“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.

 

Traditional community development work focuses on the built environment. Nexus Community Partners believes that community development should also be mindful of the people who live in and interact with

the built environment every day. Nexus also believes that neighborhood- based development activities will only be successful in the long term if they are paired with strong community engagement efforts. To that end, Nexus supports community-based organizations in low-wealth neighborhoods to engage with and to reflect the vision and creativity of the people who live
and work there. Nexus also supports organizations that wish to integrate community engagement into their organizations and into their programming. Read more here; NEXUScase study 8 PAGE WEB[1]

“Boards and commissions are important bodies for impacting communities at the regional and local levels. They are instrumental in shaping key policy decisions, as well as designing and providing input on administration of city services. A unique partnership between the City of Minneapolis and Nexus Community Partners works to improve racial equity in board and commission membership, which in turn influences major policy decisions toward more equitable outcomes.

fellows

“The City of Minneapolis has over 50 volunteer-based boards, commissions and advisory committees, whose input and advice constitutes a major component of the City’s community engagement work. Approximately 600 volunteers serve on these boards and commissions.[1] As such, the City has seen board and commission service as an important leverage point for advancing racial equity. Currently, people of color represent 25 percent of the population, but only 16% of the membership of boards and commissions. It is projected that by 2040, people of color will be 40 percent of the population[2]. The City of Minneapolis recognizes that in order to be effective in their work and to truly represent the interests of all of the city residents, membership of the City’s boards and commissions must reflect the diversity of the community.” Read the full article here.

Nexus Community Partners is now accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)!

 

The BCLI is now targeting boards and commissions in Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Saint Paul and Metropolitan Council committees. Click here to see all target seats.

Fellow Panel

WHY APPLY?

Knowledge Foundations
Learn about equity issues and strategies in the areas of economic development, health, affordable housing, transit and workforce development.

Technical Skills
Learn necessary skills to be an advocate commissioner such as Robert’s Rules of Order and interpreting municipal budgets.

Political Skills
Fine-tune your art of politics with applied learning activities in areas such as creating allies and negotiation and persuasion.

Expand Networks
Build relationships with other equity advocates in the areas of labor, government, nonprofits and business.


 Download the 2015-2016 Nomination Packet

All Nomination Packets are due Friday, June 26th by 12 midnight CST.

The fellowship runs from October 2015 – April 2016.


Learn more by attending one of our InformationSessionSIgn
BCLI INFORMATION SESSIONS:


About the BCLI

The Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) is a 7-month leadership program that supports, trains and places people of color and other underrepresented community members on publicly appointed boards and commissions that influence and impact equity in economic development, health, housing, transit and workforce development.

Questions?

Contact one of the BCLI staff: Terri Thao, Program Director, at tthao@nexuscp.org; Angie Brown, Program Coordinator, at abrown@nexuscp.org.

Jay Bad Heart Bull

“Generations ago, one of my grandfathers was a tribal historian for my people, the Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Amos Bad Heart Bull was a ledger artist who depicted many events that happened in the lives of my people and it is through those paintings that I have the ability to connect to my rich history. His artwork tells the story of how my people lived long ago with all the beauty and sadness that sweeping cultural change brings.

“Through it all, art has remained a catalyzing force for how my people communicate and is used to impart teachings whether through paintings, storytelling, or song. In fact, all three of those  media play an integral part in our spirituality as well, which permeates every aspect of our traditional lifestyle. And we are not unique in this regard as all people have historically used art as a way to engage and build a sense of community and identity.”

Read more here…

Nexus Community Partners is proud to announce the graduation of the 2014-2015 Fellows of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)! On Thursday, April 9th at the International Institute of Minnesota, we honored our fourteen graduates for not only their completion of the BCLI, but also for their continued commitment and leadership in driving equity on policy-making bodies at the city and regional levels.

Fellows

Check out the graduation photo gallery here.

