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]

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.


“Nexus Community Partners believes that a competitive and inclusive region is one in which members of all racial, ethnic and income groups have opportunities to live and work in all parts of the region; have access to living wage jobs; and equitably benefit from local and regional opportunities.”

Click here to read more (Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Newsletter 2014; page 4).

Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh, in her annual State of the Region address, challenged the Council and all its partners in the Twin Cities metro area to address the significant disparities in school achievement, employment and poverty between the region’s people of color and its white population. read more

Since 2001, Nexus’ partner City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT) has been fostering stewardship of perpetually affordable home ownership for low- and moderate-income families throughout Minneapolis. Part of this process includes purchasing and rehabilitating tax-forfeited, vacant properties that will remain perpetually affordable through the Community Land Trust.

Check out this video about one of the properties CLCLT purchased, rehabilitated, and is in the process of closing with one Minneapolis family:



Nexus is proud to partner with CLCLT as a Community Land Trust that is invested in and successfully ensuring community asset and wealth building through home ownership in Minneapolis. Keep up the great work CLCLT!

Learn more about land trusts and how to purchase a home through the Community Land Trust here.


“Why just workers? Why not owners?”

On Thursday, December 5th, 2013, over 40 community members braved the bitter Minnesota cold in order to share their reflections on why the cooperative model is important in communities of color as an asset/wealth building tool in the Twin Cities.

This Issue Series gathered a panel of four, fierce women of color including (pictured from right to left) LaDonna Redmond, Nieeta Presley, Pakou Hang, and Yolanda Cotterall, who shared their respective experiences working with cooperatives in the food justice movement, economic development, and the labor movement.

The event, hosted at Hope Community, Inc., was part of Nexus’ Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) Thursday Night Issue Series, which are free and open to the public and happen once each month from October to March.

Click on the below links to hear each speaker’s segment of the panel. Or click here to view the photo gallery of the event. 

LaDonna Redmond
Founder, Campaign for Food Justice Now
Education & Outreach Coordinator, Seward Co-op

“So this question of access to the market is really a political issue; it is not really about shopping…That’s one element of it, but the real question is can you own it? Can you own the co-op? And because of the cooperative principles, access to ownership is there and available…And that’s the essential question: How much are we willing to pay to become owners of businesses that will lift our communities out of poverty?”

LaDonna Redmond

Nieeta Presley
Executive Director
Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation

We’re talking about long-term; we’re talking about sustainability. We’re talking about futures, so that community folk don’t have to wait for [insert organization] to come along and do what the community knows that it needs. If you have your cooperative in place, and it’s built and it’s around real estate development, you can do your own thing. You can do it based on your members.”

Nieeta Presley

Pakou Hang
Executive Director
Hmong American Farmers Association

“There are institutional barriers against …what we are trying to do, so we have to create institutions themselves to fight against those same institutional barriers. And for me that’s why cooperatives are so important, because they are an institutional structure that allows us to combat some of these larger dynamics.”

Pakou Hang

Yolanda Cotterall
Greater Minnesota Program Director
Latino Economic Development Center

“There were only so many opportunities out there for economic development [for Latinos in rural Minnesota]…They [Latinos] were working as farm laborers, they were working in dairy farms, they were working in the meat-packing plants, they were working in all sorts of low-income jobs, and they were the skill – people – that were doing that work…And we started to look at that and think, ‘Well, why just workers? Why not owners?’”

Yolanda Cotterall

For more information about the BCLI Thursday Night Issue Series, the BCLI, or any upcoming events, please contact the program associate, Ms. Angie Brown, at abrown@nexuscp.org.