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Watch the Recording: LOCAL Fund Info Session

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The Shared Ownership Center @ Nexus explains what a cooperative is, the impact worker-owned cooperatives and real estate investment cooperatives have on our communities, and the qualification criteria for the LOCAL Fund’s grants and technical assistance.

The LOCAL Fund: Worker Ownership offers grants and technical assistance for worker co-op startups, conversions of existing businesses, and existing co-ops in St. Paul. The LOCAL Fund: Community Ownership supports the development of shared-ownership commercial real estate in St. Paul, with grants and technical assistance for predevelopment, acquisition, demolition, and rehabilitation of commercial properties.

Learn more by watching our information session below!

Did you hear that the People’s Canvass (formerly Knock Knock LLC) has become a worker-owned cooperative?

The Minneapolis team that built the nation’s largest deep canvassing team in November, and collected 16,000 signatures to put the Yes ‘4’ Minneapolis public safety initiative on the ballot, has broken new ground as the United States’ first political canvassing worker cooperative. Nexus Worker Ownership is proud to have supported them through this process.

“I’ll be the first to say it — I knew nothing about how any of this co-op stuff worked. I’m a canvasser. I go to the door and I talk to people about issues in their community,” said Charlie Bartlett, a lead trainer at The People’s Canvass and a member of the co-op transition team. “But working with Nexus gave us a vision and a pathway to achieve that vision. In the same way we feel called to do the work to improve our communities, the folks at Nexus are called to make that work itself more equitable.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative for a free consultation at www.ownwork.org.

Nexus Community Partners is excited to announce that we are recruiting a diverse group of 8-10 dynamic leaders from Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities for our 2019 Cooperative Development Fellowship Program.

The seven-month program is targeted at individuals/consultants who would like to become cooperative developers, organizations wanting to add cooperative development to their services or incubate a cooperative, and other professionals (e.g. lawyers, capital providers) who are interested in supporting cooperative development. We are also interested in recruiting applicants who will focus on assisting business owners and their employees who want to convert to worker ownership. Please note that the Fellowship is not designed for individuals wanting to start their own cooperative.

The Fellowship includes the following:

  • Opening Retreat
  • 3 intensive, in-person trainings
  • On-line training modules
  • Group webinars with national cooperative practitioners
  • Local Site Visit
  • National Site Visit
  • Project design and presentations
  • Coaching and support from Nexus and DAWI.
  • Closing Celebration

All training, coaching and off-site travel expenses will be covered by Nexus.

The Fellowship requires a time commitment of between 75-85 hours over the course of seven months, with participation in all program activities mandatory. A timeline for the program is available in the application below.

Applications are due February 25, 2019.  Visit this link for our online application.

Before you complete the application, we request that you attend one of our information sessions. You’ll get the chance to learn more about the Fellowship program and ask questions. In the event you are unable to attend, we can schedule a short one-on-one phone call. Please contact Nkuli Shongwe at nshongwe@nexuscp.org  to register or schedule a call.

For more information contact program officer Elena Gaarder at egaarder@nexuscp.org or community wealth building coordinator Nkuli Shongwe at nshongwe@nexuscp.org.

North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship 2018/2019 cohort sessions have started off well! The first cohort meeting dug into the history of cooperatives and the society in which we live in that bread a necessity for cooperatives to exist. We also discussed how modern-day society makes it difficult for black businesses to remain afloat without systematic structures trying to tear them down. Our second session dove into the role capitalism plays into the overall success of a cooperative economy and the need to bring it to fruition. And our most recent cohort session dissected the cooperative bylaws and development – what makes cooperatives successful and what foundations are necessary for keeping the cooperative stable. It asked a difficult question: what is most important to the board – profit or the people? Through this, many of the members revealed the ingrained roots of capitalism and have continued to tackle the multilayered issue of social inequality with curiosity and understanding. The pessimism that surrounds our community due to the weight of social inequality can be back breaking, however, this is only true if you allow it to consume you.

In partnership with Hlee Lee of OMG Media, the East Side Funders Group is launching a series of stories to lift up the amazing business community on the East Side of St. Paul. Check out the first story: Cook St. Paul: From Childhood Memories to Community Collaborations

We all know Serlin’s, it was a staple on the East Side for what seemed like forever, well nearly 70 years. Edmond Charles

Photo credit OMG Media: Eddie Wu, owner of Cook St. Paul, bought the “weird food photos” from the original owners.

Hansen III, aka Eddie Wu, remembers it too. His father was a firefighter stationed on Payne Avenue.

‘My dad would get off work at the fire station and I would get dropped off there,” Wu said. “I’d help with his side job: washing windows or trimming trees. The deal would be he’d give me $5 but also he’d take me out to eat and usually he’d let me choose. And I could never remember the name of Serlin’s, but I remember the pictures on the wall. Those food pictures. So I would say, ‘Can we go to the place with the weird food pictures?’ And he knew.”

Check out the full story here.

Nexus’ longtime partner and board member, Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), was recently featured in The New Food Economy:

Pakou Hang, 42, was born in Thailand, but she’s been an American for all but two weeks of her life. Hang, the child of Hmong refugees resettled in the United States and grew up in Wisconsin, where her parents supported the family by farming. Today, that history deeply informs Hang’s own work: She’s co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), headquartered on a 155-acre research and incubator farm 15 miles south of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Facing persecution as U.S. allies in the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War, more than 100,000 Hmong refugees have relocated to the United States since the 1970s. They brought their agricultural prowess with them. In past decades, Hmong-American farmers helped to pioneer the contemporary local food movement in California and the Midwest, popularizing ingredients like Thai chili peppers and bok choy; today, Hmong farmers account for more than half of the produce sold in St. Paul’s farmers’ markets. Founded in 2011, HAFA helps to sustain that legacy by providing pilot plots, professional training, and a food hub—the key piece of processing and distribution infrastructure that makes doing business possible. 

