An education on health equity and transit

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

 

An education on health equity and transit

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond listening, my responsibilities boil down to three areas:

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

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

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

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

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

A Broader Framework for Economic Development:

Nexus Community Partners Elevates Community Wealth Building in the Twin Cities

Juxtaposition Arts, Broadway,North Mpls

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

  • Authorship: Engaging community

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

  • Leadership: Cultivating power

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

  • Ownership: Building community wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please welcome our new staff member Avi Viswanathan!

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

avi-viswanathan-headshot

 

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

Please welcome our new staff member Annelise!

  • September 26, 2016
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

anneliseAnnelise came to Nexus in the summer of 2016 as an intern through New Sector Alliance’s nonprofit summer fellowship program. Her internship focused on supporting the Better Bus Stops program to promote transit equity in the Twin Cities region. Annelise: After my fellowship ended, I was hired on as a Capacity Building Assistant. In this role, I continue to primarily work on Better Bus Stops while also assisting with development & fundraising, and providing administrative support to the Director of HR & Finance.

I will be finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota this December. After graduation, I hope to continue the work that I have begun in the nonprofit world of the Twin Cities.

I am honored and proud to work with the dynamic, thoughtful, equity-driven leaders at Nexus. When I’m not at Nexus, I am studying, baking, or looking at French bulldogs on Instagram.

 

Funders Briefing Business Conversion Opportunities (By Invitation)

  • September 23, 2016
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Did you know that nationally, 66% of businesses are owned by the baby boomer generation, with 85% of the businesses having no succession plans? As a result, many businesses could be closed, sold or relocated, leading to significant job and tax revenue loss. The trend however, presents a unique opportunity to transition businesses to employee ownership, thereby preserving jobs, keeping businesses local and creating ownership opportunities in communities of color.

In an effort to inform partners and develop strategies to capture this opportunity, Nexus Community Partners, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and Oakland, CA based Project Equity will host a Funder Briefing on Wednesday, October 12th from 10:00 am to 12:00 PM in the Wellstone Center, located at 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul, MN 55107,

The funder briefing will present efforts underway nationally, and local data prepared by CURA that highlights the potential impact and opportunities for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.

Please consider attending the briefing. It promises to be a lively and informative conversation. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Elena Gaarder, Program Officer, egaarder@nexuscp.org.

Repa Mekha – President & CEO

 

Nexus BCLI Announces Its Fourth Cohort!

  • September 21, 2016
  • By: Chai Lee
  • In: General

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 14, 2016

Building More Equity Champions:
The Twin Cities Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute Announces its Fourth Cohort!

Nexus Community Partners is thrilled to announce the selection of 16 fellows for the 2016-2017 Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI).

The BCLI is a seven-month leadership program designed to identify, train, and support placement of dynamic leaders of color and underrepresented communities onto publicly appointed boards and commissions in the Twin Cities. BCLI fellows help advance an equity agenda across several sectors and issue areas.

This group of 16 leaders also includes 2 fellows from Duluth, indicating the statewide reach and appeal of the program.

The fourth BCLI cohort members are:

Allysia Jenkins, nominated by The University of Minnesota School of Nursing
Ayan Hassan, nominated by The Wesley Center for Spirituality, Service and Social Justice at Hamline University
Chakita Lewis nominated by Resources Health Center
Hodan Hassan nominated by People for Pride in Living
Hieu Nguyen nominated by BCLI Alumni
Jacquelyn Thomas nominated by Village PTSA
Jocelyn Beard nominated by BCLI Alumni
Jonathan Harris nominated by Leading Individuals and Families to (L.I.F.T) to End Poverty
Manu Lewis nominated by Minneapolis Neighborhood & Community Relations
Salaam Witherspoon nominated by Community Action Partnership – Duluth
Sheronda Orridge nominated by BCLI Alumni
Shannon Eckman nominated by Minnesota Homeownership Center
Shaun Williams-Wyche nominated by Wilder Neighborhood Leadership Program (NLP)
Sindy Morales Garcia nominated by The Wilder Foundation
Susie Green nominated by Community Action Partnership – Duluth
Thamyr Goalafaie nominated by Department of Labor & Industry, State of Minnesota