Repa MekhaNexus President and CEO Repa Mekha kicked off the evening by introducing and expanding on the graduation theme: “The task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you,” (Ugandan proverb). After putting in seven months of work exploring equity issues and tools together, this cohort of fourteen has become a community, and it is from this community that collective vision, support and power will ensure their success as advocate commissioners. This message has fortified over these past seven months as a cohort, and now they begin their work individually, but never alone, on local boards and commissions – because sticks in a bundle are unbreakable (Kenyan proverb).

Check out this short video of the BCLI fellows’ year in review.

Sam GrantKeynote speaker Sam Grant, Systems Facilitator at Embody Deep Democracy, shared his words of wisdom with the graduates about the charge that awaits them as representatives of marginalized communities on local boards and commissions:

All of us as human beings have to be on a healing journey. First, you have to do the work on yourself. Second, you have to be a systems facilitator.

Being a systems facilitator is not about being the representative – it’s about shifting the paradigm. How can you as a facilitator of justice shift the space and culture of boards and commissions?

Representation can only account for a sliver of the truth – how can you be a source of truth? Always facilitate truth-sharing and truth-telling. Set up your board or commission on a story-listening session.

With these deep considerations in mind, three graduates stepped up to the microphone to share their experiences as BCLI fellows, and what it means to them in their systems work moving forward.

Fellow Panel

Jamez Staples shared his experience in the program building relationships, adding additional knowledge (even on subjects he was fairly familiar with) and his recent placement on the City of Minneapolis’ Clean Energy Partnership’s Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC).

I found out about the Energy Vision Advisory Committee through one of our [BCLI Issue Series]. The EVAC is an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP)…a White House recognized partnership between the City of Minneapolis and the investor-owned CenterPoint and Xcel focused around the issue of mitigating climate change.

I seek to wear both hats when at that table of a business person, but also as a concerned citizen. As a citizen that seeks economic justice, I seek to be that voice at the table that asks the hard questions like, how is solar going to affect those that cannot afford to go purchase solar? As a business person, will there be any minority contracting and employment inclusion for projects that utilize public dollars?

Yolonde Adams-Lee used a powerful analogy comparing the BCLI community and the equity work of its graduates to farmers and tillers of soil and land.

As an African American and Native American woman, the land is very important to us. If BCLI is the seed, the soil is the investment and commitment of our community. We fellows are the plow, and we are planting in uncommon ground at these boards and commissions.

The last thing my sister said to me was, “Don’t drop the baton.” We have the drive to not drop the baton – we were born for this.

Sharing about his recent interview for the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission with the Metropolitan Council, Chamath Perera said:

One question put to me by a Met Council member was, I felt, particularly important. He asked what was required beyond the recommendations of the plan. I did not see that question coming. I paused for a moment, I did not know what to say, really, and then I felt this shift and sense of power within, as I said, “You need to appoint people of color to commissions such as this.” That subtle shift, that sense of power within, I think was a moment I made myself visible and found my equity voice. And you my BCLI community made it possible.

RLM We Are the MainstreamThe graduates were gifted a Certificate of Achievement, as well as a signed copy of local activist and artist Ricardo Levins Morales’ work titled We are the Mainstream that included a June Jordan quote: “We will prevail because we have proven to the world and to ourselves that we are not ‘fringe elements’ or ‘special interest groups’ or so-called ‘minorities.’ Without us there is no legitimate majority. We are the mainstream.”

The BCLI has prepared these leaders to serve as the next generation of appointed officials who are representative of, and accountable to, the region’s communities of color and other underrepresented populations. Together these graduates join the inaugural twelve BCLI alumni as the strength of the equity movement continues to grow and shift, and the power behind each advocate commissioner expands beyond their individual representation to a truth-telling voice of the communities from which they are rooted.

THANK YOU to the entire BCLI community for the power and support you bring to these individuals and to the movement – and a special thank you to our funders, knowledge partners, training facilitators, guest speakers, Issue Series panelists, evaluators, nominators, fellows, alumni and selection committee members! Thank you all for your amazing work and commitment, and for helping with the continued development and implementation of this program! We couldn’t do this without you!

Keep an eye out for these upcoming 2015-2016 important dates! For more information about the BCLI, contact the program coordinator, Ms. Angie Brown, at abrown@nexuscp.org, or the program director, Ms. Terri Thao, at tthao@nexuscp.org.

