Nexus releases new report on “Healing Justice”

  • June 26, 2017
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Nexus, along with the four other partners of the Leaders of Color Collaborative (Coalition of Asian American Leaders, Hope Community, Native American Community Development Institute and Voices for Racial Justice) have been in conversation for a few years about training leaders for community and systems change. As we shared our stories and ideas for a new narrative around why leadership development looks different for communities of color and indigenous communities (POCI), we came to a collective agreement that we were often sending leaders into toxic spaces and began to discuss the work of healing ourselves and healing our communities. We began to meet with elders and a few local healers. This conversation turned into the need for some kind of action when we realized that, while we had been talking about this for years, many of us were struggling with how to set this up. We knew that we wanted to hear from those who are already doing healing work. We were fortunate to hire someone with a background in healing justice work, Susan Raffo, and asked her to interview POCI healers in our community about what it means to build healing work as part of our organizational infrastructure. This report is the result of those conversations. They represent a conversation with 23 healers representing multiple communities, generations and approaches to healing. We asked them what we need to do to support collective healing. We asked them about infrastructure. We asked them about culture. And we asked them to give us concrete steps for change. Read the report

“African Americans have a long, rich history of cooperative ownership, especially in reaction to market failures and economic racial discrimination. However, it has often been a hidden history and one obstructed by White supremacist violence. When there is a narrative, the history is told as one of failure. The challenges have been tremendous, and have often been seen as insurmountable. The successes are often anecdotal and isolated, little understood, and even less documented […].”

– Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Collective Courage A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice

In March of this year, Nexus Community Partners proudly launched its first cohort for the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. The North Star Fellowship is a 4-month, cohort-based program that provides participants with a history of cooperative economics in the Black community, along with the technical skills and support for emerging cooperative business ideas. North Star also creates an important space for Black Cooperative movement building.

North Star was in part inspired by the work of Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s book, “Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice,” which discusses the rich but little known history of cooperative wealth building efforts in the Black community. During her visit to Minneapolis in 2014, she shared how economically successful Black communities and individuals were systematically undermined and targeted with violence from bombings to lynching because of their participation and success in the business community. North Star reclaims this history and builds cooperative economic support for individuals and the community.

Each of the 10 Fellows (see below) came to North Star with a cooperative business idea they wanted to develop. The Fellowship is giving them a chance to advance their ideas while learning from one another, and technical and programmatic experts in the field.  For example, Nia Umoja, of the Cooperative Community of New West Jackson (CCNWJ), visited with the Fellows and shared their values-based approach that drives the work of CCNWJ. Located in Jackson, MS, CCNWJ centers on land ownership, food production, folk culture, and the construction trade. Later in the Fellowship, Shared Capital will discuss different ways of capitalizing their cooperative businesses and provide one-on-one coaching for the Fellows.

Now mid-way through the program, the Fellows have strengthened their community and their optimism, have gained a deeper understanding of the possibilities that Black Cooperative Economics could present to their communities, and are thinking differently about how to build wealth in the Black community.

Meet the Fellows!

Ashley Bennett                           Tana Hargest

D.A. Bullock                                 Maleta Kimmons

Me’Lea Connolly                         Kenya McKnight

DeVon Nolen                               Rekhet Si-Asar

Carla Schleicher                          Chaun Webster

For more information on North Star, please contact Danielle Mkali at, or visit our website at

The Twin Cities BCLI Is Taking Applications!

  • June 9, 2017
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Want to learn about the Twin Cities Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute in less than five minutes? Thanks to the wonderful and talented folks at Line Break Media, Nexus Community Partners is proud to share the two videos highlighting its Twin Cities Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)….. here



Nexus Community Partners is seeking a part-time summer intern to support the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship.

Nexus Community Partners

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 foster 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.

North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship

The Nexus Community Partners North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship is a 4-month cohort-based program, providing participants with a history of cooperative economics in the Black community nationally and in the Twin Cities. North Star participants rethink capitalism through learning about the history of cooperative economics in local and national Black communities. In addition, the fellowship provides a power analysis of Minnesota cooperative institutions from cooperative businesses to financial establishments; provides participants with knowledge of the cooperative landscape, cooperative skills and tools, and financing opportunities; helps learners identify and target cooperative business boards, with the goal of building power in the cooperative sector; and finally, design a cooperative economic project (at any scale), along with a strategy for achieving that project.

Position Responsibilities

Cohort Engagement and Support

  • Support program staff in the planning and managing logistics of the second NSBCF; information sessions, interview schedules, selection committee coordination.
  • Participate in cohort meetings, taking notes and helping to pull out themes, learnings, etc.
  • Assist with grant reporting and evaluation.
  • Support research for curriculum development.


