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.

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: chai.lee@metc.state.mn.us

Invites you to:

Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement:
A 4-part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement
 

DatesMarch 1, March 8, March 22, March 29 

Time9:00 am – 12 Noon 

WhereMCN, 2314 University Ave W #20, St Paul MN 55114 – River Room 


DescriptionThis workshop series is designed to deepen your knowledge, broaden your perspective, and sharpen your skills as you explore the potential for community engagement to create equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities. The sessions are for anyone who is interested in learning more about community engagement, or for those who wish to deepen their work with community. 

Session Topics: 

  • Session 1: What is Community Engagement? 
  • Session 2: Shifting Power: Moving from Service to Engagement 
  • Session 3: Healing through Community Engagement  
  • Session 4: Moving Forward: Integrating Community Engagement Practices and Shifting Work Culture 

Learning Goals: 

  • Understand the principles and values of community engagement and how it differs from other practices, such as outreach and the traditional social service model. 
  • Learn how community engagement can make your work more effective. 
  • Utilize community engagement tools for building relationships, leadership, and ownership. 
  • Explore how community engagement leads to equity and how understanding equity is essential for effective community engagement. 
  • Assess your organization’s readiness and capacity to incorporate community engagement as an approach in your work. 

*PRE-WORK OPTION: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Cultural ExplorationCulture, healing and relationships are central to authentic and sustainable community engagement. Thus, we are offering the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as an optional pre-work add-on for participants who are interested in more deeply exploring culture and identity, challenges and opportunities connecting across difference and commonality, and how to navigate those differences in community engagement work. Your confirmation email upon registration will have more information and next steps for opting into the IDI pre-work component, which will take place in February 2019 prior to the beginning of the workshop series.* 

Fee: Scholarships are available to ensure anyone can participate, no one will be turned away. Contact Angie for details (see below). 

  • Philanthropy/Corporate Rate$1000 for all four sessions 
  • Nonprofit/Government Rate: $600 for all four sessions 
  • *Additional IDI Pre-Work Option: additional $250 per person for IDI group session and individual feedback session in February 2019 – registration is separate and will come with your confirmation email from one of the above selections* 

NOTE: Attendance at all four sessions is required, as this is a cohort experience and each session builds upon previous sessions.  

**Please do not register for more than 5 participants from one organization** this is to ensure a mix of participants from various sectors and backgrounds for a rich, dynamic experience. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about this requirement.  

Feedback from Previous “Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement” Participants: 

  • “The series is a challenging, inspiring experience that anyone and everyone can learn and grow from.” 
  • “I would recommend this workshop series….the conversations, connections, and knowledge learned will help them go from outreach to engagement; from equality to equitable approaches.” 
  • “It’s very helpful both as an introduction to CE as well as providing more in-depth training for people already working in CE.” 
  • “Prepare to be challenged and accept that what you’ve been doing needs a new perspective.” 

About Nexus Community Engagement InstituteNexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. NCEI is continuing the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement collaborative (BTF). 

Facilitators and PresentersThe presenters and facilitators are staff and partners of Nexus Community Partners and Nexus Community Engagement Institute. 

Contact Angie Brown at abrown@nexuscp.orgwith questions or for more information about scholarships.

REGISTER HERE!

Nexus Community Partners is proud to be recognized by the Bush Foundation as a 2018 Bush Prize for Community Innovation winner! Nexus Community Partners has been at the center of innovative community capacity building efforts for 15 years. Our role as a community partner has served as a vehicle to bring partners from community, government, philanthropy and community development  together to design and implement solutions to persistent challenges. The solutions have emerged over the years because of how we set the table; grounding partnerships in shared values and principles, nurturing authentic relationships, and creating intentional space for shared learning and impact. We want to thank all of our partners who we have had the honor of working with over the years. Together we are building more engaged and powerful communities of color.

Read more from The Bush Foundation

 

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!!

Written by Nkuli Shongwe


Nexus Community Partners and Village Financial Cooperative held the first annual Blackonomics Conference. The two organizations brought together over 60 people from the Twin Cities, Denver, Oakland, and Chicago. Blackonomics is an intentional gathering of Black folks in the Twin Cities and the Midwest that are working towards Black cooperative economics and solidarity economics.

