Nexus Community Partners Program Officer Position
Nexus Community Partners seeks a full time Program Officer (32 hours a week, includes benefits) to support our program portfolio in South Minneapolis. This position is responsible for providing technical assistance and strategic guidance to current Nexus grantees in South Minneapolis, recommending grants, and being the lead staff person on key community-building initiatives and projects.
The successful candidate will have effective facilitation skills, strong project management skills, as well as experience as a community leader. The candidate must demonstrate the ability to build effective working relationships within and across cultures, and across sectors. The Program Officer will need to possess excellent writing skills, be comfortable with and proficient with the uses of technology, be well organized, willing to take initiative, and be comfortable handling multiple and shifting priorities. This person will serve as an important presence in the community and on the street for Nexus and its partners.
- Lead staff on Nexus' work in South Minneapolis, working with current and potential grantees, providing technical assistance and strategic guidance where necessary.
- Lead staff on key community-building initiatives and projects that help build more engaged and powerful communities, especially aimed at advancing equity.
- Provide support as needed for other projects, such as the broader evaluation and communication of Nexus' impact, and Nexus's partner learning forums.
- Function effectively as a team member and problem solver in order to ensure that the goals and objectives of Nexus are met.
- Develop community awareness of Nexus, and be a positive, dynamic presence for Nexus.
- Bachelor's degree required, Masters' degree preferred, preferred areas of study include: public policy, urban planning, community development or related fields.
- Minimum 3-5 years or relevant experience in complex project management and program development and the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously.
- Experience leading or playing a key role in innovative and non-traditional strategies or approaches.
- Experience working in partnerships and collaborations, across sectors and with multiple partners.
- Possesses skills with coordinating and synthesizing large amount of information.
- Understands and embraces efforts that promote equity and asset-based community change.
- Experience in strategic thinking, planning and implementation.
- Facilitating experience and building consensus.
- Experience working cross culturally to achieve understanding and results.
- Demonstrated understanding of the role culture and history has as a foundation for building strategies in cultural communities.
- Pays attention to details, sees projects through to completion and understands how to set priorities.
- Has experience working with ambiguity and change.
- Participate in evaluation and shared learning.
- Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.
- Excellent oral and written communications skills.
- Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, Power Point) applications.
- Must have personal transportation available for use, ability and willingness to travel on occasion.
Nexus offers a competitive salary and benefits package.
The Program Officer will report to the Nexus President.
Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by
Friday, November 30th, 2012 to:
Ms. Felicia Ring
Nexus Community Partners
2314 University Ave W, Suite 18
St. Paul, MN 55114
NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
Welcome to Felicia!
Welcome our new Controller, Felicia Ring
Felicia joined Nexus in October of 2012. Felicia brings 15 years of professional experience in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.
She most recently has worked in the accounting department of a local family run business. Previously she has worked for Pillsbury United Communities as a Program Manager for Early Risers in south and north Minneapolis working with children and their families. She has also been the Executive Director for Kaleidoscope an out-of-school time program in the Phillips Neighborhood of south Minneapolis. As the Executive Director of a small not-for-profit she had a variety of responsibilities including managing the financial and programmatic aspects. Felicia has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota.
Welcome our new Controller, Felicia Ring
Congratulations to New American Academy’s first entrepreneur graduating class!!
Fifteen people from the local Somali community have graduated from a class designed to help those who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Those who graduated represented 13 different businesses.
The graduation for the first Micro Entrepreneurial Training Program took place on Aug. 29 at the New American Academy. The graduates are Ahmed Abdalla, Amina Ali, Hujali Abdi, Ruan Abdi, Zainab Budul, Ibrahim Ali, Hassan Ali, Hodan Ali, Abdiraham Dini, Halimo Halane, Afron Hassan, Habiba Hamfe, Fadumo Hassan, Ali Hussein and Fowsiya Warsame.
The academy hosted the training in partnership with Neighborhood Development Center (NDC). It was funded by NDC and Nexus Community Partners. Asad Aliweyd, New American Academy executive director, said this was the first class to be offered to the local Somali community and all of the people who finished the training were Somali immigrants. They hope to offer another class at the end of the year for other immigrant groups.
The graduates learned skills including how to run a business, how to get a loan, customer service, marketing and supply and demand chain. The businesses represented by people in the training include a restaurant, laundry, coffee shop, auto body repair, daycare and home care for the elderly. The eight-week class started the first week of June and ended on July 14, Aliweyd said.
Aliweyd said the academy would like to adopt a model in Eden Prairie that is similar to one in Minneapolis. The academy plans to ask the city of Eden Prairie to become a partner for the next class.
“Immigrant-owned businesses in Eden Prairie, it will increase home ownership. They will pay taxes. They will employ other people. It will benefit not only themselves but the city itself,” he said.
Welcome Ashley James to Nexus!
38th Ave. S. & Chicago Ave. S Update
Here at Nexus, it is nice to hear about progress on a project after an investment that we have made. Recently, local website, The Line, which publishes stories of the new economy in the Twin Cities featured the story of a developer working on the 38th and Chicago commercial district in South Minneapolis. In 2009, Nexus provided a $10,000 grant to the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) to help with the revitalization of this area.
While the article talks about the work of this developer, we want to acknowledge the role the neighborhood partners played in this work: the 38th and Chicago Business Association and the Bancroft, Bryant, Central, and Powderhorn Park neighborhood associations. Together, these organizations worked with MCCD to secure additional funding from the City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) to hire the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) to produce a real estate and market analysis, to hire MCCD to oversee the project and provide business technical assistance, and to hire the 38th and Chicago Great Streets Project Coordinator to coordinate all the efforts within the district. A 38th and Chicago Great Streets Coordinator, Jessica Thesing was hired in February 2010 to work on this effort, a key of activity of which was hosting an event in September 2010 that highlighted the different types of commercial space in the area, which resulted in over 100 attendees. The showcase continued throughout that summer and the article in The Line provides an update on this work. The story can be found at http://www.thelinemedia.com/features/38thandchicago022912.aspx
Bottineau Community Leader Forum
ACER Press Statement - Bottineau Community Leader Forum
Over 50 people gathered on February 21 for the African Career, Education & Resource, Inc.‘s (ACER) Community Leader Forum to learn details of the Bottineau Transitway project and discuss how to become engaged in the process. ACER marked the launch of its "Making Transit Meaningful" project with this forum that brought ethnic minority leaders of various community organizations and faith-based groups together with elected officials and staff from Hennepin County and the City of Brooklyn Park.
In opening remarks, Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat spoke about the importance of getting engaged in the Bottineau Transitway (County Road 81) planning process. He encouraged attendees to reach out to their legislators and advocate for more support for the project, in anticipation of the positive types of transit-oriented development that comes with a project of this magnitude. Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde welcomed attendees to the City of Brooklyn Park and expressed his support of ACER's efforts.
The facilitator, Tene Wells, set the upbeat tone of the forum by encouraging the leaders to use the opportunity by contributing their "best thinking" and ideas. Presenter Joe Scala, of Hennepin County, gave a regional transportation overview and reviewed plans for the Bottineau Corridor, while Veronica Burt, of Just Equity, shared her experiences as a community organizer and the strategies she has used to engage with and advocate for the Rondo area community around the Central Corridor. In two breakout sessions, participants spoke about their dreams, aspirations, and apprehensions, regarding the proposed transit project, and the opportunities and challenges involved with engaging their constituents. Many complained about the technical nature of some of the materials presented and requested that it be translated into a more simplified version.
Through feedback forms, participants contributed their comments to be included in the formal Bottineau Transitway Scoping Documents. The project team is gathering input from the community about the scope of issues to be studied during the Bottineau Transitway Draft Environment Impact Statement process. The scoping period closes on February 17, 2012.
Overall, leaders were excited to become engaged with the Bottineau Transitway project, and more than half signed up to participate in the next event being planned by ACER. On Saturday, March 24, community leaders will be taken on a Guided Mobile Tour of the Bottineau Transit Corridor and the Hiawatha Corridor, to experience riding a Light Rail train.
ACER was among 10 community-based organizations that received funding from the Corridors of Opportunity Policy Board of the Metropolitan Council, through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, to ensure that underrepresented communities along transitway corridors, in the metropolitan area, are involved in the decision making process. With its project, ACER plans to connect with African immigrants, African Americans and other minorities through a series of community forums, open houses, and other evidence-based methods. ACER will partner with the City of Brooklyn Park to identify and engage this population to become actively involved. The goal is to move underrepresented communities from a lack of basic awareness to a state of informed and engaged community action as it relates to community input and impact along the Bottineau Corridor. ACER's efforts will focus on segments of the corridor affecting Maple Grove, Osseo, Brooklyn Park, New Hope, Crystal, Brooklyn Center, and Robbinsdale.
The African Career, Education & Resource, Inc. (ACER) is a volunteer-driven, community-based organization, founded in 2008, to close the resource, health, and information disparities within Minnesota's growing communities of African descent, and help community members build capacity and achieve societal and economic independence.
I have always believed that the culture of an organization is one of the most basic determinants of its' creativity and impact. It influences the kind of people that are drawn to the organization, and so often the kind of people and wisdom that emerge up out of it.
At Nexus authentic and trusting relationships is central to our agency's culture. Like DNA, it lives in every aspect of who we are and how we operate. You can see it in staff meetings, retreats, at lunch, or in the community. You will find that there is as much hardy laughter occurring, as there is hard productive work. It is because we recognize and honor the benefits of knowing and working with each other, making the team more than a group of people charged with different assignments and duties. It makes our relationships both personal and professional.
So needless to say, it is with mixed feelings that I announce that Neeraj Mehta, Program Officer here at Nexus Community Partners has accepted a new job as Director of Community Research with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Neeraj came to Nexus three years ago. He quickly and fluidly became a key member of the team. He brought with him an exciting energy for learning, a strong sense of commitment to community, and a set of skills that immediately added value to Nexus' internal and external work. These qualities are more elevated in Neeraj today than when he first arrived. All during his time here at Nexus he set high standards for his own development, and supported the development of others. Both Nexus and the community have benefitted greatly from his work.
I also believe that sometimes the work calls for you to extend yourself, even when you are not pursuing change. And when it calls, you have to respond, because you know that call is about something greater than your own personal plans.
Some people work hard to identify a line of work and spend years building the skills to be effective; some people are identified by others and persuaded to pursue certain forms of work because of what others see in them, and they spend their careers trying to fulfill the demand; and for some the work chooses them. Their life is about a natural journey of becoming more of who and what they are supposed to be. With the latter, the work is about fully embracing the call and being the best they can in living it out. Neeraj's path is a response to an important call. Our work with Neeraj has been, and will continue to be, about traveling along with him and creating the spaces and places that foster the best in us all.
So as much as we will miss having Neeraj here at Nexus, we are excited about the possibilities that his new job holds. We know that his work call will continue to be about community, and in that arena we will definitely find common ground. In other words, although he is not here, he really hasn't left.
So please join the staff at Nexus in walking with Neeraj, and wishing him the best in his new endeavors.
Repa and the staff of Nexus Community Partners
Click here for the formal announcement from CURA.
Northside Achievement Zone wins $28 million dollar Promise Neighborhood Grant
Congratulations to our friends and partner at the Northside Achievement Zone.
December 19, 2011 was a historic day for North Minneapolis. The U.S. Department of Education awarded NAZ with a $28 million Promise Neighborhood grant.
Click here to learn about Nexus partnership with NAZ over the past few years.
Here's an article about the award.
Also, a youtube video from the press conference.
Terri’s PLACES Fellowship Kick-Off
Nexus encourages their staff to embark on professional development opportunities that deepen their learnings about the field of community building. For 2011-12, I was accepted into the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities Professionals Learning About Community, Equity and Smart Growth (PLACES) Fellowship program. The goal of the PLACES program is to strengthen grant maker capacity and help the philanthropic sector address inter-related issues of community and economic development, environmental sustainability, and regional planning using an explicit lens of social, economic, and racial equity; to help funders understand historic, current, and shifting inequities in the field of smart growth and apply systems change thinking/practices to this learning; and to create a community of practice among PLACES fellows, alumni and TFN members that will inspire leadership in their communities.
