Metro Transit staff photo credit: Bill Klotz

In the summer of 2016, Nexus along with other Community Engagement Team members (CURA and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability) supported 11 community-based organizations in engaging their communities to find out what bus stop improvements are important to them. The Better Bus Stops engagement process concluded in the spring of last year. Recently, Metro Transit announced changes to their policies that resulted from the engagement process:

“After receiving community feedback and reviewing wait time data we recently revised those guidelines. Under the new guidelines, shelters will be considered at any site where there are more than 30 boardings a day, with a priority on sites that have more than 100 daily boardings.

The guidelines also place a higher priority on locations that serve people with disabilities, older adults and those who are less likely to own a vehicle. Transfer points and boarding locations near healthcare or social service centers will also get greater consideration.

The new criteria are a clear demonstration of how equity, defined as equal access to opportunity for all, is guiding our work.”

Read the full story on Metro Transit’s blog

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!

To answer this question, we turn to the story of the Blue Line Coalition:

With the landscape of our cities ever-changing, the Metro Blue Line light rail extension is planned to connect North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, running through neighborhoods with a majority population of people of color and immigrants. Major infrastructural investments like the light rail extension will impact our communities for decades to come, with economic impacts in the billions.

There is a long and damaging history in this country of transit planning and development negatively impacting communities of color, especially historically African American communities.  We need look no further than the Rondo Community  in St. Paul, decimated by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950’s and 60’s when highway planners failed to engage and listen to the concerns of the community. To ensure that this damaging pattern was not repeated, several community organizations came together in 2012 to form the Blue Line Coalition to advocate for community engagement in the planning process of the Blue Line light rail extension.

Today, Blue Line Coalition members have seen their impact on the policies and structure of the light rail plans, and in building community capacity. The Blue Line Coalition has created a couple of videos that demonstrate the power of community engagement as a key strategy to advance equity in our communities.

Check out the below video for a message to our partners in philanthropy about resourcing community engagement.

Watch the below video for a perspective from BLC member organizations on their experience organizing community.

“At Nexus we think it’s very important for people to take vacations to get away, spend time with family or to concentrate on things outside of work. However, you shouldn’t have to vacate your job or the work experience in order to relax and experience a sense of wellness.  We believe that wellness should be integrated into the work environment and that people should be able to engage in wellness in addition to any vacation they take.”- Repa Mekha, President & CEO, Nexus Community Partners.

A little over a year ago, Nexus Community Partners’ President and CEO, Repa Mekha, took a three-month sabbatical. He spent this time traveling, learning, and reflecting on his ten years of leadership at Nexus. The time away was invaluable for Repa and the organization, and both were stronger when he returned. While on sabbatical, Repa reflected on the importance of wellness, and how too often our organizational structures and cultures discourage staff from taking care of themselves. “I think we often think that not being able to keep on pushing means there is something less about us when in reality, we’re just human and we can only drive for so long without our minds, our bodies, and our spirits needing rest”. Upon his return, Repa and staff began articulating what it would look like if we integrated personal and collective wellness into our work – what would it look like if we made an organizational commitment to the nourishment of our whole selves.

Nexus’ Wellness Program is a collective experience that promotes valuing individuals and the work they engage in. We believe this should be the way forward for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Valuing the wellness of your staff; valuing the whole person, changes the way they approach the work and the way they show up.  It allows those who wish to dedicate their life to social justice, to do so and to do so in such a way that doesn’t sacrifice their minds, bodies, and spirits.

Nexus staff enjoying a wellness cruise on the St. Croix River.

Nexus’ Wellness Program is unique in its approach, being both flexible and responsive to the personal wellness practices of the staff. Nexus’ Wellness Program is a human based approach that reinforces the importance of self-care. Since wellness practices look different for everyone, Nexus staff decide the activities that are suitable to their mental, physical and/or spiritual needs and interests. Nexus’ Wellness Program includes a $250 wellness stipend every six months and two paid wellness hours per week which are blocked off on calendars and used for activities defined by individual staff. In addition, Nexus staff participates in a collective wellness activity such as group meditation instruction, a boat cruise, a trip to the Como Conservatory, and a self-defense class led by a Nexus staff member. The group time provides a space for Nexus staff to engage and experience each other while strengthening relationships.

We believe that our wellness practices are necessary. As an organization led by people of color and working in communities of color, we know the toll this work can take on our minds, bodies, and spirits. At Nexus, we welcome the whole person into the work and believe that our passion and dedication to the work should be valued. We believe a person can step away from their work to take care of them self and their work is better for it when they return. Allocating financial resources for wellness reinforces the value we place on the mental, physical, and spiritual wellness of the staff.

Unfortunately, too many nonprofits overwork their staff and send the message that taking time off, taking care of oneself and/or your family, means you’re not fully committed to the work. Foundations, too, can create and/or perpetuate this culture by refusing to pay adequate overhead, asking for “efficiencies” in staffing, and looking for long-term change in short-term grant cycles. The result? Burnout – a loss of dedicated, passionate and compassionate individuals who are no longer able to contribute their skills and expertise to the work.

Repa’s sabbatical was an important time for the organization and a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on how we are sustaining ourselves in this work. We encourage other organizations to think deeply about how they’re taking care of themselves while working to advance social justice throughout our communities.

To learn more about Nexus’ Wellness Program, contact Theresa Gardella  at or Felicia Ring at

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. 


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

Dates: November 10, November 17, December 1, December 8

Time: 9:00 am – 12 Noon

Where: UROC Room 107, 2001 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Register today – space is limited!


About the Series:

This 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? Why is it Important?
  • Session 2: The Link between Community Engagement and Equity 
  • Session 3: Effective Tools for Community Engagement
  • Session 4: Integrate Community Engagement into your Organization’s Work and 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.

Fee: A few scholarships are available, no one will be turned away for inability to pay. Contact Angie for details (see below).

  • Individuals: $450 for all four sessions
  • **Groups of 3-5 from one organization: $400 per person for all four sessions**

NOTEAttendance 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 Institute: Nexus’ Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) is an initiative designed to advance and strengthen communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. Click here to learn more about our work.

Facilitators and Presenters: The presenters and facilitators are staff and partners of Nexus Community Partners and Nexus’ Community Engagement Institute, which is continuing the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement collaborative (BTF). Please forward this invitation to anyone who might be interested.

Contact Angie Brown at with questions or for more information about scholarships.


We are excited to have Chalonne join the Nexus family! She joined Nexus in July 2017 as the Program Coordinator of the Evaluation Fellows Program (EFP), which is part of the Community Engagement Institute in partnership with the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute at the University of MN. The EFP is designed for community engagement practitioners, evaluators, and funders to collaboratively explore the overlap of community engagement and program evaluation. Chalonne works closely with the EFP Advisory Group, the director of Nexus’s Community Engagement Institute, and the director of the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute to develop and support programming and serve as a key resource for Fellows in the program. Please help us welcome Chalonne!

“Art and farming join forces this fall when the Hmong American Farmers Association and a trio of Twin Cities artists add a new staple to the CSA produce box: art.”

Check out how Nexus’ partner, the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), is getting creative this Thanksgiving by adding Hmong arts and culture to their community supported agricultural (CSA) share. Read the full MPR story here.

Listen to HAFA’s executive director and Nexus board member, Pakou Hang, talk about how community wealth building is grounded in cultural practices.