Urban and Regional Affairs
Courtney Schroedernominated by Project for Pride in Living (PPL)
Jamaica DelMarnominated by  Jeremiah Program
Kameron Lindseynominated by BCLI Alumni
Oluwatobi Oluwagbegminominated by The Office of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton 
Roshawn RenfroeRamsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative
Sara Thomasnominated by BCLI Alumni
Tenaya Crenshawnominated by BCLI Alumni
Vincent Henrynominated by Simpson Housing Services
Ying Lee nominated by Minneapolis Parks & Recreation

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 69 alumni, 38 of which have to date 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.

Biographies of each fellow can be found on Nexus’ website here.

For more information about the BCLI, the launch or ways to become involved, please contact the program director, Ms. Terri Thao at tthao@nexuscp.org or program coordinator Mr. Chai Lee at clee@nexuscp.org. You can also check out Nexus’ website: www.nexuscp.org.

See below for an infographic of the 2018-19 BCLI cohort’s demographics.

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

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

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

Get to Know the New NCEI Advisory Committee Members


Caitlin Schwartz

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

Sindy Morales Garcia

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

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

Venessa Fuentes

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

Nexus Welcomes Chao to Our Team!

Please help us in welcoming our newest team member, Chao Yang, to the Nexus family! Chao joins us as the Director of Strategic Development, where she works to align and execute fund development, evaluation and communications efforts aimed at achieving community engagement and organizational sustainability efforts.

Click here to learn more about her, and please help us welcome her to the community!

Saying Farewell to Annelise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s next for Annelise?

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

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


Written by Nichelle Brunner

Nexus Welcomes Omar Leal to Our Team!

We are so excited to welcome Omar Leal to our Nexus team! Omar joins us as a Leadership Intern, where he’ll be working with the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute for the summer of 2018.

Omar graduated in 2015 with his Bachelor’s in Anthropology and International Studies from Macalester College, and has since collaborated with various nonprofits engaging with primarily Latinx youth and families.

Learn more about Omar here, and please help us welcome him to the Nexus family!