Our first of four gatherings was held on December 7-9th in Miami, Florida. The 2011-2012 co-hort of consists of 14 grant makers from around the country. The PLACES facilitators noted that three lenses would be used during all of the gatherings - the telescope (broad overview/landscape), microscope (what was happening on the ground) and mirror (exploring self-reflection).
On our first day in Miami, we learned about the local context for community development, growing disparity in affordability for low-income residents in Miami, and lack of philanthropic funding in the region, despite its immense wealth and large financial district. We were also joined by noted scholar john powell who gave us an overview of his current work on targeted strategies and implicit racial bias. This resulted in a rich conversation about what philanthropy could do to address systems change.
We also visited two key neighborhoods in Miami - Little Havana and Little Haiti where we learned about how those communities immigrated to Miami and the current struggles of both communities. In Little Havana, where the first Cubans immigrated, there is a thriving commercial district with several art galleries, restaurants and a theater run by the local community college. It is also a key tourist destination. However many Cubans no longer live here and it is now home to many other Central American immigrants. In meeting with local community partners, continued issues are the increase in substandard housing units that are causing several health problems and also the lack of physical space for communities to gather in. In Little Haiti, many Haitians continue to live in the neighborhood and work in the service sector in Miami. They have a beautiful community center built by the city of Miami but is rarely used by the community.
Another key focus of this first gathering was the importance of storytelling. In addition to learning about the Haitian community, we were joined by local journalists who discussed the rise of ethnic newspapers as means of disseminating information as well as the decrease in investigative journalism across the country as newsrooms have laid off hundreds of reporters. We also visited the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's office to learn about the trends in ethnic news and Hispanic voting.
Last but not least, as a professional development opportunity, self-reflection was another key component to this trip. PLACES fellows used the Myers-Briggs inventory to assess how they worked in teams and in decision making processes. This was a very informative experience and I look forward to reconvening in the spring in Seattle.
African Economic Development Solutions
- General |
African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) was founded in 2008 to support wealth building in the East African immigrant communities of Oromo, Ethiopian, and Eritrean (OE&E) throughout the Twin Cities and Metropolitan area. Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of AEDS, believes in Asset Based Community Development and recognizing the communities' existing assets. AEDS uses a holistic approach by offering financial literacy education, small business coaching and micro-entrepreneurship training, and loan access to African immigrant communities.
A few of AEDS recent accomplishments include:
• Graduating a class of students from AEDS' business plan training this past September.
o A student of AEDS, Aliye Ali, just recently opened his own grocery store! Neighborhood Dollar Plus Grocery is located in the Oak Park Shopping Center in Blaine, MN.
o Dr. Abdi Gonjobe, a graduate from the 2010 AEDS business plan training opened his new business: METRO Health Care Service LLC located at 1312 Burke Circle E. Maplewood, MN.
o Lydia Negade, graduated from the September 2011 AEDS business plan training. An Oromo native, Lydia opened the doors to her new daycare business, "A Daycare" located in South Minneapolis.
o An African leader and mentor for AEDS, Tashitaa Tufaa, owner of Metropolitan Transportation Network, Inc. was recently highlighted in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as one of the top 50 fastest growing business in the Twin Cities. AEDS recognizes the benefits of utilizing Tashitaa's leadership skills to help develop young upcoming entrepreneurs.
Nexus Community Partners is committed to supporting strategies that benefit low income people of color and immigrant communities. AEDS, a newer organization, is clearly making great strides in building the financial capacity of East African immigrants throughout the Twin Cities! We continue to wish them great successes going forward! You can learn more about AEDS by visiting http://www.aeds-mn.org
CET Outreach and Engagement Grants
As members of the Community Engagement Team of the Corridor of Opportunities Initiative, we are please to announce that the outreach and engagement grants recommendations made by the Grants Review Committee were approved by the Policy Board on 10/26/2011.
The Grants Review Committee recommended $356,786 in grant funds to 9 community organizations working along 3 transit corridors. The Policy Board also asked the committee to identify a community group working along the Gateway Corridor to receive an additional grant of up to $40,000. See below for a list of funded projects.
The Community Engagement Team solicited applications through community informational meetings, direct contact with organizations and through this web site. The CET appointed a 14-member review committee to assist with the application review process.
Make sure you visit www.engagetc.org for up to date info about our work on the Community Engagement Team.
Committee members with organizational and transitway affiliations:
- Russ Adams, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, CET member (multiple corridors)
- Isabel Broyld, U 7 project manager, Neighborhood Development Center (Central Corridor LRT)
- Monica Bryand, Headwaters Foundation for Justice (multiple corridors)
- Saeed Fahia, Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota (Central Corridor LRT and Southwest LRT)
- Ariah Fine, Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (Bottineau LRT)
- Dawn Goldschmitz, East Side Neighborhood Development Company (Gateway Corridor)
- Pakou Hang, independent consultant, Headwaters Foundation Social Change committee member, Wellstone Action trainer (multiple corridors)
- Katie Hatt, former aide to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (Hiawatha LRT)
- Malik Holt-Shabazz, Harrison Neighborhood Association, Headwaters Foundation Social Change committee member (Southwest LRT and Bottineau LRT)
- Linda Hymes, Minnesota Tenants Alliance (Southwest LRT)
- David Kang, Asian Media Access (multiple corridors)
- Margaret Kaplan, Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, CET member (multiple corridors)
- Irna Landrum, Summit-University Planning Council (Central Corridor LRT)
- Mona Langston, Housing Preservation Project (multiple corridors)
- Neeraj Mehta, Nexus Community Partners, CET member (multiple corridors)
- Repa Mekha, Nexus Community Partners, CET member (multiple corridors)
- Va-Megn Thoj, Asian Economic Development Association (multiple corridors)
- Ali Warsame, West Bank Community Coalition (Central Corridor LRT and Hiawatha LRT)
2011 August Grant Actions
On August 17th Nexus Community Partners approved 8 grants including some new partnerships and several continued relationships. We are excited to share the great work that's being accomplished in our three geographies.
Below you will find a brief summary of the grants:
American Indian Family Center
Purpose: Nexus funds will support the American Indian Family Center (AIFC) to implement culturally specific financial literacy and homeownership programming for the American Indian community on St. Paul's East Side. The ultimate goal of the AIFC's project is to strengthen capacity and build assets through homeownership via three strategies; outreach, education, and counseling.
Strategic Fit: Nexus Community Partners supports approaches that result in asset building and wealth creation within communities of color in our three geographic areas. Currently, there is no other St. Paul American Indian organization providing this service to the American Indian community in St. Paul. This project will serve as a platform for developing comprehensive and culturally specific homeownership programming for the American Indian community on the East Side of St. Paul, and inform our work in South and North Minneapolis.
City of Lakes Community Land Trust
Purpose: Use of Nexus funds will provide continuing support to the CLCLT Homeowner Engagement activities while also enhancing their qualitative and quantitative evaluation efforts as it relates to income, net assets, and community assets of their homeowners.
Strategic Fit: The strategies being supported by Nexus fit our goals of integrating community building and community development, building social and human capital and developing asset builders, and align with existing and developing Nexus partnerships in North Minneapolis.
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used by Juxtaposition Arts (Juxta) to advance the field of arts based community development in North Minneapolis by expanding their capacity to build an action agenda around arts based, equitable, sustainable community development.
Strategic Fit: Although this is the first grant to Juxtaposition Arts, Nexus has been partnering with Juxta for the past year on various initiatives including the 2011 Bruner Loeb Forum. Juxtaposition is a leader in arts based community building and development in the Twin Cities and this project will allow them to be strategic in developing an arts-based community building and development agenda that is understood and embraced by many.
Northside Achievement Zone
Purpose: Through this grant from Nexus, Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) will complete the design of a NAZ Foundation's class curriculum that will provide baseline empowerment training to 30 NAZ families to specifically educate, empower and support their roles as community members. As the number of families living within the 13X18 block Zone who complete the training increases, neighborhood wide impact is expected.
Strategic Fit: NAZ provides a coordinated, collaborative and strategic vehicle to address the educational disparities in North Minneapolis. Nexus has been partnering with NAZ since its inception and this proposal presents a natural evolution in our partnership.
African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS)
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support and build the capacity of AEDS' asset building activities in the Oromo, Eritrean and Ethiopian (OE&E) communities. A few of the key activities include small-business coaching and micro-entrepreneurship training, basic financial literacy training, and culturally appropriate financial education.
Strategic Fit: This grant supports Nexus' goal to create asset and wealth building models and tools that help strengthen communities. The Oromo, Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, while not new to Minnesota, are newer to the field of community building and community economic development. Helping build the capacity of AEDS in this second year of full programming their core services is critical to ensuring more broader and equitable access to wealth creation opportunities. AEDS as an organization will also benefit itself from the lessons Nexus has learned through our investments of our two other ethnic CDC start-ups.
Greater Minnesota Housing Corporation (GMHC) - Sustainable Home Ownership Program (SHOP)
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support the capacity of the Sustainable Home Ownership Program (SHOP Home Mortgage) to create more homeownership opportunities to St. Paul's East Side by bringing the Bridge to Success Contract-for-Deed program to scale and creating a mortgage pool to provide long term finance solutions. The Contract-for-Deed program has more liberal underwriting and flexibility for people with the financial capacity to purchase homes, but who have been unable to qualify for bank financing due to credit history, bankruptcy, etc. The goal for these buyers will be to clear up their credit issues and improve their financial situation so the Contract-for-Deed can be refinanced into a FHA or conventional fixed-rate loan product within 3 to 4 years. A financial plan is established for the buyer and bi-monthly meetings are held with the homeowners to follow-up and assist them to be successful homeowners.
Strategic Fit: A key goal for Nexus is to create better trained, confident and successful asset-builders who generate greater individual and community wealth. Building the capacity of SHOP to move East Side community members into homeownership or help maintain homeownership is critical to neighborhood success especially given the recent foreclosure impact. Helping the contract for deed program grow and providing early support for capacity to build a loan pool is critical as we continue our work on the East Side and ensuring more sustainable and equitable communities.
Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC)
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support organizational capacity building activities. The key focus of our support will go toward building LEDC's fundraising capacity to increase grant resources along with building their technology capacity to better deliver programs and organizational effectiveness.
Strategic Fit: LEDC continues to be a critical organization in the Latino and broader community development industry. A key strategy of Nexus' investments is the building capacity of organizations. After several years of start-up, project and organization infrastructure investments, supporting LEDC's fundraising and technology infrastructure is key to helping them become a more sustainable organization.
Lyndale Neighborhood Association
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support the second year of the Lyndale Women's Leadership Program (LWLP), whose purpose is to develop Latina and Somali women in the Lyndale neighborhood as community leaders. The LWLP is a self-directed, action-learning model that will help participants increase their individual skills and learn how to work together as a group as they apply these skills in addressing a community issue of their choice in the neighborhood.
Strategic Fit: Building on what LNA has learned in the first year of implementing this program, an effective leadership development program provides LNA the opportunity to develop twenty to thirty community leaders annually, who have a direct connection to the community, are invested in the community's welfare, and have the skills, knowledge, and relationships to work on the issues impacting the neighborhood. This all contributes towards Nexus' overall mission of building more engaged and powerful communities.
Equity Summit 2011… here we come!
This fall, PolicyLink will be hosting their 4th Equity Summit in Detroit. Late last spring, members of the Community Engagement Team (Nexus, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing) of the Corridors of Opportunity initiative began planning the coordination of a Twin Cities delegation to attend the Summit.
With initial support from the McKnight Foundation, we began....
In late June, we hosted an event with Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. About 75 people attended from throughout the region to hear from Angela, generally about regional equity and specifically about the Equity Summit. It was there that we laid out the idea for the delegation and let folks know about scholarships that would be available as well.
As a delegation our theme is Anchoring Equity: Moving From Learning to Practice. Organizing the delegation is more than just about attending conference together, but also about thinking of how we might all collaborate more intentionally to create and move a regional equity agenda in our region.
