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.

On Thursday, November 12, 2015, the BCLI 2015 Cohort kicked off with their very first Issue Series. At the helms were the wonderful Diane Tran and Kristell Caballero Saucedo, both of LOCUS (of MN Rising). The topic of this first Issue Series was Intersectionality, or the critical theory of institutional oppression of individuals across all demarcations of their identities (gender, race, sex, class, etc.). The facilitators did a great job directing small group discussions after the “Who are you?” ice breaker. Ground rules were set for community expectations, and everyone seemed to enjoy engaging in the types of conversations they would not otherwise have at home or work, thanks to the safe space of this evening’s BCLI issue series. Thanks to Diane and Kristell for their leadership and insights. Below you will find some resources that the trainers shared at the Issue Series as well as some pictures.

 

Kyriarchy 101

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/04/kyriarchy-101/

 

Kyryiarchy Diagram

http://oppressionmonitor.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Kyriarchy-Diagram.jpg

 

Key & Peele code switch sketch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzprLDmdRlc

 

About LOCUS

http://locusmn.blogspot.com/

 

LOCUS Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/locusmn/

IMG_4600IMG_4599IMG_4544IMG_4576IMG_4574IMG_4541IMG_4532

 

“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)?

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.

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? 

Over 40 community members braved the cold and snow on Thursday, January 8th, to gather at Phillips Community Center for our third BCLI Issue Series of the season.  Co-hosted with the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED), we brought together a panel of environmental justice and housing advocates to explore the question: How do the issues of affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and racial justice interlink?

1-8-15 Issue Series

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

Shalini Gupta, Executive Director of CEED, kicked off the evening with an introduction to energy equity and the explanation of green zones. She highlighted key data including:

  • Low-income families, many of whom are from communities of color, pay  up to 17 percent of their income on utilities and energy due to electric heating and drafty homes, in addition to being cost burdened and paying 30 percent or more for housing.
  • Many of the funding opportunities and incentives for energy efficiency and green energy development are taken advantage of by homeowners rather than renters, further burdening low-income residents paying for high energy costs.

Check out Gupta’s PowerPoint here for more information, and listen to her audio below.

The panelists then jumped into an exploration of the energy issues within affordable housing, racial justice and a current green initiative, Minneapolis’ Clean Energy Partnership. Click below to listen to the full panel (skip ahead to each panelist: ThaoMee Xiong :02; CM Elizabeth Glidden 7:28; Kathy Wetzel-Mastel 16:44).

Panelists 1-8-15

ThaoMee Xiong, Policy Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership, shared her perspective as an organizer working with and within communities of color, and the current work that MHP is embarking upon doing research on best administrative practices and legislative policies that benefit communities of color in general and specifically in Greater Minnesota.

Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, Minneapolis Ward 8 City Council Member and also serves as the Council Vice President, discussed her work with the Clean Energy Partnership, a first-of-its-kind partnership with the City of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy “which will have the City and the utility companies collaborating in new ways to help Minneapolis achieve its clean energy goals.” CM Glidden shared that a community advisory board will be created to help guide the new Clean Energy Partnership, and invited the community to apply for these seats.

Kathy Wetzel-Mastel, Executive Director of PRG, Inc., spoke to her work as a housing developer in the Twin Cities area. Wetzel-Mastel highlighted the importance of responding to the needs of the community ensuring energy-efficiency in the development of affordable housing to guarantee ongoing affordability of units.

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

  1. (:44) What does ‘diverse interests’ mean, and how will people of color be on decision-making boards rather than just advisory boards?
  2. (10:15) Can you create some kind of reporting system where utility bill payments can be trade-lines that can be reported as a way to improve credit scores for low-income renters paying such high utility bills?
  3. (13:23) How are all of you reaching out to others to share this [technical information and awareness of opportunities] knowledge in community? How can you ensure the Clean Energy Partnership advisory board will have people of color on it to help make decisions?
  4. (18:50) With resources coming in from federal, state and municipalities, are there going to be minority participation goals implemented to ensure equal distribution among communities of color?