  • Work with program staff to develop specific communication tools and resources for NSBCF
  • Support Nexus’ communication efforts utilizing social media and Nexus’ website.
  • Support Nexus’ efforts to produce learning tools and resources for a broad audience.

Research and Technical Support

  • Black Cooperative Economic research related to national enterprises as well as cooperative investment nationally.
  • Develop or contribute research to a Black Cooperative Economics workshop session on topics from understanding capitalism, coop governance, investment and the local history of Black Coops.

Other projects as assigned


  • Knowledge of black history, policy, and culture – Required
  • Work and/or volunteer experience in nonprofits, racial justice, organizing in black communities – Preferred
  • Undergraduate or Master’s level college in process – a plus
  • Event Planning Experience (coordination of details including location, food, RSVP list, technology needs, etc.) – a plus
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge and experience utilizing Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook
  • Active learning and critical thinking competencies
  • Multi-tasking and organization skills, including attention to detail.
  • Research interest or experience preferred
  • Artistic and creative skills are desired

The ideal candidate would be able to start June 2017 and work through August or September of 2017. This is a part time, temporary internship working approximately 10-15 hours per week paying $15.00/hour.

The Intern will report to the Minneapolis Program Officer.

Resumes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email ASAP to:

Annelise Rittberg

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114





Transitioning to employee-owned companies offers tangible solution to region’s “silver tsunami”

Nexus Community Partners, a nonprofit working to promote community wealth building among Twin Cities’ cultural communities, today released a comprehensive data presentation in partnership with its national partner Project Equity, demonstrating which small businesses in the Twin Cities region are most vulnerable to permanently closing, consolidating or being bought by out-of-area buyers within a few years. It also identifies industries to be impacted and the vast numbers of employees affected. The data is being released in an effort to demonstrate the opportunity for these Minnesota-based small businesses to transition to employee-ownership and the potential to strengthen local economies.

Project Equity, a nonprofit that fosters local economic resiliency, compiled the data as part of a broader national data presentation to educate the workforce and small business communities about the “silver tsunami” of businesses owned by baby boomers at risk of closure or consolidation. “For the Twin Cities region, we’re particularly concerned that if businesses close down or are consolidated, communities of color will suffer,” said Elena Gaarder, Program Officer at Nexus Community Partners.

Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity adds, “While it’s important to draw attention to the data and its implications, it’s necessary to also understand that we have a real possibility to sustain small businesses for the long term by transitioning some of them to broad-based employee ownership.” Small businesses provide 47.9% of all private sector jobs in the Twin Cities region, so this ownership changeover risks not only the loss of local business ownership, but also job loss, and local business tax base. “Employee ownership is one of the best ways to keep thriving businesses locally rooted into the next generation.” Business conversions also provide the opportunity to build more equitable communities. According to Repa Mekha, President and CEO at Nexus, “Business conversions are a perfect intersection between large scale job retention and broad-based wealth creation.”

The data presentation aims to make the business ownership changeover tactile and shows 26,000 privately-held businesses with employees—44.7% of the total—spread across the Twin Cities metro region and segmented by industry. The data presentation also shows 320,000 employees, $82.6 billion in total sales, and $13.8 billion in payroll from these companies, painting the picture of the true impact of potential business closure or consolidation. The data are drawn from the most recent U.S. Census Survey of Small Business Owners (2012).

“Considering the existing employment disparities between whites and people of color, it is clear that growing more employee-owned businesses is not only a viable solution, but a critical one,” said Gaarder. She said the challenge and opportunity will be in educating stakeholders about the threat posed by small business owner retirements; and the huge prospects for building community wealth.

“Ask anyone living within the Twin Cities region, and they will tell you that we’re currently facing income and wealth disparities at record levels. Coupled with the impending silver tsunami and limited success of workforce development initiatives, our communities are facing even greater challenges,” she added. “But with the data Nexus and Project Equity unveiled, we are now one step closer to understanding the benefits of employee ownership and can consider it a tangible solution.”

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

For more information, contact Elena Gaarder at

About Nexus Community Partners: Nexus is a Twin Cities-based nonprofit organization working to build more engaged and powerful communities of color. Nexus uses a community wealth-building framework to challenge practitioners, community leaders and investors to support strategies that are culturally relevant and afford multiple access points for people of color to generate wealth; and to own the wealth they have helped to generate.

