Did you hear that the People’s Canvass (formerly Knock Knock LLC) has become a worker-owned cooperative?

The Minneapolis team that built the nation’s largest deep canvassing team in November, and collected 16,000 signatures to put the Yes ‘4’ Minneapolis public safety initiative on the ballot, has broken new ground as the United States’ first political canvassing worker cooperative. Nexus Worker Ownership is proud to have supported them through this process.

“I’ll be the first to say it — I knew nothing about how any of this co-op stuff worked. I’m a canvasser. I go to the door and I talk to people about issues in their community,” said Charlie Bartlett, a lead trainer at The People’s Canvass and a member of the co-op transition team. “But working with Nexus gave us a vision and a pathway to achieve that vision. In the same way we feel called to do the work to improve our communities, the folks at Nexus are called to make that work itself more equitable.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative for a free consultation at www.ownwork.org.

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. 

Since Christina Nicholson joined the team last November, her energy, humor, and deep knowledge of cooperative economics have already made an impression. Christina is the Worker Ownership Initiative Program Manager, an Aquarius, and a talented quick-bread maker. We sat down over zoom to talk about her role, her journey to Nexus, and her hopes for the future.

Interview edited for length and clarity

What do you do at Nexus?

Everyday for me in the Worker Owner Initiative is a new learning experience! For example, through our role as a Minneapolis C-TAP provider (Cooperative Technical Assistance Program), I’m working with a small language-learning cooperative. We meet weekly to develop their new bylaws and articles, as well as helping them build their internal culture and their ecosystem of outside resources. Together, this foundation will help the cooperative grow and thrive once it’s established. I am also doing work as a financial analyst – looking at another business who is considering converting to a cooperative, and helping them understand how to create a fair sale price for the worker owners who are considering purchasing the business.

In general, I have found in business that people are disinvited from their own agency when it comes to the language of finance. In my new role, I have found that helping teams understand the technical side of things can help build a cooperative’s culture— this is exciting because it becomes a more empowering relationship. The goal for me is for the teams I serve to be able to say “We understand this model, we’re taking this model, and moving beyond it.”

What did you do before Nexus?

In my 25 year cooperative career I’ve done every job from front line bagging to leading whole organizations as a general manager. In 2019, I got my MBA to understand how current capital systems move, at a more technical level, to help people build the bridge between their work and their ability to claim their own agency.

I’ve learned that you are always a better leader if you are doing the work with people. Successful leaders aren’t only thinking about the work, or visioning, but they are IN it. My work has been about leading on the ground and being influenced by those around me. Cooperatives help foster that environment and give you a sense that you are truly interdependent in the work you do.

What do you hope to learn next year?

I want to learn how to support people’s health, agency and wellbeing while seeing them move away from conventional, white supremacist, capitalist models of business. As more people from historically marginalized communities continue to grow in their power, I am energized to see how their cultural and individual gifts will shape the future of cooperatives!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to cook, and I always overplant kale in my garden. We have a LOT of recipes for raw kale salads. Thankfully, my daughter appreciates the earthiness. I also love to travel—I love oceans and mountains, but I am the happiest when I get to spend time with my wife and a good book!

In a recent Next City article titled “City Halls Now Hiring for Community Wealth Building,” Reggie Gordon lifted up community wealth building as a strategy that cities across the country are beginning to invest in.

Reggie Gordon is the director of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building, the first of its kind in the nation. As he says, minorities all too often suffer from high unemployment or are pushed into low quality, service-sector jobs that don’t give them the opportunity that they need.

“The first step is to call it out,” says Gordon. “This isn’t fictional. Sixty years ago, there was intentionality around redlining and segregation that led to concentrated poverty. And here we are in 2018 receiving the byproduct of those intentional decisions … It’s up to us to be just as intentional about solving these problems.”

Check out how Community Wealth Building is gaining momentum around the country!

Join us to celebrate the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship 2017-18 Graduating Cohort!