Staff and Fellows

“Significant social change comes from the bottom up, from an aroused opinion that forces our ruling institutions to do the right thing.”

Senator Paul Wellstone 1944-2002

HIA ProcessThe National Research Council defines a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as “a systematic process that uses an array of data sources and analytic methods, and considers input from stakeholders to determine the potential effects of a proposed policy, plan, program, or project on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population. HIA provides recommendations on monitoring and managing those effects.”

So the question remains: is this new research method really going to benefit the communities that they are intended to benefit? And how is this process different than the myriad research already done to low-wealth communities and communities of color that has not yet systemically addressed the health disparities in Minnesota?

The Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) wrapped up our 2014-15 BCLI Issue Series by exploring these questions together with 40 community members and four guest speakers. Speakers shared about the process of HIAs, how they believe they can be used as tools to ensure equitable outcomes both in community and at the policy level, and discussed the process and outcomes of the various HIAs in which they are involved.

Check out the photo gallery here, and listen to the audio of the speakers below.

HIA Issue Series

Larry Hiscock, Program Officer of Transitway Engagement at Nexus Community Partners, began the evening with an introduction to health impact assessments – specifically as a means to address historical and institutionalized racism by assessing health impacts and outcomes in partnership with communities most impacted by community development projects. This HIA process has the potential to ensure that members of the community are also members of the decision-making tables where the research is crafted, collected, analyzed and acted upon. Check out Hiscock’s PowerPoint here for more information, and listen to his audio below.

The panelists then began their exploration and sharing of the three HIA projects they are involved in – including Hennepin County’s Bottineau Transitway HIA, the Council on Crime and Justice’s Minnesota Expungement Policy Expansion HIA, and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Green Zones HIA.  Click the links below to listen to each panelist.

Karen Nikolai, Manager of Healthy Community Planning for Hennepin County, shared her work with the Bottineau Transitway Engagement HIA, highlighting the importance of community engagement in the Bottineau Light Rail Transit (LRT) development that will expand LRT through communities with high rates of poverty and members who are highly transit-dependent. By engaging the communities’ stakeholders through the HIA process, the station area planning for the LRT is being shaped by the needs and vision of the community – which offers real potential to improve health for communities living near the transit stations. Check out Nikolai’s audio below:

Ebony Ruhland, Research Partner with the Council on Crime and Justice (CCJ), spoke to the CCJ’s Minnesota Expungement Policy Expansion HIA – an HIA designed to examine the health impacts caused by the criminal justice system. In particular, this HIA will determine whether a legislative proposal to allow certain criminal records for first-time offenders in juvenile delinquency, theft, and nonviolent drug cases to be expunged, will lead to healthier outcomes for communities disproportionately charged with these offenses. Although in the beginning phases of an HIA process, Ruhland highlighted the uniqueness of this HIA in its plan to include both policy-makers as well as ex- and current offenders who would be impacted by this legislation. Listen to Ebony’s full audio below:

Dr. Cecilia Martinez, Director of Research Programs at the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED), shared about the HIA process she is a part of with the Minnesota Department of Health around Green Zones in Minneapolis. This HIA is in progress to evaluate the potential impact of Green Zones as a solution in Minneapolis to be “a community-led approach to transforming communities that have been overburdened with environmental hazards and limited economic opportunities”. Check out Dr. Martinez’ audio below:

The evening concluded with Q & A between panelists and the audience, surfacing some of the reservations that the community had as being a source of yet more research, as well as wanting to see the results of HIAs lead to policy shifts that will create greater health equity in the region. Click below to listen to the Q & A portion of the event.

The audience did not speak into a microphone, but the questions asked during the Q&A are summarized underneath the audio link below. Skip ahead to the time in front of the question to hear the response for each question.

(:49) How can HIAs break down silos? We don’t need more data! How are HIAs useful?

(9:28) How do you see policy makers using HIAs to inform policy and moving racial equity forward?

(14:02) Why do we still have the same policies in place when we have all this data collected that shows such racial disparities?