The BCLI is building momentum within local governing bodies, as decision makers become not only representative of, but accountable to, our communities of color and other marginalized communities in the Twin Cities. The incoming BCLI fellows join 41 alumni, 24 of which have been successfully appointed on a board or commission or hold a high level policy position, and all of whom are building and pushing racial, social and economic equity in the community. Collectively we look forward to ensuring equitable outcomes in local and regional public policies. Biographies of each fellow can be found on Nexus’ website, http://nexuscp.org/our-work/boards-and-commissions-leadership-institute/current-fellows/. The Twin Cities BCLI has been adapted from the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute originally created by Urban Habitat in Oakland, California.

Please help us welcome and celebrate the incoming cohort at the BCLI Launch Event on Thursday, October 6th,  2016 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at Twin Cities campus of Saint Mary’s University (East Banquet Room) University Center, Twin Cities Campus, 2540 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404. The theme of this year’s launch is “Strengthening Champions for Equity”. Come meet the fellows, mingle with BCLI alumi, and hear from local leaders about the equity movement. The event is free, but please register online: (https://tcbcli1617launch.eventbrite.com)

For more information about the BCLI, the launch or ways to become involved, please contact the program director, Ms. Terri Thao at tthao@nexuscp.org or program coordinator Mr. Chai Lee at clee@nexuscp.org.

 

Nexus is Hiring!

  • September 16, 2016
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Nexus is looking for an energetic, innovative and strategic thinker to lead the Institute for Community Engagement both locally and nationally.

Nexus Community Partners seeks a full time Program Director (40 hours a week, includes benefits) to support Nexus Community Partners’ Institute for Community Engagement (Institute). The Institute is a learning, practice, and leadership center designed for individuals, organizations and institutions from across the country to learn about authentic community engagement. The Institute is an evolution from the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement (www.buildthefield.org) and is a direct response to the growing demand for community engagement tools, knowledge and best practices from individuals, foundations, community-based organizations, government agencies and institutions.

Nexus Community Partners is a community-building intermediary whose mission is to “build more engaged and powerful communities of color by supporting community-building initiatives and foster social and human capital.”

 Position Responsibilities

Program

  • Program growth and management responsibilities will include continuing the development of the Institute into its next phase of delivering high quality learning opportunities for local and national audiences; convening of partners; coordinating logistics; and leading program expansion and expenditures in accordance with the program budget.
  • Lead in researching and developing an earned revenue component of the Institute working in collaboration with the Director of Finance and HR.
  • Facilitate a cross-sector Advisory Committee that will help shape direction, strategy and implementation of the Institute.
  • Lead the design and coordination of the Institute’s learning opportunities, including the Engaged Learning Series, workshops, etc.
  • Develop and implement a communication’s strategy for the Institute including promotional materials, outreach materials, monthly blogs, website updates, and coordinate additional communication support, such as with consultants.
  • Develop and implement an evaluation system to ensure the Institute is reaching its goals and achieving its outcomes.
  • Supervise support staff, interns, and/or fellows

External Relations

  • Actively build connections, locally and nationally on behalf of the institute that will enhance the work and continue to build the field of community engagement
  • Identify and develop relationships with content experts to help develop and deliver content for the Institute.
  • Lead in the development and delivery of presentations at forums, conferences, workshops, etc.

Organizational

  • Participate in fundraising by co-writing and editing funder reports and/or proposals for the Institute.
  • Develop community awareness of Nexus and be a positive, dynamic presence for Nexus.
  • Function effectively as a leader and problem solver in order to ensure that the goals and objectives of Nexus are met.
  • Provide support as needed for other projects, such as the broader evaluation and communication for Nexus.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree preferred and/or 5-7 years relevant experience in nonprofit and/or community work.
  • 5+ years’ experience in leadership positions, either in community, a volunteer position, or past employment.
  • 3+ years’ experience working in partnerships and collaborations cross-sectors and with multiple partners.
  • Understands and embraces efforts that promote racial, social and economic equity and asset-based community change.
  • Proven ability to facilitate dynamic groups that have different levels of knowledge and/or understanding.
  • Demonstrated experience taking ideas from conceptualization to implementation.
  • Demonstrated understanding of and experience with authentic community engagement.
  • Experience designing and/or delivering high quality, interactive learning opportunities.
  • Ability to think strategic and long-term while managing multiple projects and deadlines.
  • Capacity to work cross-culturally to achieve understanding and results. Ability to establish and maintain trust readily with a diverse set of partners.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the role culture and history has as a foundation for building strategies in cultural communities.
  • Knowledge of research methods and practices.
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills
  • Proficient computer skills including Microsoft Office programs (Excel, Word, and PowerPoint). Design skills a plus.
  • Must have personal transportation available for use, ability and willingness to travel on occasion.