Come help us honor this year’s graduating North Star fellows: Amoke Kubat, Carl Crawford, Harrison Bullard, Lashunda Roberts, Lavasha Smith, Nicque Mabrey, Selah Michele and Sheronda Orridge and their efforts in establishing Black led Cooperative initiatives. Fellows’ initiatives vary from housing, worker owned, healing networks, hair care and hair product cooperatives.

Join us to learn more about their work and how you can be in cooperation with them. A keynote address will be made by Collie Graddick, our local north and south cooperative leader.

RSVP by April 18th here!

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) CSA shares are back at Nexus again this year! Sign up today for your spring and summer shares to pick up Thursdays between 12-4:30pm at Nexus Community Partners.

Welcome to the 2018 HAFA CSA! We offer fresh produce and flower shares throughout the growing season. The HAFA CSA features produce grown by Hmong farmers in the Greater Twin Cities area. When you purchase a HAFA CSA, not only are you committing to eat fresh produce, you are investing in local farmers and your community.

Check out HAFA’s CSA site for more information and to sign up today!

Learn more about Business Conversions from Nexus’ partner, Project Equity

For Nexus Community Partners, business conversions to worker ownership is part of its community wealth building initiative that seeks to promote local and broad-based ownership and encourage economic practices rooted in cultural communities.

This work received a shout out in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s “Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability.”

“If you’re a boomer business owner planning for succession, you can’t afford to overlook the employee ownership option,” writes Lori Shepherd in Entrepreneur.

At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business owner to do so?

While the ability to defer capital gains tax is a factor, it turns out there are also powerful market incentives. A wave of retirements (2.4 million, Shepherd estimates) has long been expected in the decade or so to come, and as Shepherd points out, “In a crowded marketplace, transferring full ownership to the workers may represent [retiring owners’] best chance to sell their businesses at fair market value.”

Full article here

Reposted from the Neighborhood Funders Group member blog posted by Shannon Lin, January 22, 2018:

The Story of the Blue Line Coalition: How Philanthropy Can Promote Equity through Community Engagement

 

“When NFG members Nexus Community Partners and The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota heard that there was a light rail extension planned to connect Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, they knew there was an opportunity to leverage their resources to support community power in the process. 

Many of the neighborhoods that the light rail extension would pass through are home to a population of majority people of color and immigrants who would likely be left out of the conversation if traditional planning processes were followed. As Patrick Troska, Executive Director of the Phillips Family Foundation said, ‘If the community wasn’t engaged in this decision from the very start, then the outcomes the community needed wouldn’t have been accomplished.’

Nexus and Phillips are organizations committed to living out the values of community engagement and working alongside community leaders and organizations. They believe that every community member, especially those who have been historically oppressed or ignored, should have access to opportunities to influence decision-making that affects their lives. Using their resources to fund and support community engagement was critical to ensuring all of the community could benefit from this large public infrastructure investment.”

Read the full blog here

2015 HAFA CSA shares at Nexus

Nexus’ partner, the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), just announced that their 2018 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Memberships are now open!

“We are excited to announce that our  2018 CSA signups are open!  We are out of the field, busy planning for the coming season and learning more about soil health and all the new food safety rules.  We will be starting the first CSA crops in early March and have so much to do before then!  In the meantime, your CSA membership will help us buy the seeds and greenhouse supplies, to get these plants growing.  Sign up for your HAFA CSA HERE.

Learn more about how you can support Hmong farmers in Minnesota – and eat deliciously fresh produce this summer!

Nexus is proud and excited to share that three of our community partners are receiving the 2017 Bush Prize for Community Innovation!

Congratulations to Appetite for Change, the Hmong American Farmers Association and the Latino Economic Development Center for the well-deserved recognition and added capacity for all your amazing work in community!

“Now in its fifth year, the Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. As models of true problem solving, they work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make their communities better for all.

“’The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that are creative, fierce and dogged in the way they work and in what they accomplish,” said Bush President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “As models for problem solving, they consistently pick a path of innovation that drives profound results for their communities.’” 

Read the entire announcement and learn about all seven 2017 Bush Prize winners from the Bush Foundation here.