We began our planning thinking that about 75 folks would want to go. But when the deadline came and went, the demand was more than double that! So we decided as a team, rather than turn folks away, lets get out there and see if we can get more philanthropic support to support a larger delegation.
And we did.
In total we raised $106,000 to support 139 delegates, with an overall delegation of more than 150 people. I think the demand, both from those who wanted to attend the Summit and the support we received from local foundations speaks volumes to the equity momentum building in our region.
Last week we had our first pre-Summit convening at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis. The energy and excitement in the room was fantastic. We focused on relationships and getting to know each and our work better, with an eye to the Summit and moving from action to learning post Summit.
As organizers we were excited by the turnout, the conversation and the energy of having so many equity advocates together in one place.
Our next gathering is November 2nd, then we're off to the Summit!
Here we come Detroit... watch out!
Busy Summer Days
As we head into the last quarter of the year, Nexus is reflecting on what has been a full and exciting summer. Here are some highlights.
- As of August 1st, we have fully transitioned into being our own independent 501 c 3 nonprofit. Thank you to Twin Cities and National LISC for all the support they have provided Nexus Community Partners from start to finish!
- Theresa Gardella, program officer, and her husband Brian, welcomed a new baby into their family. Simon Joseph was born on July 3rd. From all accounts big brother Eli is taking everything in stride. Theresa is coming back from her leave in a couple weeks, so be nice to her these first few weeks back!
- Terri Thao, program officer, was recently awarded a 2011 PLACES Fellowship from the Funders Network for Smart Growth. The fellowship fosters a unique learning environment that has the power to break down silos and enhance fellows' ability to address race and class issues, while advancing an equity agenda in their community based work. Learn more about PLACES here: http://www.fundersnetwork.com
- Neeraj Mehta, program officer, was recently awarded a 2011-2014 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship. Neeraj's fellowship will be focused on exploring the important role social capital and social networks play in building stronger, healthier communities, while also investing in his own leadership development. Learn more about the Bush Fellowship here: http://www.bushfoundation.org
- We welcomed 4 new board members to our board of directors. Welcome to Barbara Lightsy, May Xiong, Kristine Martin and Michelle Arndt! They join Mike Temali, Nancy Homans, David Rubedor and Paddy McNeely on an already engaged and passionate board of directors.
- We finished our 2012-2014 strategic plan that we will be rolling out over the next few months.
- The work we're doing as members of the Community Engagement Team of the Corridors of Opportunity Initiative has been moving forward. The first round of Outreach and Engagement Grants received 43 applications, requesting $1.5 million dollars in support. The CET grants review committee is currently planning site visits as they work to disburse $300,000 in grants this fall.
- More than 250 people attended a public forum entitled Anchoring Equity to Achieve Sustainable Regional Development Outcomes in June. The forum, held at the Humphrey Institute, was sponsored by the Metropolitan Council, the Northwest Area Foundation and the three members of the Corridors of Opportunity Community Engagement Team: Nexus, the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.
- As part of our work with the CET, we've also been helping to coordinate the Twin Cities delegation to attend the 2011 PolicyLink Equity Summit in Detroit in November. When we started, we were planning to support an estimate of 50-60 individuals with $40,000 from the McKnight Foundation. We've landed at a delegation of about 150 people and $106,000 of support from 7 different funding sources! Our first pre-convening is next week, with one more in November just before the Summit.
- Our investment committee and board of directors approved grants to the following organizations in August.
- African Economic Development Solutions
- American Indian Family Center
- City of Lakes Community Land Trust
- GMHC SHOP
- Juxtaposition Arts
- Latino Economic Development Center
- Lyndale Neighborhood Association
- Northside Achievement Zone
Wow. That was a fun exercise to try and list out a variety of highlights from our work in the past few months. And I know there is even more. For example, we continue to work and partner in each of our local geographies with our grantees and partners. Plus other special projects like the Twin Cities Network for Financial Success are continuing to develop and evolve.
If this was what the past four months held, I'm excited to see what happens through the end of the year!
Equity Summit 2011
As part of the Community Engagement Team of the Corridors of Opportunity Initiative, Nexus, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing are helping to coordinate a Twin Cities Delegation to attend PolicyLink's Equity Summit 2011 in Detroit on November 8-11, 2011. Equity Summit 2011 is the fourth national PolicyLink Summit, bringing together the nation's equity movement to advance a truly inclusive policy agenda.
Our goal is to send at least 75 Twin Cities community leaders and advocates to the Equity Summit. Delegation members will convene before and after the Summit with the goals of:
• Building and strengthening a common understanding of equitable community development
• Increasing knowledge of promising practices and policies that promote regional equity
• Supporting collaborative efforts with a commitment to equitable development
• Increasing the local impact of established networks; many of whom are already well positioned to effectively move an agenda
• Increasing government, private sector, philanthropic, and community support for regional equity
• Moving from learning to practice
The Alliance for Metropolitan Stability provided this summary of the Community Engagement Team's Anchoring Equity in Sustainable Regional Development Outcomes event last week. The event was presented in partnership with the Northwest Area Foundation and the Metropolitan Council, and featured Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink, john powell of the Kirwan Institute, Nekima Levy-Pounds of the University of St. Thomas and others.
Local and national leaders envision equitable transitway development in the Twin Cities region
"What does an inclusive and sustainable path to economic growth look like?" That was the framing question posed by Nexus Community Partners Executive Director Repa Mekha to more than 250 people who attended a public forum on Anchoring Equity to Achieve Sustainable Regional Development Outcomes last week. The forum, held at the Humphrey Institute, was sponsored by the Metropolitan Council, the Northwest Area Foundation and the three members of the Corridors of Opportunity Community Engagement Team: Nexus, the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. As these groups consider potential impact of upcoming transitway development in the Twin Cities, they organized the forum to pose a series of questions: Do we need to trade economic growth for equity? Can we advance both at the same time? What if pursuing equity - in addition to being the right thing to do ‐‐ is actually the superior economic growth model? The latter was the hypothesis offered by PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, a national expert on equitable policy development. PolicyLink's recent paper published in partnership with the Center for American Progress posits that the tradeoff between equity and economic prosperity is a false choice. Studies have shown that when a greater share of income is directed to the middle class, overall prosperity in the U.S. has increased. A study by renowned University of Southern California Professor Manuel Pastor also indicated that greater equality within metropolitan regions correlates with stronger regional growth. So what does that mean for the Twin Cities region, which is expecting billions of dollars of public investment to develop a regional transitways system over the next 20 years? According to the speakers at last week's event, the Twin Cities region will be better off as a result of that investment if and only if equity is built into the decision‐making process at the outset of all transitway planning, rather than as an afterthought. That's particularly important, according to University of St Thomas Prof. Nekima Levy‐Pounds, because of our region's serious racial disparities. Levy‐Pounds presented a series of data that painted a vivid picture of Minnesota's stark racial disparities in income, health, employment and other indicators. She told the crowd she once spoke to a young man in North Minneapolis who told her it was easier for him to walk down the street and buy a gun than to buy a piece of fresh fruit. As Blackwell took the stage, she momentarily silenced the crowd by asking, "Are you embarrassed? Because I was listening to all that data and as an outsider, I was embarrassed for you." Read the full article here.
"What does an inclusive and sustainable path to economic growth look like?"
That was the framing question posed by Nexus Community Partners Executive Director Repa Mekha to more than 250 people who attended a public forum on Anchoring Equity to Achieve Sustainable Regional Development Outcomes last week. The forum, held at the Humphrey Institute, was sponsored by the Metropolitan Council, the Northwest Area Foundation and the three members of the Corridors of Opportunity Community Engagement Team: Nexus, the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. As these groups consider potential impact of upcoming transitway development in the Twin Cities, they organized the forum to pose a series of questions: Do we need to trade economic growth for equity? Can we advance both at the same time? What if pursuing equity - in addition to being the right thing to do ‐‐ is actually the superior economic growth model?
The latter was the hypothesis offered by PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, a national expert on equitable policy development. PolicyLink's recent paper published in partnership with the Center for American Progress posits that the tradeoff between equity and economic prosperity is a false choice. Studies have shown that when a greater share of income is directed to the middle class, overall prosperity in the U.S. has increased. A study by renowned University of Southern California Professor Manuel Pastor also indicated that greater equality within metropolitan regions correlates with stronger regional growth.
So what does that mean for the Twin Cities region, which is expecting billions of dollars of public investment to develop a regional transitways system over the next 20 years? According to the speakers at last week's event, the Twin Cities region will be better off as a result of that investment if and only if equity is built into the decision‐making process at the outset of all transitway planning, rather than as an afterthought.
That's particularly important, according to University of St Thomas Prof. Nekima Levy‐Pounds, because of our region's serious racial disparities. Levy‐Pounds presented a series of data that painted a vivid picture of Minnesota's stark racial disparities in income, health, employment and other indicators. She told the crowd she once spoke to a young man in North Minneapolis who told her it was easier for him to walk down the street and buy a gun than to buy a piece of fresh fruit.
As Blackwell took the stage, she momentarily silenced the crowd by asking, "Are you embarrassed? Because I was listening to all that data and as an outsider, I was embarrassed for you."
Read the full article here.
Celebrating MIFN’s Padres Adelante Program
On Sunday, June 5th at restaurant Salsa ala Salsa at the Midtown Global Market, nine parents were recognized for their participation in the Padres Adelante program from the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network (MIFN). The participants in the Padres Adelante (which can be translated as parents advancing or parents moving forward) program were immigrant parents and adults finishing a six-month leadership and training program focused on supporting immigrant families to improve the Latino community's access to education, mobilize to gain equal access to neighborhood resources, and take action to create healthy physical environments.
The participants in the Padres Adelante (which can be translated as parents advancing or parents moving forward) program were immigrant parents and adults finishing a six-month leadership and training program focused on supporting immigrant families to improve the Latino community's access to education, mobilize to gain equal access to neighborhood resources, and take action to create healthy physical environments.
Padres Adelante was designed in partnership by MIFN, Tamales y Bicicletas and El Colegio Charter School. El Colegio Administrative Director David Greenberg was also present and spoke at the event since many of the children attend the Latino culture focused charter school in South Minneapolis. MIFN and El Colegio have been in partnership for the past few years and the program is a result of this progress.
Interim Executive Director Alondra Espejel presented the parents with lovely framed certificates noting their participation in the program. The event finished up with a Danza Mexica performance by Kalpulli Yaocentoxtli.
Using every opportunity to address systems change and build leadership capacity, at each tables during the celebration were letters being sent to the MN Commissioner of Health to discuss how Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative would impact their families. Nexus is proud of these participants and to support MIFN for this effort.
Northside Undoing Racism Training
After six months of planning and almost a year of gathering together, Nexus Community Partners and nine of our community partners in North Minneapolis were able to attend a two and half day Undoing Racism workshop together.
The workshop was facilitated by The People's Institute for Survival & Beyond, recognized as one of the foremost anti-racism training and organizing institutions in the nation. Through dialogue, reflection, role-playing, strategic planning and presentations, this intensive process challenged participants to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder racial equity and prepared us to be more effective organizers for social justice. Throughout the two and half days we were challenged at the individual, organizational and systems level.
The other organizations that participated included: The Sanctuary CDC, Juxtaposition Arts, Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, Jewish Community Action, City of Lakes Community Land Trust, Lao Assistance Center, Urban Homeworks, Harrison Neighborhood Association and the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition.
The goals of our shared effort were to:
• Strengthen our relationships with each other
• Engage residents/constituents from within each of our organizations/communities
• Develop a shared analysis and shared language on issues of race, power and justice in north Minneapolis.
As a participant and co-organizer I was extremely excited and optimistic about our time together. Each organization and individual was making a significant sacrifice of time and resources (all 9 organizations helped pay for the training together). And more than the actual content of the training, which was fabulous, the time spent with each other was of significant value.
As a group we approached the training without expectations of long-term partnerships or special projects, instead we were committed to journeying together, developing stronger relationships and being comfortable with the ambiguity of what's next (if anything!).
My experience was especially enriched through being in a room with 30 other resident and organizational leaders on the Northside, focusing on forming more than just partnerships, but friendships.