The ideal candidate would be able to start November 2016.

Nexus offers a competitive salary and benefits package.

Salary range: $70,000 – $80,000 (plus benefits)

The Program Director will report to the Director of Strategic Development.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and cover letter via email by October 7th, 2016 to:

Felicia Ring

Nexus Community Partners

2314 University Ave W, Suite 18

St. Paul, MN 55114

Email: fring@nexuscp.org

http://www.nexuscp.org

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

NEXUS IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

How is your bus stop experience?

  • August 30, 2016
  • By: Lynette LaFontaine
  • In: General

Metro Transit wants to hear from you!

In the Twin Cities region, Metro Transit riders took 85.8 million trips on buses and trains in 2015! Bus ridership accounts for the majority of these transit trips —about four out of every five trips.

Metro Transit is currently investing $4M in bus stop improvements to enhance access to employment and educational opportunities for communities of color and low-wealth communities in a program called Better Bus Stops. The Better Bus Stops program is improving the experience for thousands of Metro Transit customers who use transit on a daily basis and fulfilling Metro Transit’s commitment to regional transit equity.

Up to 200 new customer waiting shelters in are currently being added to Metro Transit’s service area, with a priority investment to communities of color and low-wealth communities. Half of the shelters are at new locations and the rest replace existing shelters, according to Metro Transit’s equity plan.

In 2015, the Community Engagement Team (a partnership between Nexus Community Partners, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs) awarded contracts to 11 community-based organizations in Minneapolis and St. Paul to engage transit riders in their communities to provide valuable feedback on their bus stop experience. Ultimately their feedback will guide the future policies of Metro Transit.

In addition Metro Transit wants to hear from you! Your voice will impact Metro Transit’s shelter placement, bus stop improvement guidelines and how Metro Transit can enhance regional equity and access to education and employment opportunities.

Metro Transit’s survey

To learn more about Better Bus Stops go to http://www.metrotransit.org/better-bus-stops

Please join us on Wednesday, September 14th for our third conversation in our Community Wealth Building Learning Series: “Infusing Investments to Expand Community Wealth Building Initiatives.” In this session, we will explore the Community Wealth Building framework and “lift up” financial models that contribute to local and broad based ownership. Presentations and discussion will focus on cooperative financing, community sourced capital and the role of philanthropy in supporting for and non-profit business enterprises. We hope you can join us!

When: September 14th from 9:00am to 12:00pm (light breakfast & networking from 9-9:30)

Where: UROC, 2001 Plymouth Ave N. Minneapolis

Guest speakers include:
  Ricardo Levins Morales/RLM Studios, Artist, Author and Activist
Kim Arnone/Vice President, Cutting Edge Capital (Oakland, CA)
Joe Riemann/Associate Director, Shared Capital Cooperative
John Fetzer, Program Officer, Northwest Area Foundation

REGISTER HERE

Engaging Community for Better Bus Stops!

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

In 2015, the Community Engagement Team (a partnership between Nexus Community Partners, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs) awarded contracts to 11 community-based organizations to engage transit riders in their communities as part of Metro Transit’s Better Bus Stops program. The program is investing $4M in bus stop improvements to enhance access to employment and educational opportunities for communities of color and low-wealth communities in the Twin Cities. To learn more about the great engagement work that the Harrison Neighborhood Association is doing for the Better Bus Stops program to advance transit equity, read this exciting article:

http://streets.mn/2016/08/10/rider-requests-for-better-bus-stops/