About Project Equity: Project Equity is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding broad-based employee ownership—especially for low-wage workers—to strengthen our local economies. Project Equity envisions a future where business decisions are made through a lens of what is good for employees and communities, leading to businesses that are more successful, communities that are more resilient, and workers who have stable jobs and economic security.

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

click here to read more!


The Twin Cities BCLI is excited to announce….

  • May 11, 2017
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General







the recent appointments of two alumni to a board/commission! Salaam Witherspoon of Duluth (cohort 4: class of 2016-17) was appointed to Heading Home St. Louis County Leadership Council. This advisory body oversees all local, state and federal homeless funds for St. Louis County. This body is jointly appointed by Duluth and St. Louis County. In addition, alumni Hanna Getachew-Kruesser (cohort 3, class of 2015-2016) has been appointed to serve on the Community Health Services Advisory Committee. This committee is a joint body appointed to advise both the City of St. Paul and Ramsey County, with equal appointments from each entity. Congratulations to Hanna and Salaam!




Nexus Community Engagement Institute invites you to

  • May 9, 2017
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

the Engaged Learning Series: Developing a Community of Practice for Community Engagement. Friday, May 19th, 2017 from 9:00am to 11:00am. Register here!


An education on health equity and transit

  • April 6, 2017
  • By: Chai Lee
  • In: General


An education on health equity and transit

By Jocelyn Leung, AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Engagement Program Associate, Nexus Community Partners

I joined AmeriCorps VISTA during a turning point in my life. I had enrolled in three graduate programs over the past six years, and the transition from being a longtime student to being a member of the workforce was hard. I’m very grateful that in 2015 the VISTA program brought me to Nexus Community Partners as the newest community engagement program associate.

At Nexus, I’m working with community-based organizations to make sure community members have a say in how the light rail can help them lead healthier lives. My day-to-day work is defined by the 23 community-based organizations working in the Blue Line Coalition (BLC) and the Health Equity and Engagement Cohort (HEEC). These voices come from communities of color, immigrants and refugees, migrants, people living with disabilities, low-income communities, and other transit-dependent people. In this work, I’ve learned that the first step is listening and learning. It’s our responsibility to make sure their voices change policies and influence this long-term public works project.

The BLC’s mission is to build community-based power in advancing local and regional equity while promoting healthy, safe communities. HEEC was formed after a 2012 health impact assessment (HIA) recommended there be an entity that engages deeply with transit-dependent populations. The HIA concluded: 1) the light rail could benefit everyone along the projected corridor running from North Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park; and 2) there are currently stark health disparities between geographic and racial/ethnic lines that need to be changed.

Working at Nexus has been an ongoing education for me on health equity (attaining the healthiest state possible by combatting structural inequities); relationships between health and transit; and community engagement.  During my time at Nexus, I have learned a lot about people living in Minnesota. This includes how in African communities, hearing stories about other people’s experiences is important in validating your own.

Beyond listening, my responsibilities boil down to three areas:

1) helping my supervisor coordinate monthly meetings between busy organizations, Metropolitan Council, and Hennepin County to get community input in at every stage of light rail development;

2) using my research skills to authentically capture organizations’ and their community members’ input and to make it easier for Nexus and Hennepin County to act on that input; and

3)  from that research, working with organizations to identify gaps and future projects or areas to explore.

During my time with Nexus, I’ve evaluated organizations’ experience in BLC and HEEC through one-on-one interviews, and combined each organization’s gathered input from their constituents (e.g. high paying jobs with paid leave, culturally appropriate daycare, and translations on the train so that elders can access it) into common themes (e.g. jobs or safety) for Hennepin County. For the first time, we can see how organizations representing different ethnic communities and ages can touch on the same theme. I’ve planned events, recorded minutes, and taken photos for social media. In the future, I will work with organizations to explore topics like how the health equity frame can better capture mental health issues for people living along the corridor.

Ultimately, the truth is that for me, being a VISTA isn’t just making a difference by chipping away at the inequity engrained in our society. My year as a VISTA has also made me more open-minded due to the amazing partnerships I’ve formed and learning experiences I lived through. There’s no other experience comparable to it.

Please welcome our new staff member Avi Viswanathan!

  • November 15, 2016
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General



Nexus Community Partners is pleased to welcome Avi Viswanathan to our staff!  As Program Director for Nexus’ Institute for Community Engagement, Avi will lead the work of developing the Institute into a vital center for the learning and practice of community engagement, both locally and nationally.  Avi brings a long and deep history working with communities and across sectors to advance community engagement and racial equity. Most recently, Avi was a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow with the Bush Foundation and has served on the Institute for Community Engagement’s Advisory Committee since March. We are very excited to welcome him to Nexus!