Up next for us is to re-convene later in June to debrief our time together and talk about what might be next and what might be possible as we all look towards racial equity and justice in north Minneapolis.
Last month, Nexus sponsored the Hmong American Partnership's Leadership Symposium as part of the 15th annual Hmong National Conference. The theme of this year's conference was "Uniting Hmong America: Invoking the Power from Within". The Leadership Symposium convened over 100 Hmong leaders from across the country to discuss the assets and challenges of their community and to create a space to think about and practice leadership in new ways. The leaders were brought together to develop a strategic road map for the community, at a local and national level, and to make a commitment to continuing this dialogue on leadership on an annual basis.
Goals of the symposium included:
1. Create the space and time for Hmong leaders across the United States to build a stronger, unified Hmong community, nationally and locally, by learning and sharing best practices, resources, and community challenges about the Hmong American experience.
2. Develop a Strategic Think Tank organization for Hmong organizations that serve as a central location for assessing the strengths and gaps of the community. The Strategic Think Tank will conduct high-quality, independent research that lead to innovative, practical solutions that advance three broad goals:
a. Wealth creation and economic sustainability within the Hmong American community.
b. Successful integration and socio-economic and political advancement of Hmong Americans to the United States.
c. Advocacy for social justice and social change issues.
3. Identify strategies and systems that enable Hmong leaders and organizations to be accountable and transparent in their programming and service delivery to the community and to those who fund them at a national and local level.
4. Engage participants in the continuous development and creation of a Strategic Road Map that identifies key issues, strengths, opportunities and challenges to the Hmong American community in the next 10, 20, and 30 years.
5. Cultivate and build leadership and leaders that will help to sustain the parts of our culture that are timeless and to be able to successfully develop leaders in a global capacity.
6. Evaluate our progress and work at a national and local level by helping the Hmong American community to understand where their strengths and learning needs are, as well as to determine the impact of services, where to reduce duplication of programming, and to find solutions to evaluation gaps.
Nexus Community Partners supports opportunities for communities to come together to learn from one another through the exploration of ideas and perspectives, and through sharing their experiences and wisdom. The Leadership Symposium was a dynamic event that builds and harnesses the power of the Hmong community, both locally and nationally to determine their own future.
Post Bruner Loeb Forum
The 2011 Bruner Loeb Forum was an amazing success. It was a rich mix of people, ideas, conversations and provocations. We've re-printed here, an article by TC Daily Planet journalist Sheila Regan. Also make sure to check out http://www.theuptake.org for video from the event. Unedited video is available now, edited videos will be available by mid-May.
BY SHEILA REGAN, TC DAILY PLANET
April 17, 2011
Local and national artists, arts administrators, community developers, designers, thinkers, and planners converged at Chambers Hotel on Friday and Saturday for a forum aimed at investigating how art and design can help build more equitable, sustainable, and engaged neighborhoods.
Putting Creativity to Work: Stronger Communities through Locally Rooted Art & Design was sponsored by the Bruner/Loeb Forum, a new partnership between the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) and the Loeb Fellowship Program, two programs dedicated to the urban built environment. The conference was presented in partnership with Juxtaposition Arts, Inc with sponsorship by The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), Nexus Community Partners, The U of M's College of Design in Landscape Architectures, C + S Architects, 4RM + ULA, Minnesota Humanities Center, Family Housing Fund, The Uptake, The McKnight Foundation, and The University of Minnesota Imagine Fund.
The two-day forum included presentations, small group discussions, tours of West Broadway and Franklin Avenue with tour guides Seitu Jones (a visual artist) and Jeremiah Ellison (a Juxtaposition Arts alumnus), and problem-solving sessions. According to the forum's brochure, the goals for the conference included increasing attention and resources focused on rebuilding social, human and cultural capital in communities like North Minneapolis, elevating the importance of engaging youth in building community change, show the importance of participatory arts engagement in community development, illustrating new models of community engagement, and encouraging a multi-disciplinary approach to neighborhood revitalization.
Speakers included a number of experts from cities across the city who spoke about what has worked in their communites, including Rick Lowe from Project Row Houses in Houston, Cynthia Harnisch from Inner City Arts in Los Angeles; and Dan Pitera, from the Detroit Collaborative Design Center.
On Saturday, Ed Goetz (CURA) gave a presentation about local and regional current issues and context. Goetz said that one of the challenges with North Minneapolis is that politics are very fragmented, largely due to community disinvestment. Leadership is fluid and transitioning, he said, between pastoral leadership, organizational leadership, and the emerging leadership of young people. "Young people play a such a significant part, but they haven't gained their voice," he said.
Goetz said it was important for communities to appreciate their assets, whether those be cultural assets or ecological ones. For example, it's not common to associate West Broadway as connecting Wirth Park with the Mississippi River. "Why can't we create that connection-as a vision for West Broadway?" he asked.
Also on Saturday, attendees of the conference participated in a Create Design Mapping exercise that looked at North Minneapolis through the lenses of education/knowledge; politics/control; building types/neighborhood structure; image and meaning; economics and development; and ecology and the environment. Participants brainstormed by writing their ideas onto the maps, which will be presented to different North Minneapolis communities. Eventually, the maps will be used as inspiration for a mural in north Minneapolis.
DeAnna and Roger Cummings, co-directors of Juxtaposition Arts, also spoke at the conference. Roger Cummings said that they started Juxtaposition the same year the couple had their first child, and that their children think of the organization as one of their siblings.
Cummings has always learned through trial and error, and learning by doing, and he believes that kind of education is the most successful. He recalled that when he was in the sixth grade, his teacher at Marcy Open devised a class project to sell greeting cards in order to raise money for the class to go to Valleyfair. The students were divided into groups: the best writers wrote the text, the best artists made the drawings, and the best talkers were in charge of selling the cards. They were encouraged to sneak out during school to sell the cards, and were told by the teacher not to tell anyone what they were doing. Through the project, Cummings learned how to do long division, and said that the project was exactly the kind of learning experience that teaches children best-by working on problem-solving projects together.
Cummings said one of the things that Juxtaposition Arts tries to do is to take a creative problem-solving approach, rather than a deficit-based approach. As outlined in their strategic plan, they break their programs up into core studies and focus on engaging young people in imaginative, hands-on activities.
People who attended the conference said they felt energized by the experience, and also they had a feeling that the work had only just begun. John Bueche of Minneapolis's Bedlam Theatre said it was good to have a chance to connect with people doing the most fascinating work with arts and community development.
Seitu Jones, who spoke in his speech on Saturday morning about the moral imperative of community building, and the love and passion that comes behind making neighborhoods stronger, said "people are doing this because of love," he said.
Catherine Day, who runs an North Minneapolis arts organization called Story Slices, said the conference helped her think about all the different layers that go into building strong communities. "I like to think of myself as leading like a bee in a creative hive," she said, saying that a bee exemplifies the sustainable model, going inside and coming out, creating a sweet and useful product. One important aspect she is coming out of the conference with is the importance of deep listening, and knowing what a community wants before making decisions.
Visual Artist Ta-coumba Aiken said the next step after the conference is to take the ideas gathered to community organizations, where they'll either say "are you crazy?" or, "this is a good idea." A huge part of going forward, he said, is trust, and hope that together, artists and community members can make North Minneapolis a safer place to live, filled with spirit and joy. "It takes a lot of time," he said. "But you don't want to make the mistake of throwing out the whole barrel because of a few bad apples. There may be vinegar at the bottom, but you can make fruit pies off the top."
HUD Sustainable Communities Community Engagement Team
While the Twin Cities region benefits from a number of social and economic assets, we continue to be unable to translate these benefits to everyone, specifically our communities of color. Despite our reputation for overachieving, the Twin Cities continues to be at the top of less than desirable lists, those that reveal significant racial disparities in education, health outcomes, poverty levels and joblessness.
The good news is that our region is increasingly owning up to these issues. As of late, new resources have entered the Twin Cities focused on building a more connected, equitable and prosperous region.
One example is the Twin Cities HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative, an effort led by the Metropolitan Council to support regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in regional transitway planning.
As part of this initiative, a Community Engagement Team was formed to identify, develop and support targeted strategies that engage underrepresented communities in planning, decision-making and implementation processes on and around transit-oriented corridors. Nexus, along with the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and the Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, were invited to lead this team.
Each organization brings a unique set of expertise to community engagement ranging from advocacy, community development, coalition building and grassroots community organizing/capacity building. Our collective experiences position us well to not just implement one-time recommendations, but to support the development of a community engagement infrastructure in the Twin Cities that will support future planning efforts beyond the HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative.
The $5 million planning grant awarded to the Twin Cities is a collaboration of the Metropolitan Council, local government agencies and funders. The grant is part of HUD's $100 million Sustainable Communities Initiative to build on existing regional planning efforts to advance multi-modal transportation choices and promote affordable housing with access to jobs and housing, transit- and pedestrian-friendly development, environmental preservation and energy efficiency.
The purpose of the CET is to guide the Consortium Policy Board's community engagement strategies. To this end, our role will be to:
1. Advise the Policy Board on issues of equity and report on the effectiveness of community engagement strategies across corridors.
2. Develop general guidelines and strategies for outreach and engagement that will guide investments in this area.
3. Develop strategies to engage "underrepresented, traditionally marginalized communities" (by HUD's own definition: communities of color; the disability community; low-income and new immigrant communities) in the planning process and ensure their continued participation throughout implementation.
4. Recommend funding allocations and recipients to the Policy Board.
5. Meet regularly with the transit corridor managers and help them develop appropriate community engagement strategies.
6. Partner with public agencies and implementers to ensure a vital community engagement process, bridging gaps between traditionally marginalized communities and the planning processes for public infrastructure investments.
Our work will achieve results at four distinct levels: resident, community, organizational and systems. We will be focused on achieving short-term results that support the building of new knowledge and new practice in communities where transit corridors are being developed. Our long-term results will be focused on creating a stronger infrastructure within communities to sustain efforts focused on achieving equitable transitway and associated development in the Twin Cities, while increasing access to greater opportunity structures for traditionally underrepresented communities.
Eastside Prosperity Campaign - Building Momentum
The East Side Prosperity Campaign (PC) is an innovative collaboration of multi-cultural organizations and residents determined to forge a new way of working together in order for transformational change within their community. The PC vision is for "a multi-cultural and economically diverse East Side where individuals, families, businesses, institutions, and organizations prosper in positive relationship with each other, the natural and build environments, and the wider metro area."
The vision is organized into four areas:
1)Community Wealth and Prosperity
2)Community Building and Civic Engagement
3)Community Health and Wellness
4)Community Education and Learning
2010 was a very busy and productive year for the Prosperity Campaign.
•During the summer of 2010, organizations and residents interested in a particular vision area met and discussed potential collaborative projects. Twenty-five projects surfaced from among the 4 vision areas. The Interim Steering Committee selected 8 for initial funding, to capitalize on momentum and to move from planning to action.
•A permanent Steering Committee was formed in September. On the Steering Committee are representatives from different cultural communities, different issue areas (workforce, domestic violence, health, education), as well as large institutions, such as Metropolitan State University and the YMCA. The Steering Committee is comprised mainly of executive directors who have contributed significant amounts of time to the development of this collaboration.
•The American Indian Family Center was selected to be the Coordinating Agency of the initiative, agreeing to coordinate activities and ensuring implementation of the vision and action plans.
•A key component of successfully transitioning the Prosperity Campaign from planning to action is a full-time staff person. The Prosperity Campaign is in the process of hiring a Program Manager and is expected to begin May 1, 2011.
Within the first two years, we expect to see the following results:
•More community residents, businesses, organizations and institutions recognize and know the work of the PC
•Increased participation in the PC by residents, businesses, organizations and institutions
•Organizations discover new ways of working together
•Sufficient funds are raised to support the on-going work of the PC, including staffing
•New projects or initiatives are developed
As a partner in this effort, and seated on the Steering Committee, Nexus helps create the space for these discussions, provides technical assistance to the initiative as it evolves, and helps to secure funding to support its progress.
