A Broader Framework for Economic Development:

Nexus Community Partners Elevates Community Wealth Building in the Twin Cities

Juxtaposition Arts, Broadway,North Mpls

In 2015, Nexus approved a new strategic plan that affirmed our mission of building more engaged and powerful communities of color. As part of the process, we clarified our approach to achieving the mission and identified three core ingredients to ensure just and equitable communities:

  • Authorship: Engaging community

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are engaged in and have authorship of their lives and their future. Nexus builds infrastructure for stronger community engagement learning and practice.

  • Leadership: Cultivating power

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are seen as leaders, are given ample opportunities to grow in their leadership, and are able to represent their communities in multiple spaces. Nexus invests in and cultivates leaders of color who are working to advance a broader agenda for equity.

  • Ownership: Building community wealth

In a strong, equitable and just community, all members are afforded ample access points to generate wealth and to own the wealth they have helped to generate. Nexus challenges practitioners, community leaders and investors to use a community wealth-building framework to revitalize our communities.

As part of the focus on ownership, Nexus expanded our individual asset and wealth building work to include a more comprehensive community wealth building framework.

Community wealth building is a place-based, systems approach to community economic development that ensures local and broad-based ownership; develops cooperative and other reinforcing economic enterprises; utilizes culturally-based economic models; invests in assets that are rooted locally; and engages the procurement power of institutional partners. CWB is grounded in the values of equity, culture, mutuality and stewardship. (See our short community wealth building film here)

In 2016, we carried out a number of activities targeted at “Seeding” and elevating the framework, building shared knowledge and developing partnership to carry our community wealth building work forward. Over the summer, Nexus hosted a three part learning series that focused on the role of anchor institutions and worker owned business models in building community wealth, as well as a session on new financial tools being deployed to promote local and broad based ownership.

In the fall, we partnered with Oakland- based Project Equity to conduct an ecosystem mapping exercise with cross sector partners to begin building an infrastructure in the Twin Cities to support the growth of Worker Cooperatives of Color. Our work in the “seeding” phase included developing and presenting an analysis in partnership with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) around the potential for business conversions to worker ownership. (Read the report, “Worker Ownership A Pathway to Strong Local Economies”)

In 2017, Nexus will focus on cultivating the seeds planted in 2016. Efforts will include launching a Black Cooperative Economics Academy; convening a cohort of stakeholders to build a network of Technical Assistance providers of color; strengthening relationships with key organizations, institutions and community leaders around cooperative models, anchor procurement and financial tools; targeted regranting and finally, partnering with the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation’s C3 VISTA program to develop a Community Wealth Building Cohort.

Want to learn more? Please contact Elena Gaarder at egaarder@nexuscp.org to learn more.

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]

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…

With sub-zero temperatures and an intense wind chill, a small group of community members heated up together on Thursday, February 12th at the Northeast Bank Community Room by digging into the spicy subject of…

Budgets.

2.12.15 Issue Series Attendees

And why, you may ask, is this topic so steamy? Because, as all four panelists agreed, budgets reflect values and are a significant tool to hold our elected officials accountable. There is especially nothing quite as attractive as seeing funding and resources allocated toward racial justice and more equitable outcomes for communities of color – and this is what our panel addressed head on at our fourth BCLI Issue Series on February 12th.

Check out the photo gallery here.

2.12.15 Issue Series Panel

Four powerful panelists were invited to share their experiences in the areas of transportation, city and state budgets – specifically addressing the following questions: If budgets articulate values, how are current budgets linked to racial equity? How can we use budgets to hold our elected officials accountable to values of equity?

Brett Buckner, President and CEO of BaseNetwork&Power, kick-started the panel by sharing his experience advocating for racial equity in the City of Minneapolis budget – a battle that sparked significant public backlash when the City Council voted to cut a huge piece of the racial-equity-funding-pie out of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ original proposed budget. Check out Buckner’s audio below:

Leah Gardner, the Minnesota Budget Project’s Outreach Coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, spoke next on the even sexier topic of tax law. As Gardner said, the tax code was created to benefit and maintain the status quo, so we have to be active participants at the State Capital, and show up to advocate for a more progressive tax system. Check out Gardner’s audio below:

Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Chair Emeritus of the Parks and Trails Legacy Advisory Committee, shared her experience ensuring the incorporation of racial equity in the development plans of Minnesota’s parks and trails to benefit families and communities of color. Click below to hear Atlas-Ingebretson’s full audio:

Jim Erkel, Director of Land Use and Transportation at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, closed up the panel by sharing two powerful stories of when diving into the region’s finance and budget pool ended with reallocating transit resources to benefit low-income communities and communities of color, one of which has maintained the current fare system for transit riders.  Hear Erkel’s full stories in the link below:

The evening concluded with Q & A between the panelists and the audience. Listen to the full Q & A in the link below, or see the list of questions beneath the link to jump ahead to the time of each question:

  1. (0:21) How do we train and educate our activists to dig for that money [in the city, county or X budget]?
  2. (9:15) There are good paying jobs for organizers and community engagement employees in government – at what point should white candidates withdraw – or are ethnically diverse hires what we should always be looking and pushing for?
  3. (13:46) Has there been any proposals at the City Council to look at best practices outside of Minnesota to accomplish diversity and equity goals?
  4. (20:30) What’s the next step? What’s one action I can take after leaving this room? 