(20:45) What would be your happy ending – best outcome because of doing these HIAs?

(23:22) Can you aggregate the data to push for policy changes? How do you attribute economic impacts to the HIA?

(28:55) How do we build benchmarks into the data and the grassroots efforts that help circumvent regression?

(32:27) What specific data or info do we need to collect to make policy change around environmental justice (pollution, etc)?

Elena GaarderNexus offers our biggest and proudest congratulations to our very own Elena Gaarder who is a 2015 Bush Fellow! Her incredible hard work that is rooted firmly with people in the communities that she works will only blossom and grow.

“In her community-based work, Elena Gaarder finds herself returning over and over to the same questions: What mix of policies, investments, partners and initiatives truly would shift the balance so that disadvantaged neighborhoods become opportunity-rich communities? And importantly, what can she do differently to be a more effective leader? These questions will drive her Bush Fellowship’s focus on deepening her abilities to build successful alliances and partnerships and on increasing her knowledge of social enterprise and worker cooperative models that have proven to transform the economics of communities across the U.S.”

We are so proud and ecstatic to support her on this amazing new journey! Congratulations, Elena!

Click here to meet all of the 2015 Bush Fellows.

Join Us for Our Upcoming Webinar:

Building A National Network of Regional Leaders: Replicating the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute

Tuesday March 3, 2015| 11-12pm PST | 1-2 CST (Corrected Time)

Presenters: Uma Viswanathan, Urban Habitat and Terri Thao, Nexus Community

The Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) is a six-month fellowship that trains and places advocates from low-income communities of color onto local and regional boards and commissions through the Bay Area. Preparing mid-career leaders to leverage and enhance their knowledge, skills, and networks to enter political life, the BCLI is not just an individual leadership development program. It is a strategy to change the face of politics, creating a network of diverse and representative leaders who move racially and economically just policies at all levels of government.

During this webinar, BCLI directors Uma Viswanathan (Urban Habitat) and Terri Thao (Nexus Community Partners) will provide an overview of this innovative program and share their discoveries about the replication process as partners from different regions and organizations. Participants will be engaged in dialogue about potential future replications, including individual leader, organizational, and regional readiness for this type of program.

REGISTER HERE!

 

About Our Presenters

Uma ViswanathanUma Viswanathan, Director of Leadership Development, Urban Habitat

Uma Viswanathan is a leadership development professional with nine years of experience in national and global strategy and innovation, program and curriculum design and management. As Director of Leadership Development for Urban Habitat, she designs and implements leadership and educational initiatives to further Urban Habitat’s mission of bringing race and class to the forefront of policy decisions in the Bay. Uma directs the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI), In addition to directing the program’s design, curriculum content, recruitment and alumni engagement strategies, she is supporting its replication across the country.

 

Terri ThaoTerri Thao, Program Director, Nexus Community Partners

Nexus Community Partners is a community building intermediary working to build more engaged and powerful communities across the Twin Cities region.  At Nexus, Terri runs the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) which trains and places participants on publicly appointed boards or commissions with the goal to advance equity in the Twin Cities region.  Terri is an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of the Asian Economic Development Association, the City of St. Paul’s Planning Commission, CommonBond Communities and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation.

“Investing in relationships for authentic community engagement.

Go ahead, Google it. “Community engagement” is there, and it’s attached to everything from sports teams to businesses to libraries to universities. With all those associations out there, it can be difficult to identify “authentic community engagement” and to understand its power and potential for meaningful and sustainable change. Through my work with Nexus Community Partners, a community building intermediary in the Twin Cities, we’re trying to change that.

In 2012, we, along with five partners, launched Building the Field of Community Engagement (BTF), a collaborative initiative designed to raise the visibility and demonstrate the value of authentic community engagement. We are often asked:

“What real difference does community engagement make?”

“What are the impacts?”

“How do you know it when you see it?”

BTF is producing knowledge and tools to answer those questions and to help foundations and other stakeholders make better investment decisions and achieve greater neighborhood impact…”

Read more here

Living Cities - Theresa Gardella