Lyndale Neighborhood Association
This spring marks the end of the pilot year for the Lyndale Neighborhood Associations (LNA) Lyndale Women's Leadership Program (LWLP) whose goal is to develop Latina and Somali women in the Lyndale neighborhood as community leaders. The program builds relationships among the participants, offers different training sessions on a number of topics and skill building opportunities that are important to the Latina community and finally participants are expected to work on a community project.
Mark Hinds, Executive Director of LNA, gave this update on the Nexus supported project, saying,
“The Latina Leadership Program is going really well. We are just getting ready for the women's fifth session tomorrow, the theme of which is going to be on education, both for the women and for their children. So far it seems like the women are really starting to bond and are getting excited to start putting their skills to use. We've been holding the sessions every other Friday at Zion church, which is in the neighborhood and close to where a lot of the women live. It's worked really well holding them there, because it's given us room to provide food and have activities for the women's kids - which was a big challenge for us to figure out, since there are often more kids than women.”
In developing the program, LNA leaders spent time learning from other Latina leadership programs (such as the Mujeres program at Waite House) but could not find one that combined both place and culture. In response to this learning, they’ve developed a program that does both.
In addition to this, the gatherings have also allowed LNA to bring in other institutional partners such as Youth Farm and the Blaisdell YMCA to work with the youth while the women are meeting.
Evaluation plays a critical role in the program with LNA engaging the participants in reflection after each session in addition to having individual one on one sessions. LNA also used a Nexus developed survey template in helping them gauge their experiences before and after participation in the program. And while a formal graduation of this pilot year program is planned, LNA plans to continue the Latina co-hort by having them work on their community project so that the graduation does not become the programmatic end for the participants.
Up next for LNA will be to replicate the program for local Somali women. They have already begun to put some of the pieces in place with their Somali organizer. Nexus looks forward to continued support of LNA and their efforts to develop the leadership of the Latina and Somali women in their community.
The Year Ahead
At Nexus Community Partners, we are excited about how 2011 is shaping up and the work we have in front of us. Some highlights include:
• Our transition to becoming an independent 501 c 3 organization
• Embarking on a strategic planning process that will bring focus and definition to our work over the next 2-3 years
• Participating in the HUD Sustainable Communities initiative as a member of the Community Engagement Team
• Continued development of the Twin Cities Network for Financial Success with our partners at Emerge, PPL, CommonBond, TC LISC and Lutheran Social Services.
• Strengthening our geographic based work in South and North Minneapolis and on the Eastside of St. Paul
As we move fully into our work for this year we recognize that the context in which our work lives, and the communities in which we serve, is continually evolving and changing. We are excited about Nexus' role in helping build more engaged and powerful communities of color with an increased focus on regional equity and development in the Twin Cities.
Nexus continues to develop authentic and transparent relationships with community residents and community based organizations. Our work has always been place based and people focused, and as we extend parts of our work into a more regional framework, the following values will continue to guide us as an organization.
We look to local communities to solve problems.
We are focused on helping find solutions and supporting strategies that come from inside communities of color and the neighborhoods where they live.
Building a strong Twin Cities region is complimentary to building up strong cities and strong neighborhoods.
We are committed to helping build healthy local neighborhoods that are strong socially, economically and politically and with strong connections to the broader region.
We support targeted approaches that reach deeper into communities of color.
We want to avoid exacerbating place-based inequalities by targeting resources and strategies that ensures a wider cross section of our community residents are able to access and benefit from new opportunities.
2011 Bruner Loeb Forum
Putting Creativity to Work: Stronger Communities through Locally Rooted Art & Design
A Great Idea Exchange Event
April 14-16, 2011
Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, MN
For the past year, Nexus Community Partners has been partnering with Juxtaposition Arts in North Minneapolis to help plan the 2011 Bruner Loeb Forum in Minneapolis. The forum will showcase innovative strategies from across the nation that leverage local engagement in art and design to build more equitable, more economically sustainable, more engaged and connected stakeholders, neighborhoods and cities.
The goal of the Bruner/Loeb Forum is to advance the thinking on a wide variety of challenges facing our cities, and to make the learning and creative thinking inherent in Rudy Bruner Award (RBA) winners and in the work of Loeb Fellows available to practitioners and policy makers across the country. The Bruner Loeb Forum brings together a wide array of RBA winners, Loeb fellows, alumnae and distinguished practitioners from across the country.
The two-day symposium will highlight, investigate and interrogate how ground breaking, locally rooted art and design community development practices are transforming the physical, economic and social landscape in communities across the country.
Through distinguished presenters, local tours, exhibitions and breakout sessions we will explore the questions that shape our efforts to grow locally rooted art and design based community development to a scale necessary to build stronger communities from the ground up.
Who should attend?
If you're an artist or a city planner, a student or a professor, staff at a community based nonprofit or a community resident, a grant maker or a lender at a bank, a for-profit or non-profit developer, you should be there!
Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence and the Loeb Fellowship program with Juxtaposition Arts, 4RM+ULA Architecture, Conway+Schulte Architects, Nexus Community Partners, U of MN College of Design (Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) and the U of MN Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.
Working through Change
In 2009, Nexus was approached by a local union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 (consisting of mostly janitors and some security guards) to support a pilot project in partnership with long standing Nexus partner Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). The goal of the project was to help mitigate the impact of massive layoffs that resulted from stricter federal immigration compliance laws.
Nexus funds supported planning and implementation of member driven initiatives that met the immediate needs of these workers as they lost their jobs and helped them maintain and build assets for short and long term economic stability. The activities included:
1. Creation of a janitorial worker cooperative with 40 of the laid off workers with technical assistance from LEDC.
2. Implementation of the national Time Bank model, where participants volunteer their skills (carpentry, baby sitting, plumbing, cooking) and withdraw or deposit their "time" so that members who did not have income had another source of resources. SEIU reported that 50 members participated in this activity.
3. Hosting of resource fairs for 200 members so that they could have access to resources such as food banks and legal services.
4. Creation a formal Associate member status and ID card, which enabled the laid off employees to maintain a linkage with the union and allowed them discounts at some local retailers. Associate members were not expected to pay dues given their unemployment status, however they could still participate in union meetings and vote on actions.
SEIU recently provided a final report to Nexus, where they noted that one of the greatest impacts of their efforts to mitigate the impact of the layoffs was,
"It forced Local 26 to become a member driven union in a way that it never had been before. Our largest member meeting up to that point was around 300 people, but during this time we had consistent meetings every other week of 500 members or more that lasted for 4 months...It also pushed us to start to embrace our role as an organization beyond the needs of the workplace, and into our possible role in the community and to people who aren't our dues paying members. We are just starting down that path, but the cooperative, the time bank, and the associate ID card all made us ask the question: what if the glue that holds our union community together is something more than just who pays dues and is covered under a union contract, but is based on activists coming together across workplaces and communities voluntarily because this is the most effective organization in the community to protect ourselves and win what we deserve."
- From SEIU Local 26 report to Nexus Community Partners
This finding addresses a key piece for Nexus and that is how organizations (whether non-profit direct service, unions or for-profit corporations) begin to change and redefine themselves in response to community and community needs. Employee groups/associations and other social networks are often the strongest social fabric for their constituents and increasingly their roles will be challenged as the issues facing their constituents change too with the times. Nexus was pleased to have supported this critical phase in SEIU's evolution.
North Side Community Building Network
Last spring after numerous 1:1 conversations, Nexus Community Partners hosted a lunch for a variety of community organizations working in north Minneapolis. In total about 12 organizations attended the gathering. The group was a mix of leaders from neighborhood organizations with focus areas centered on youth, the arts, housing and education. While varying in the actual focus of their work, what each organization had in common is the approach they take. Each organization places tremendous importance on engaging and mobilizing the power of the local North Side residents they are working with day in and day out.
Since last spring's lunch, a handful of these organizations have continued to meet. We aren't meeting to work on a defined project, but to explore the possibilities of how knowing each other and each other's work better, while also developing a shared analysis around issues in north Minneapolis might lead to something else. Maybe collaboration, maybe specific projects, or maybe we'd all just be better equipped to support or advocate for each other's work.
Last week, we expanded the table by having the leaders of these organizations bring leaders from within their organization to a community dinner. At the table on this night were local residents, organizational staff and even a few children.
The conversation was centered the possibility of engaging in a 2 day Undoing Racism workshop hosted by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. The conversation was rich and the questions deep. I think we all left with a commitment to continue journeying together.
Up next a small planning committee will be coming together to discuss how to best coordinate 35-40 local residents and organizational leaders to engage in this opportunity.
At Nexus, we're excited about the organic growth of this network, its' focus on community engagement, relationship building and leadership development and the possibilities it holds...
Twin Cities Receives $5 million HUD Sustainable Communities Grant
Last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the Twin Cities region, led by the Metropolitan Council, was awarded a 3-year, $5 million grant from the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program.
The Twin Cities proposal will work to achieve numerous important goals as it relates to continued comprehensive corridor development on and around the major transit ways that will be developed over the next decade. One clear goal set forth within this grant is to increase participation and decision-making in the development and implementation of a long range vision for the region by populations traditionally marginalized and excluded in public planning processes.
Nexus Community Partners is pleased to have been asked to serve as a member of the Community Engagement Team, along with the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability and Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing.
Chief among our goals will be to foster extensive, tailored community engagement strategies that will bring the voices of people who are traditionally underrepresented to corridor visions, goal setting, planning and development.
Together, the Community Engagement Team will guide the initiative's community engagement strategies, identify local needs and priorities and recommend funding allocations to community based organizations along the transit corridors being developed. None of the organization serving on this team will receive any funding from the grant.
Nexus is excited to lend our expertise and continue to play a leadership role in helping build more engaged, equitable and powerful communities in the Twin Cities by serving as a partner in this unique and important collaboration.
Learn more about the Twin Cities grant:
- General |
Most people agree that effective leadership is a necessary component of any community building initiative. But ask 10 people their definition of leadership and you'll most likely get 10 different definitions.
Nexus Community Partners supports leaders and leadership development, but we do so without using a formal definition of either. We do, however, have a certain perspective on leadership grounded in our experiences working with communities of color and immigrant communities on the Eastside of St. Paul, South Minneapolis and North Minneapolis.
Whether we know it or not, we each have an image of leadership that informs our expectations or assumptions about leaders. For many people, the concept of leadership is focused on individuals and individual capacities. At Nexus we believe that leadership is a communal activity that is best developed and best expressed within a community context. Leaders develop in relationship to others and because of relationships to others. This means that within the uniqueness of the communities and cultures we work with, leadership develops and is expressed differently.
For example, in our recent newsletter we've highlighted how two Nexus-supported organizations approach leadership development within their respective communities. The Cultural Wellness Center doesn't use the term "leader" or "leadership development" in their work, and, yet their process of engagement strengthens residents to take active roles in changing their lives and building the capacities of others. The City of Lakes Community Land Trust engages their residents in more formal leadership opportunities, such as becoming board members and/or seeking public office. Both organizations understand that community is the context in which leadership develops.
At Nexus Community Partners, we are committed to building more engaged and powerful communities, and effective leadership is a critical component. We support organizations who identify, nurture and support effective leaders within their community and cultural context. Because these leaders are shaped by the social and cultural context of their communities, they may not look like typical mainstream leaders. You might not see them....but from where we sit, leadership abounds.
Click here to see our most recent newsletter and to learn about how two of our grantees, the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and the Cultural Wellness Center approach leadership development in their own work.
Lake Street Impact Study
The Midtown section of Lake Street has historically been home to many immigrant small businesses. As the neighborhoods surrounding Lake Street became more racially and ethnically diverse in the 1990s, so did the business community. New Latino and African immigrant businesses began to open, like the Mercado Central, a Latino cooperative business incubator at the corner of Lake and Bloomington. Simultaneously, two large issues were beginning to shape Lake Street. The first was the reconstruction of the entire street by Hennepin County and the second was the redevelopment of two key sites along Lake Street, the old Antiques Minnesota building at the northwest corner of Lake and Bloomington and the empty Sears building at the corner of Lake and Chicago. Within this context, it became clear that these new entrepreneurs and businesses would need increased support and technical assistance to ensure their prosperity and survival.