Nexus Community Partners is proud to announce the graduation of our inaugural fellows from the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI)! Over 40 friends, family members, knowledge partners and supporters joined the celebration on Thursday, April 10th at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. We honored our twelve graduates as they move beyond the seven-month training toward placement and decision-making on local boards and commissions. Meet the graduates and see what boards and commissions they are seated on or targeting here.

13-14 BCLI Fellows

From left to right: Ilhan Omar, Abdirahman Muse, Cathy Jones, Naida Medicine Crow,
Kandace Montgomery, Maleta (Queen) Kimmons, Marsha Cressy,
Roxxanne O’Brien, Sammie Ardito Rivera
Not pictured: Cynthia Campos, Maggie Lorenz, Mee Cheng

Elder LeMoine LaPointe, who participated in the BCLI Launch Event, opened the graduation with a blessing alongside his two sons, Wakinyan and Thorne LaPointe, and relative Mi-zi-way Mi-gi-zi Desjarlait.

The graduation program featured a slideshow of the various activities of this year’s program, including photos from our Saturday training sessions, the October Program Launch and from the BCLI Thursday Night Issue Series. The fellows then got a chance to share their stories of what this program meant for them personally and for the broader equity movement in the Twin Cities.

Fellow Panel

From left to right: Kandace Montgomery, Roxxanne O’Brien, Ilhan Omar, Sammie Ardito Rivera

“[I am] part of a group called Advancing Women’s Voices where we gather and we talk about leadership and power within the Somali community and what it means for women to have a voice…We decided to all nominate each other for this [BCLI] and I luckily got picked,” said Ilhan Omar, who was appointed Senior Policy Aide to Council Member Andrew Johnson after beginning the BCLI.

Roxxanne O’Brien spoke about her success on the Minneapolis Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Committee: “It was really frustrating the first few months…being one of the only black women on the board and trying to bring forth my values and experiences…[Until recently, when] we just finally had a unanimous vote to pass equity language to the City Council and the Mayor, which would [bring] some options for floods or emergency situations in our communities that would reach people in poor communities – would reach people of color.”

“I want to see more unity amongst people of color to rise together to get what we need…I was really excited about the possibility [in the BCLI] to work across culture with people working on different issues…I was seated on the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council this January…I’m glad to be able to expand my work of health and wellness and my knowledge about food systems and gardening within my own community, and larger systems change for all our communities,” shared Sammie Ardito Rivera.

Kandace Montgomery acknowledged that advancing equity through boards and commissions is but one strategy for systemic change: “It doesn’t stop at the city level. There are five legislators of color at the capitol…We need to be running our own folks for seats by building power that pursues true democracy…We need to be developing leaders to be bold at those decision-making tables and to never leave their community behind. This is how we tell our own story. This is a story that tells everybody they can belong, and this is how we build our movement.”

Check out the video of the graduation here, and the photo gallery here.

Wellstone MemorialThe graduates were gifted a Certificate of Graduation, as well as a signed copy of local activist and artist Ricardo Levins Morales’ work titled Wellstone Memorial that included a quote from the senator: “Significant social change comes from the bottom up, from an aroused opinion that forces our ruling institutions to do the right thing.”

Nexus President & CEO Repa Mekha concluded the event with the following remarks: “This is not about individuals, but about the power that comes when people from across cultures that have shared vision about change in this world weave themselves together, learn together, and commit together; that’s much more powerful than what any individual can ever do.”

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 – creating real demands and real change for our children, our community and the Twin Cities region.

BCLI staff would like to say a special THANK YOU to all of our funders, knowledge partners, training facilitators, guest speakers, Issue Series panelists, evaluators, nominators, fellows, selection committee members, and all of the BCLI community and family – thank you for all of your amazing work, and for helping with the development and implementation of this program! We couldn’t do this without you!

Keep an eye out for these upcoming 2014-2015 important dates! For more information about the BCLI, contact the program associate, Ms. Angie Brown, at abrown@nexuscp.org, or the program director, Ms. Terri Thao, at tthao@nexuscp.org.

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From left to right: Ilhan Omar, Abdirahman Muse, Roxxanne O’Brien, Cathy Jones, Angie Brown, Kandace Montgomery, Repa Mekha, Maleta (Queen) Kimmons, Sammie Ardito Rivera, Marsha Cressy, Terri Thao
Not pictured: Cynthia Campos, Maggie Lorenz, Mee Cheng, Naida Medicine Crow

“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