The weekend kicked off Friday evening with a welcome dinner where we enjoyed incredible food from Chelle’s Kitchen. The air was filled with joy and celebration. The space was blessed by Amoke Kubat , a write, artist, teacher, Yoruba priestess and community elder who took part in Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. After dinner, we had a fish bowl conversation about cooperation, healing, and Blackness. One of the participants from Chicago was moved by the conversation and suggested that we needed to actually give money to the cause. He spontaneously pulled out a $20 bill and threw it on the ground. This prompted people to dig into their wallets and give what they could to the cause. By the end of the night people contributed over $180.

Saturday morning we had incredible breakfast from K’s Revolutionary Kitchen. After breakfast, everyone sauntered off to the three different morning break-out sessions. Danielle Mkali led a session about the steps of cooperative development. LaDonna Redmond Sanders and Makeda Toure led a session about the cooperative principles and values. I led a session about the historic and present local, national, and international BIPOC cooperatives. During lunch, we had the opportunity to learn about Mandela Foods Cooperative from the keynote speaker, Adrionna Fike. Adrionna is a worker owner of the BIPOC grocery coop in Oakland, California. Adrionna told the story of she found her way to Mandela Foods Cooperative, gave some history about the grocery store and the journey they are taking which included freeing themselves from a disempowering relationship with Mandela Marketplace, hiring more worker owners, and forgoing moving to a larger space which used to house the 99c store. After the Keynote, we had the last breakout sessions. Isaiah Goodman led a session about Becoming Financial, Renee Hatcher, a human rights and community development lawyer, led a session on the legal basics of starting a co-op, and Julia Ho and Salena Burch led a session an building solidarity economies.

After we adjourned the day, we headed to Coop Fest which was led by Cooperative Principles, a co-op investment club. We celebrated cooperating and had the chance to donate to up and coming co-ops incubated by Minneapolis’ C-TAP program, Women Venture, and Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. Each group gave a brief presentation about their cooperative and stated how much money they needed. There was a lot of excitement and jubilation in the air. At the end of the night, people donated money to the coops they were most interested in and the ones they supported.

Blackonomics came to a conclusion on Sunday. We spent the morning envisioning what cooperation would look like 30 years from now. Dr. Rose Brewer, a professor of Afro American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, and Irna Landrum, a digital campaign director at Daily Kos led us through and activity about how we would build, maintain and develop and Black solidarity economy in the Midwest. After a lot of robust conversation we decided to build out our networks and invite more Black folks to our movement. We then identified who wanted to take initiative and be part of the planning process for the next Blackonomics conference which would be bigger than and just as amazing as the first one. We ended our day by expressing our gratitude of being in the space and how we felt after the long yet rewarding weekend.

Blackonomics was a beautiful, melanin filled space, that provided healing, hope, love, warmth, joy, and community.

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.

The North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship is proud to announce our 2018-19 cohort! Please help us welcome the following fellows:

  1. Chalonne Wilson
  2. Duaba Unenra
  3. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski
  4. Ini Augustine
  5. Jasmine Boudah
  6. Jolene Mason
  7. Kadijah Parris
  8. Marcus Harcus
  9. Quanda Arch
  10. Quincy Ballard
  11. Roxxanne O’Brien
  12. Shiranthi Goonathilaka
  13. Stacey Rosana
  14. Tia Williams
  15. Tyree Gulley

Keep following us here for more updates on their cooperative focus, photos and progress!

Top Left to Right: Stacey Rosana, Quincy Ballard, Ini Augustine, Marcus Harcus, Duaba Unenra, Repa Mekha (Nexus President),  Tyree Gulley, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Chalonne Wilson, Quanda Arch, Tia Williams, Roxxanne O’Brien

Middle Left to Right: Danielle Mkali (Nexus), Nkuli Shongwe (Nexus), Selah Michele (Guest facilitator & NSBCF Alumni 17-18), Shiranthi Goonathilaka

Front Left to Right: Kadijah Parris, Jasmine Boudah

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.