It was at this time that Nexus (then Payne-Lake) Community Partners was formed with a specific program focus on strengthening area asset building strategies, including the support of small businesses owned by communities of color and immigrant communities. With funds from local and national funders, Nexus was able to provide early flexible funding (and later, general operating support) in support of these new businesses and entrepreneurs. Nexus played an instrumental and catalytic role in the start up of two ethnic community development centers (CDCs) - African Development Center (ADC) and Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). Both organizations had started with community support and were serving the increasing numbers of entrepreneurs opening their businesses along Lake Street and in South Minneapolis. Nexus support helped these organizations build capacity to support and deepen their impact within the African and Latino business communities.
"Nexus' support was extremely important in our start up as a CDC. Their funding validated us to two audiences: first, to our Latino entrepreneurs for whom we exist to provide assistance to and secondly, to the funding community, that we were a needed organization in the field." - RAMON LEON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LEDC
Program highlights (2005-2009)
a. Nexus invested $1,670,000 in building the capacity of CDCs to work with entrepreneurs from communities of color and immigrant communities.
b. Through all of the partner organizations mentioned above, over 1,400 persons or businesses were provided with entrepreneur training or technical assistance, resulting in the creation of 36 new businesses.
c. Organizational partners assisted with the origination of 115 business loans totaling over $3 million.
a. Resident/Entrepreneur - Entrepreneurs, both new and longstanding, along Lake Street became better aware of and prepared for the reconstruction effort. Results indicate that no businesses was forced to close, though, some did report reduced sales by as much as 50 percent as a result of construction.
b. Organization - ADC and LEDC emerged as two critical organizational entities along Lake Street. Without the capacity of these non-profit CDC partners working to create and build community among the entrepreneurs, the end result may have looked quite different from today. The partnerships formed then continue to exist today, further strengthening current businesses and entrepreneurs.
c. Community - Today, the Midtown section of South Minneapolis is a thriving commercial corridor supporting its surrounding neighborhoods physically, economically and socially. According to the Lake Street Council, the number of current empty storefronts in the Midtown section (14) is similar to that of the West Lake section (11). The addition of the Midtown Global Market as well as modifications by Hennepin County to include more pedestrian friendly space, has brought increased visibility and access to the area, further strengthening its resurgence.
Read more about our impact on Lake Street here.
Neighborhood Funders Group Annual Conference
The Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) is a membership association of grantmakers who support social justice and social change. They work to improve the economic and social fabric of urban and rural low- and moderate-income communities.
For the past year, Nexus Community Partners has been serving on the planning committee for the 2010 annual conference of the Neighborhood Funder’s Group. This year’s conference will be taking place in Minneapolis September 29th – October 1st.
A highlight of every NFG conference is the neighborhood tours that allow attendees a glimpse into the innovative neighborhood based work happening in the conference city. This year, Nexus Community Partners is helping coordinate the neighborhood tours in the three places we work; North Minneapolis, South Minneapolis and East St. Paul.
Additionally, we are contributing a white paper for the conference entitled, “Drowning in the Rising Tide”, that highlights the success of three of our grantees in linking community engagement and asset building strategies together to create targeted benefits for communities of color in the Twin Cities.
Nexus July Investment Actions
On July 20th, 2010 Nexus Community Partners approved our fourth round of grants for 2010. The grants represented work being done in two of our three geographic areas; South Minneapolis and East St. Paul.
Below you will find a brief summary of the grants:
Casa de Esperanza
Purpose: Nexus Funds will support the East Side Latino Community Engagement Project and the Centro de Informacion y Recursos information kiosk. The work will continue to focus on building and tapping into community connections—social capital—as a tool to support Latino families and the community at large. In addition, based on responses to their community listening sessions, Casa will enhance programming and begin “cross fertilizing” their community engagement programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of their community.
Strategic Fit: Nexus Community Partners is committed to authentic community engagement (CE) as the guiding principle for all of our activities and as a strategy for community members to build and enhance social, physical and personal assets. Our investment in Casa as a trusted community engagement partner has demonstrated great impact to date about how deep engagement in the East Side Latino community builds trust, shares knowledge, increases participation in broader community activities, and builds bridges with organizations and institutions who want to support the Latino community.
East Side Development Company
Purpose: Nexus Funds will be used to deepen and expand ESNDC’s Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future initiative. The goal of this initiative is to change the way ESNDC and the community work together to affect long term change in housing and quality of life issues on the Eastside.
Strategic Fit: A distinguishing feature of Nexus Community Partners is our willingness to support innovative models and programs, often times in their early stages and when no one else will, that build more engaged and powerful communities. Nexus was an early supporter of the Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future program, believing in ESNDC’s vision for the East Side and their ability as an organization to undergo the necessary organizational shifts to make it happen. Building Blocks began as a way for the community to better understand what was happening to their neighborhood in the midst of a foreclosure crisis and has evolved into a multi-faceted, multi-cultural community revitalization initiative. It has also built the capacity of ESNDC and helped them shift their perspective on their work and the role of community in their work.
East Side Family Center
Purpose: Nexus Funds will support the East Side Family Center’s Mortgage Foreclosure Counselors and expand their capacity to provide budgeting services to families in need.
Strategic Fit: In 2008, Nexus Community Partners was an early investor in the East Side Family Center’s Mortgage Foreclosure Counselor position and in 2009 we built further capacity by adding an additional counselor to assist with the growing demand. This support and capacity has allowed the ESFC to assist nearly 100 families, with nearly 50% of those remaining in their homes. Over the course of these two years, the ESFC has seen an obvious gap – budgeting assistance for those who lack the financial understanding and skills to stabilize their finances. Investing in this opportunity supports additional resources, provides proactive foreclosure measures and expands impact. This grant aligns with the East Side Housing Initiatives’ goal to build on existing capacities and fill gaps that exist. There continues to be a strong and growing need for foreclosure prevention services on the East Side and this grant will allow the East Side Family Center to continue providing the services necessary to those in crisis.
Lake Street Council
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support Lake Street Council’s Lake Street History Project as a community engagement and asset building project among entrepreneurs and residents in the Midtown section of South Minneapolis and also as part of their larger marketing plan for Lake Street.
Strategic Fit: This grant supports Nexus’ goal of creating effective intersections between community engagement strategies and community development approaches. As we have built the organizational capacity of LSC to improve the Lake Street commercial corridor over the past several years, we have also intentionally requested that LSC continue to connect and maintain ongoing relationships to the surrounding neighborhood’s organizations and their residents. This strategy by Nexus ensures that there will be a greater link between neighborhoods and commercial corridor entities and that these relationships will continue to build and result in greater community impact.
For the past several months, Nexus has been hard at work co-creating an evaluation system that better captures our work and the work of our grantees. As an intermediary, Nexus relies on our grantees' data to show our work is producing positive results in our geographic areas. We know that our data is only as good as theirs and their ability to capture it. Typically, organizations that provide funding, determine the information they need and then tell their grantees to collect the information. This process often adds unnecessary levels of work and stress to already resource-strained organizations.
Frustrations often cited by community organizations include:
Organizations don't know they need to be collecting certain data at the time the grant is approved.
Different funders will have different interests and therefore ask for very different types of information, creating the need for multiple data collection tools and processes.
Questions funders are asking, or data they're asking organizations to collect, aren't the relevant questions or the relevant data, leaving organizations to feel that there is a lack of understanding about their work and the broader context within which that work takes place.
Organizations lack the capacity - staff and/or systems - to collect and report on the data.
As Nexus proceeded to build an evaluation system and tools, we didn't want to add layers of work to our grantees and we wanted to ensure our evaluation was reflective of their work and relevant. Nexus' primary focus was on the development of a new Grant Request and Grant Reporting form along with an online database to better enable our grantees to capture and communicate their work. Before we began drafting these new forms, we invited our grantees in for a series of conversations. We divided our grantees into our two focus areas - Community Engagement and Asset and Wealth Building.
Our first meeting with our grantees was to talk about evaluation broadly. We wanted to share Nexus' intention and goals for 2010, but also to learn more about our grantees' evaluation process and procedures. During the meetings we discussed organizational values around evaluation and how those values are reflected in their evaluation process and procedures. We also heard from the organizations what they believe is the relevant information to track in order to capture the true nature of their work and the work of community building.
The grantees came back a week later to meet with our evaluator. In this meeting we discussed the types of information they are currently capturing and what information might be missing. The organizations agreed to complete an online Evaluation Survey detailing the information being captured, so that Nexus could build on their data and identify areas where additional capacity and information might be needed.
Based on this information, our evaluator began drafting Nexus' Grant Request and Grant Reporting forms. During the meetings with our Community Engagement grantees the discussion focused on creating a Community Engagement survey - a tool that could capture the rich and complex work of engagement. Our evaluator agreed to take the information the groups provided and draft a Community Engagement Survey that each organization would implement.
We are excited by the response we've received from our grantee partners and for the ongoing development of evaluation tools that will bring added value to the work of our grantees, Nexus and the field of community building and community development more broadly.
Northside Achievement Zone
"Now we all should seek to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities. But there are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of the methods of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things." - Martin Luther King Jr.
This quote summarizes what I felt while sitting with 50+ people at the latest gathering of the Northside Achievement Zone. In the room were politicians, community residents, organizational leaders, social workers, journalists, academics and more. Everyone in the room was in agreement that we can no longer accept in North Minneapolis academic failure for our kids. Instead, we are coming together, working together, struggling together, to create a new future for youth and families living in North Minneapolis.
The Northside Achievement Zone will, over time, create a new normal in North Minneapolis, one that celebrates the success of our youth in achieving their academic and life goals.
Failure is not an option. Not for our kids, not for our future, not for these efforts. The NAZ and its' partners are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that all kids living in the Zone graduate from high school college ready. That is the mission of the Northside Achievement Zone.
Our meeting began by reading aloud the names of all the victims of homicide in the city of Minneapolis thus far in 2010. I took a deep breath as the name of the young man, only 16 years old, who was shot on my block the day before Martin Luther King Jr. day. As we reached the end of the list, we all took a moment of silence to remember those who have passed.
And in that collective silence, I heard something. I heard outrage. I heard frustration. Together, as we paused in silence, I heard a group of people acknowledge that no longer will this to be the storyline for our kids in North Minneapolis, and instead we will create a new storyline that begins in the cradle and extends into and beyond college.
The Northside Achievement Zone is an innovative effort that continues to grow as a powerful collaborative poised to create significant change for youth and families in North Minneapolis. Nexus Community Partners has been connected to the NAZ from its' earliest stages. To learn more about NAZ visit their website at http://www.northsideachievement.org. To learn more about Nexus partnership with the Northside Achievement Zone, look at the Impact Study here.
Nexus May Investments
On May 18th, 2010 Nexus Community Partners approved our third round of grants for 2010. The grants represented work being done in two of our three geographic areas; South Minneapolis and East St. Paul.
Below you will find a brief summary of the grants:
American Indian Family Center - East St. Paul
Purpose: Nexus Funds will support the American Indian Family Center to explore the development of culturally specific homeownership programming for the American Indian community on St. Paul's East Side. At the end of this grant, the AIFC will have completed a comprehensive assessment and analysis of homeownership readiness and resources for the American Indian community on St. Paul's East Side, and a recommendation for culturally specific homeownership related programming for the AIFC.
Strategic Fit for Nexus
Nexus Community Partners supports approaches that result in asset building and wealth creation within communities of color in our three geographic areas. This grant aligns with the East Side Housing Initiatives' (ESHI) goal to build on capacities that currently exist in the community and to provide support where there are gaps. Homeownership is a key asset building strategy that helps to stabilize families and communities, but the majority of the American Indian community has not taken advantage of this opportunity. The AIFC is determined to find ways to understand and remove whatever barriers exist, and to provide appropriate skills and supports to their community to be able to take advantage of homeownership opportunities.
This planning project will serve as a platform for developing comprehensive and culturally specific homeownership programming for the American Indian community on the East Side of St. Paul, and inform our work in South and North Minneapolis. Supporting the AIFC's efforts to develop homeownership programming adds a missing piece to the housing infrastructure ESHI has helped put in place.
Casa De Esperanza - East. St. Paul
Purpose: Nexus Funds will support staff time to provide culturally relevant financial tools and resources to Latinas experiencing domestic violence. These financial tools and resources will promote economic stability and help build strong foundations for the future, including home ownership.
Strategic Fit for Nexus
This grant aligns with the East Side Housing Initiatives' (ESHI) goal to build on capacities that currently exist in the community and provide support where there are gaps. There is a demonstrated need for financial skills and resources for Latinas experiencing domestic violence. This population often exists under the radar of many service agencies and community organizations and their unique needs are often unmet. Nexus supports organizations who intentionally engage communities often overlooked by traditional or mainstream organizations. These organizations understand their communities and their unique strengths and challenges and are best equipped to address them.
This project will have impact at the residential level - addressing the need for financial skills and support for Latinas experiencing domestic violence; at the organizational level - building the capacity of staff to provide financial literacy and counseling services; and at the community level - linking with and better equipping organizations who want to work with the Latina/o community.
Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network - South Minneapolis
Purpose: Nexus funds will be used to support the continuing work of the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network's Immigrant (MIFN) Leadership School (ILS) model with Latino residents in South Minneapolis. Earlier this year Nexus provided a grant to MIFN in support of their initial engagement activities with Latino residents in South Minneapolis. These activities resulted in identifying a core group of 10 families and 12 youth, cultivating their leadership skills while addressing issues that they self-determined were important in their lives. Through this work, the residents determined that they were interested in learning root causes of key community issues and strategies to impact systemic change, particularly in the education and immigration system.
Strategic Fit for Nexus
This grant supports Nexus' goal to fund community engagement strategies that link engagement to broader community and economic development efforts. The proposed activities will help deepen the core leadership and knowledge of the immigrant residents participating in this project. Core group members will be able to practice decision-making, do planning, take action, learn about US systems, analyze their collective experience and the root causes of challenges facing their neighborhoods and come up with group solutions to help improve their lives and that of their families. This work will also complement the asset building work that Nexus has long supported in South Minneapolis with efforts to create more human and social capital among residents.
Community Connect Through Technology Project
In 2009, Nexus implemented "Communities Connect Through Technology (CCTP)" a one year pilot project layering technology, community engagement, and asset and wealth creation. By providing immigrant families in two of our three geographic areas a free laptop, computer accessories and a year's worth of internet access, Nexus anticipated their social networks would be enhanced and assets would be built. Nexus partnered with two organizations, East Side Neighborhood Development Company (ESNDC) in St. Paul and Project for Pride in Living (PPL) in Minneapolis in the development and implementation of CCTP. A total of 24 families, 13 from Minneapolis and 11 from St. Paul atten ded monthly trainings and additional one on ones with staff as part of this year long pilot project.
With the project complete, a formal evaluation is under way in contract with the evaluation firm Copeland Carson and Associates. We are excited to share some of the initial findings thus far:
Overall, CCTP participants have a high level of satisfaction with the project.
CCTP participants improved their computer and internet skills, with many indicating that they have email accounts and use their laptops and the internet on a regular basis. The report found that the most common uses for the laptops and/or the internet are email (96%), searching the internet (91%), learning English (87%), school (87%), and getting a job, buying a house or getting training (74-83%).
"Before enrolling into the computer training class ... I couldn't even turn on or off a computer, let alone use it for any purpose. At the level I am at today, I can not only check emails, send emails to my children's teachers, and connect with my family; I can write documents and save them on the computer and be able to use internet for job searches, homes, and general research." - Minneapolis Participant
CCTP helped participants and their families improved their asset building skills, particularly for employment searches. While no participants reported finding a new job while part of the program, most participants (70%) said they have used the internet to search for jobs.
CCTP participants expanded their levels of community engagement. Many participants shared examples about how CCTP improved their quality of life and opened up a new world of knowledge to them. All participants reported sharing their computer, internet access, and/or knowledge with others, suggesting that CCTP has impacted a wider community.
"I have skills that actually make my life easier. For example, before I used to always take the bus or drive to my children's school in order to check up on them and talk to their teachers about the progress. I only could do that face to face because I did not know how to use the computer. Now, all I do is just send an email and instantly I know where my kids are at in school." St. Paul Participant
We are excited by these early findings and we plan on publishing a full report later this summer along with a lessons learned guide for practioners as well. Stay tuned for this final report!
First Step Next Step
One hallmark of Nexus is our willingness to support new ideas and take chances where others may not. These experiences always teach us something, and every once in a while take us places we didn't expect.
Our grant to Employer Solutions, Inc. wrapped up on December 31, 2009. I spent the first quarter of 2010, checking in with the multiple partners that made the First Step-Next Step (FSNS) such a success. What made this so rewarding for everyone was the unintended benefits of the Community-Based Workforce Development Program. When Nexus, ESI and representatives from cultural communities first designed this component, we knew we were creating something new. We asked agencies who wanted to refer their clients to the FSNS training to provide on-going support to their client throughout the training and into job placement. All too often, people are referred to job training programs and for a variety of reasons, sick child, car trouble, etc., they aren't able to see it through. If the referring agency was able to stay in close contact with their client, then they could address any challenges that arose. We were looking for agencies that had a relationship with the participant.
Not all organizations that wanted to refer participants had the capacity to provide the ongoing support. So what happened? Job training organizations and community groups formed new partnerships and worked together in ways they hadn't before. They created a web of support for each person accepted into the training program. For example, if a participant was having some financial trouble they were referred to the Centers for Working Families. If the Cultural Wellness Center knew of a community member who would be the right fit, but they didn't have the staff capacity to provide the support, they connected them to Goodwill Easter Seals who could.
Each organization involved saw the difference it made for the training participants when they had the ongoing support services. They also saw the benefit of working together differently and the potential for strengthening workforce development programs for the East Side.
Learn more about our partnership with Employer Solutions Inc., and the First Step Next Step Program on our impact page here.
3 Questions with the City of Lakes Community Land Trust
The City of Lakes Community Land Trust (CLCLT) is a community-driven organization, affordable homeownership organization serving households seeking to purchase homes affordably and responsibly in the City of Minneapolis. Specifically, the CLCLT:
Creates opportunities for low-income households who otherwise might not able to purchase a home to be able to do so
Ensures that the homes remain affordable for future households in the event the first household decides to sell, and
Provides ongoing support (post-purchase trainings, events, community information) to homeowners ensuring successful homeownership
We recently asked Jeff Washburne, CLCLT’s executive director, to respond to a couple of quick questions regarding their work for our blog.
Nexus: What's the easiest way for someone to understand how the land trust model works?
Jeff: The CLCLT makes affordability investments (ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 - depending on household income), assisting low-income buyers move into homeownership. In consideration for this investment, homeowners agree to return the investment and to share a percentage of any increase in property value if and when they decide to sell. The resulting agreement has the effect of creating and perpetuating housing affordability now and into the future.
Nexus: Three years ago you coined the term "homeowner centric" to describe your thoughtful and strategic approach to homeownership? Can you describe this?
Jeff: For CLCLT, viewing every aspect of our work through a homeowner-centric lens acknowledges that successful homeownership goes beyond the homebuyer closing and the physical structure they purchased. While housing production and preservation are essential components to community development, CLCLT believes that a people focused approach to housing will best strengthen neighborhood recovery efforts and advance social, economic and racial equalities in Minneapolis.
This unique approach, one of the only kinds in the country, is a win-win-win for the homeowner, the community, and for the CLCLT.
Nexus: There are a lot of ideas about how "housing recovery" should look in the Twin Cities as we look to come out of the recent foreclosure and economic crisis. Why won't the "same-previous-housing-crisis-response-fits-all" approach work today to rebuild neighborhoods devastated by the housing crisis?
Jeff: We need a people-approach to solving housing problems versus a housing approach to solving people issues.
For all too long, housing policy has applied old ways of doing things to familiar problems -such as distressed housing markets - without getting to the root of the problem. Community Land Trust homeownership not only provides affordable housing to low-income households, but does so in a way that provides a keystone of stability in communities through a "homeowner centric" approach to housing that assures the community that the home remains an asset of the community and that resid ents will be involved, owner-occupants. The CLCLT has and will continue to take a homeowner centric approach to creating perpetually affordable housing that advances the social, economic, and racial equity disparities that exist across the neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
To learn more about the work of the City of Lakes Land Trust, you can visit their website at http://www.clclt.org or visit their Facebook fan page.
Nexus March Investments
On March 22nd, 2010 Nexus Community Partners approved our second round of grants for 2010. The grants represented work being done across our three geographic areas; North and South Minneapolis and East St. Paul.
Below you will find a brief summary of the grants:
Community Neighborhood Housing Services (CNHS) – East St. Paul
Purpose: CNHS will build on their work with the Cultural Wellness Center, using their experience and lessons learned, to develop programming aimed at increasing the financial and homeownership skills and knowledge of the African American community on the East Side of St. Paul.
Outcomes: This project builds upon the work of a 2008-09 pilot with the Cultural Wellness Center and CNHS. One key learning from the partnership was that within the African American community there exists a need for both foundational financial education and literacy and more mainstream homeownership classes and opportunities. By continuing to fund both the Cultural Wellness Center and CNHS, Nexus is helping create a “homeownership continuum” for the African American community on the Eastside.
Hmong American Partnership (HAP) – East St. Paul
Purpose: Assist HAP to further develop their housing program while providing culturally- and linguistically-appropriate housing education, outreach, and counseling services that are needed to address the urgent housing needs of Hmong community members on the East Side of Saint Paul.
Outcomes: As HAP continues to address the growing housing needs of its community, this grant provides space for the Director of Housing and Economic Development to strategically guide the expansion of their housing program, while building its internal capacity to respond to the housing needs in their community.
Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) – South Minneapolis
Purpose: Support the pilot year of the Lyndale Women’s Leadership Program (LWLP), whose purpose is to develop Latina and Somali women in the Lyndale neighborhood as community leaders.
Outcomes: This program presents an opportunity to fund place-based community engagement efforts with two cultural communities, occurring through a traditional neighborhood organization. LNA’s efforts will build a skilled leadership base of Latina and Somali community members working towards equitable neighborhood revitalization goals in their neighborhoods.
Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) – North Minneapolis
Purpose: Support the outreach, resident engagement and leadership development strategies of the Northside Achievement Zone.
Outcomes: NAZ creates a coordinated, strategic and long-term approach to address the challenges and opportunities of North Minneapolis. This strategy represents an opportunity to enhance the quality of life of residents in this area by bridging community engagement strategies with asset building strategies centered on education.
Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDA) – East St. Paul
Purpose: Support the marketing and outreach efforts of NeDA’s expanded services in the areas of credit, debt management and bankruptcy counseling.
Outcomes: A core component of our work is the support of approaches that result in asset building and wealth creation within communities of color in our three geographic areas. There is a demonstrated need for financial counseling services, particularly credit repair and debt management for the Latino community, and a clear gap. This grant will enable NeDA to expand its outreach and visibility on the East Side, thereby providing greater access to needed credit counseling and debt management services to a rapidly growing Latino population in the neighborhood.
Center for Working Families
From the foreclosure crisis to the current recession, the Twin Cities is seeing new gaps and challenges in our collective work of revitalizing communities. The Twin Cities is home to a diverse community with large immigrant populations and historic communities of color where there is a high percentage of working families that are unbanked and live at or just above federal poverty guidelines. These families are at greater risk of using wealth depleting tactics such as check cashers, payday lenders, and pawn shops.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s, “Building Family Economic Success” fact sheet,
Up to 20 percent of all American households do not have an account with a bank or credit union, meaning they must pay for services like check cashing and bill paying, and they are unlikely to accumulate savings.
Take-up rates for work supports, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps and child care, are well below 100 percent, and many are below 50 percent.
Forty percent of all white children and 73 percent of all black children grow up in households with zero or negative net financial assets.
Few low-income workers are advancing to higher paying jobs: one study found that only 27 percent of workers who earned less than $12,000 a year from 1993–95 were consistently earning more than $15,000 six years later.
To address this gap and to help families build assets, the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD developed the Center for Working Families (CWF). The CWF is a convenient neighborhood location that helps low-income families who are already attached to the workforce increase their earnings and income, reduce their financial transaction costs, and generate new wealth for themselves and their communities through a comprehensive coaching strategy.
Since 2006, Nexus Community Partners and Twin Cities LISC have been supporting CWF models in the Twin Cities located in South Minneapolis with Project for Pride in Living and on the East Side of St. Paul with Lutheran Social Services (Common Bond Communities also operates a CWF site in the Cedar-Riverside area of Minneapolis).
By investing in long-term relationships, providing strong financial coaching and access to a bundled set of financial services and education, these organizations have been able to provide individuals a new set of supports and resources to increase economic stability and independence.
Going forward, these organizations, Nexus and Twin Cities LISC have come together to begin a strategic conversation about how we might work together to create a collaborative and regional approach to providing a new model of financial services that better meets the needs of Twin Cities residents. This network will expand and increase the impact of the CWF model, working together to increase the asset building skills and wealth of Twin Cities residents in East St. Paul, North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis.
 “Building Family Economic Success: Centers for Working Families”, Annie E. Casey Foundation http://www.aecf.org/upload/PDFFiles/FES/fes_cwf.pdf, 2005.
Defining Community Engagement
In the spring of 2008, Nexus Community Partners convened a multi-cultural group of community engagement experts from St. Paul and Minneapolis to help Nexus better define and create a framework for community engagement and to discuss Nexus’ potential role in this field. The ensuing conversation was incredibly rich and helped guide Nexus’s work, which holds community engagement at its core.
One of the most memorable moments for me came when Lupe Serrano, former executive director of Casa de Esperanza, said that community engagement was not just about transformation within the community, but also about an organization's willingness and ability to be transformed itself. Wow, I thought. In her observation I found my definition of community engagement. Community engagement is not about input, it’s about participation, and it’s about power. If we are engaging the community than we are listening - we’re listening for and helping to raise up the community’s voice, their ideas, their values. And if we are listening than we are responding.
How many of us, dedicated to the practice and process of community engagement are willing to have our organizations transformed by it? As we engage the community, are we willing to share ourselves, our power and our resources? Are we open and willing to change how we do our work and maybe even our work?
In 2008, we didn’t know that in two short years everyone from the NCAA to politicians to news organizations would be using the term community engagement. Community engagement can mean so many different things to so many different people. For me, I always return to Lupe’s observation and use it as my definition and my guide.
The Evaluation Process
For the past few weeks Nexus Community Partners staff has been immersed in evaluation work in partnership with a number of our grantees and our consultant Copeland Carson and Associates.
The process itself has been formative for Nexus staff and a few key thoughts has emerged for me regarding the role and function of evaluation.
It seems as if too often evaluation ends up simply being about the validation of a particular program. Does it work or doesn’t work? In our meetings it was insightful to hear from organizations that see their evaluation as being about more than just measuring effectiveness, but as a method and tool to display the values that drives the work of the organization. Success is measured first by the organization, which then helps to inform the broader community. This lead me to think that if fully embraced as a philosophy and practice by an organization, evaluation can be a very valuable method of helping organizations learn about themselves as well as how they relate and/or are perceived by the broader community around them. This then helps shift evaluation into a practice and not just a function within an organization.
Yet we know that developing this culture of evaluation can be quite a shift given the daily demands of an organization’s work. And as with any cultural shift, the implementation of this work is the harder and more challenging task. As Nexus has learned for itself and from what our grantee partners have shared with us, implementation needs to be done slowly but intentionally so that organizations can simultaneously learn from the process while engaging in the hard work of shifting the culture of evaluation within their organization.
In the next month, Nexus hopes to emerge with a set of key evaluation questions that will inform how we collect data and demonstrate community outcomes. We also plan to create a database that will collect this information. In our work of building the field of Community Engagement, we hope to develop a survey with our grantee partners to capture what and how community residents feel about their neighborhoods and quality of life. Lastly, Nexus will continue to build organizational capacity of our grantee partners around the value and practice of evaluation.
As an interesting resource check out six common myths of evaluation here.
Every month Nexus Community Partners staff selects a piece of research, an article or some other selected work to read and discuss together as a team. This month we read an article by Xavier de Souza Briggs, acting secretary for policy development and research at HUD and assistant professor of public policy at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The article was entitled, “Doing Democracy Up-Close: Culture, Power and Communication in Community Buildin
As a staff we discussed the critical difference between going through the “empty ritual of participation”, as Briggs states, “to sharing power in real ways that affect the outcomes of neighborhood revitalization processes”. We also acknowledged how sometimes organized efforts to engage residents can have the opposite effect of marginalizing community voices rather than creating authentic points of participation. And that one key way to avoid that unintended consequence is to be focused on building long term relationships of trust and mutuality that weaves into communities a strong fabric of social capital and collective efficacy.
Near the end of our time we began utilizing the symbol of a door to speak to the points of entry that need to exist inside of organizations and communities where community members can authentically be a part of shaping their neighborhoods.
We challenged ourselves to examine which doors to our work are wide open, and which are closed, and to reflect on how Nexus lives out our mission and values in the communities that we work in.
Are we as an organization being respectful of culture and power and all of the nuances that go into authentic community building efforts?
Are there places of improvement for us in our own work?
If community members were interested in knowing what activities Nexus was a part of in their community, could they find an entry point, an open door in which to ask questions or participate?
All in all, another fantastic time learning together as a staff.
Click here to link to the article.
Prosperity Campaign: Envisioning a prosperous East Side of St. Paul
For three years the Prosperity Campaign brought together 64 organizations to build relationships and to share their vision for an engaged, prosperous community. During that time, the organizations created momentum for collaborative social change and kept alive the dream of community prosperity in spite of the fragile economy. When the Prosperity Campaign ended in 2008, the commitment to the process remained and the momentum for change was strong.
During the final meeting of the Prosperity Campaign in November 2008, approximately 15 individuals volunteered to serve on the East Side Planning Group. The multi-cultural, multi-sector group of leaders accepted responsibility for shaping a community vision and long-term action plan for the East Side. They agreed to meet monthly over a period of 6 months to determine how they will combine their unique perspectives and contributions to advance social and economic prosperity on the East Side of St. Paul.
Although these organizations and individuals had been together at the Prosperity Campaign table for 3 years, this process asked them to work together in a different way – more intentionally and more collaboratively with a shared plan of action. The goals for the 6 months were ambitious, but the individuals at the table were all deeply committed to the process. During their brief time together, the East Side Planning Group made significant progress, including the drafting of an initial vision document that broke down into four issue areas. Those areas are:
Community Wealth and Prosperity
Community Voice, Belonging and Action
Community Health and Wellness
Community Education and Learning
Nexus’s role has been to ensure the voice of the community is infused in the vision and subsequent plan. Nexus is partnering with several culturally based organizations, such as Casa de Esperanza, the Cultural Wellness Center, and the American Indian Family Center, all of whom place community engagement at the center of their work.
A lot of work still needs to be done, but the groups are deeply committed to the process and realizing our goal. Nexus will continue to be at the table providing strategic thinking and guidance as they explore innovative ways to better serve communities and realize a vision for the East Side of St. Paul.
Buildng Blocks for a Sustainable Future
Nexus Community Partners focuses its work in two areas: Community Engagement and Asset Building Initiatives. We know that alone neither focus area will result in building more engaged and powerful communities. However, by bridging these two areas we can help create an actively engaged community that has greater power over and responsibility for the decisions that shape their community and is in a better position to take advantage of various asset building opportunities. With the end goal being the achievement of more equitable and sustainable neighborhood revitalization.
Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future is an excellent example of how community engagement has strengthened the housing work on the East Side of St. Paul and fueled a larger neighborhood revitalization effort.
In 2008, with support from Nexus Community Partners and Invest St. Paul, East Side Neighborhood Development Company (ESNDC) embarked on an ambitious community engagement program called “Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future”. The program was created to engage with the community and to help them take control of their mutual self-interest in stabilizing the residential areas of the neighborhood hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. ESNDC targeted 20 city blocks within the Payne Phalen neighborhood. This area has the second highest number of foreclosures in the State of Minnesota and is weighed down by more than 100 vacant and/or foreclosed residential properties.
To date the “Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future” program has successfully brought over 100 renters, homeowners, and rental property owners together by employing a system of culturally and linguistically relevant outreach, organizing, and engagement. Many people confessed to never having attended a community meeting before and just as many stated that they didn’t even know their neighbors. Through a series of community planning workshops the community created a housing “Quality of Life” plan. ESNDC staff and resident leaders presented the housing “Quality of Life” plan to City officials, neighborhood organizations, community development entities and other decision makers and interested organizations. This outreach attracted the interest of numerous community development partners and City staff who wanted to work with a community that is engaged and invested in its future.
In 2010, ESNDC will deepen its work within the African American, Latino and Hmong communities, while bringing together the residents and the business community to develop a broader vision of long term community prosperity. This is a pivotal time for St. Paul’s East Side. In many ways, each challenge brings with it an opportunity for the community to reframe its future. But this can only happen if the community comes together. The residents, business people, property owners, organizations, and institutions must be brought together in all of their diversity to express the desired changes through a collective vision. This is a model and a lesson to be shared throughout our area.
Why Asset Building?
Since our inception Nexus Community Partners (formerly Payne Lake Community Partners) recognized that asset building is key to helping communities and neighborhoods thrive for future generations. Originally, we saw this work as building small businesses, building employment and training opportunities with larger businesses and institutions and by increasing homeownership amongst immigrants and communities of color.
Through our initial support of key cultural CDC’s like African Development Center (ADC) and Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) we helped build the capacity for small businesses to start and grow in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
We were also able to partner with others to bring the successful Center for Working Families to the Twin Cities, bringing support to workers through the provision of bundled financial services, career laddering assistance, coaching and income enhancements.
Lastly, with support of a $2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Nexus Community Partners created the East Side Housing Initiative (ESHI). This initiative works to increase homeownership rates in East St. Paul by providing a unique framework centered around readiness (preparing and educating potential homeowners), access (ensuring proper products when residents are ready to buy), and success (preventing foreclosure).
Over time, Nexus has expanded our definition of asset building to include investing in the development of more responsive and responsible asset builders, developing greater levels of social and human capital in neighborhoods and leadership development. Our asset building strategies are a strong compliment to our community engagement strategies, together both help build more engaged and powerful communities.
A Year of Exciting Changes
It's been another year of exciting change at Nexus Community Partners (formerly Payne Lake Community Partners), leading most notably to our new name and identity.
In 2009 we made a breakthrough in clarifying our niche, representing a culmination of a strategic re-thinking process begun in 2007. By building on lessons learned, a review of grants and thought leadership, and a comprehensive strategic planning process, Nexus Community Partners has emerged with a more focused mission and strategy.
Nexus recognizes that to achieve equitable and sustainable revitalization we must effectively link building the social, human and cultural capital of a community with the development of its physical and economic capital. As a result, our current activities focus on two key community-building strategies: asset building and community engagement.
As a community building intermediary Nexus specializes in strengthening the social and human capital of the region’s most excluded communities—pre-developing community capacity to take advantage of the opportunities provided by established housing, economic and business development intermediaries and other organizations.
Nexus Community Partners utilizes a toolkit of revitalization strategies, including convening diverse community residents and leaders; acting as a cultural mediator between grassroots residents and mainstream funders and developers; community outreach and engagement; promoting civic participation; community organizing; as well as incubating model asset-building initiatives in the areas of workforce development, successful homeownership, digital technology access, and financial literacy.
This toolkit positions us as a community building specialist focused on strengthening the social and human capital of a community, including its capacity for collective problem-solving, mutual aid and assistance, and the development of a shared sense of identity. While Nexus has a history of community building programs, in 2009 community building became our primary mission and focus.
We’re excited to launch our new website and encourage you to learn more about the work of Nexus Community Partners.