Hang spoke about her upbringing, her childhood resistance to the farm life, and why she decided to come back home and make agriculture her calling and career.

Read the full story here.

We are so proud to call Pakou a partner, and are excited to see the continued growth and support for HAFA and Hmong farmers both locally and nationally! Cheers to you Pakou!!

Written by Nkuli Shongwe

Nexus Community Partners and Village Financial Cooperative held the first annual Blackonomics Conference. The two organizations brought together over 60 people from the Twin Cities, Denver, Oakland, and Chicago. Blackonomics is an intentional gathering of Black folks in the Twin Cities and the Midwest that are working towards Black cooperative economics and solidarity economics.

The weekend kicked off Friday evening with a welcome dinner where we enjoyed incredible food from Chelle’s Kitchen. The air was filled with joy and celebration. The space was blessed by Amoke Kubat , a write, artist, teacher, Yoruba priestess and community elder who took part in Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. After dinner, we had a fish bowl conversation about cooperation, healing, and Blackness. One of the participants from Chicago was moved by the conversation and suggested that we needed to actually give money to the cause. He spontaneously pulled out a $20 bill and threw it on the ground. This prompted people to dig into their wallets and give what they could to the cause. By the end of the night people contributed over $180.

Saturday morning we had incredible breakfast from K’s Revolutionary Kitchen. After breakfast, everyone sauntered off to the three different morning break-out sessions. Danielle Mkali led a session about the steps of cooperative development. LaDonna Redmond Sanders and Makeda Toure led a session about the cooperative principles and values. I led a session about the historic and present local, national, and international BIPOC cooperatives. During lunch, we had the opportunity to learn about Mandela Foods Cooperative from the keynote speaker, Adrionna Fike. Adrionna is a worker owner of the BIPOC grocery coop in Oakland, California. Adrionna told the story of she found her way to Mandela Foods Cooperative, gave some history about the grocery store and the journey they are taking which included freeing themselves from a disempowering relationship with Mandela Marketplace, hiring more worker owners, and forgoing moving to a larger space which used to house the 99c store. After the Keynote, we had the last breakout sessions. Isaiah Goodman led a session about Becoming Financial, Renee Hatcher, a human rights and community development lawyer, led a session on the legal basics of starting a co-op, and Julia Ho and Salena Burch led a session an building solidarity economies.

After we adjourned the day, we headed to Coop Fest which was led by Cooperative Principles, a co-op investment club. We celebrated cooperating and had the chance to donate to up and coming co-ops incubated by Minneapolis’ C-TAP program, Women Venture, and Nexus’ North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship. Each group gave a brief presentation about their cooperative and stated how much money they needed. There was a lot of excitement and jubilation in the air. At the end of the night, people donated money to the coops they were most interested in and the ones they supported.

Blackonomics came to a conclusion on Sunday. We spent the morning envisioning what cooperation would look like 30 years from now. Dr. Rose Brewer, a professor of Afro American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, and Irna Landrum, a digital campaign director at Daily Kos led us through and activity about how we would build, maintain and develop and Black solidarity economy in the Midwest. After a lot of robust conversation we decided to build out our networks and invite more Black folks to our movement. We then identified who wanted to take initiative and be part of the planning process for the next Blackonomics conference which would be bigger than and just as amazing as the first one. We ended our day by expressing our gratitude of being in the space and how we felt after the long yet rewarding weekend.

Blackonomics was a beautiful, melanin filled space, that provided healing, hope, love, warmth, joy, and community.

Participants discussing coops in small groups

Written by Nichelle Brunner


Walking into Room 105 of the Urban Outreach-Engagement and Research Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis, the room setup is perfect for group discussion, planning and work around cooperatives. The large room is filled with tables draped in colorful table cloths, and on the front walls, the co-op values and principles are centered.

In the room, there are over 20 community members, business owners and partner organizations who have come ready to engage and to learn about cooperatives and their role in our cultural history.

This was the first of a 2-part Co-op Learning Series hosted by Nexus Community Partners, a community building intermediary in the Twin Cities. Repa Mekha, President and CEO of Nexus, opened the meeting by introducing the Nexus staff and Nexus’ commitment to a strong, equitable and just community in which all members are afforded multiple access points to generate and sustain wealth.

During the almost 3 hour long meeting, Nexus introduced the room to the definition of a cooperative, the importance of  culturally-based economic development, and the idea of using cooperatives to build democratic communities.

Storytelling, power, and cooperative movements

Following the introduction, LaDonna Redmond, Seward Community Coop’s Diversity and Community Engagement Manager, approached the mic stand.

With a commanding and energetic presence, LaDonna set the foundation of her presentation by defining exactly what a coop is.

Grounding structure of coops

“One, a coop is a legal structure. That means it’s a business. Two, it also has a social justice lens. These two things tend to overlap in a coop structure.”

Once the foundation was set, LaDonna presented the history of coops and the importance of power and oppression in storytelling.

“I will start with telling the story of the Rochdale Pioneers. They say the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 created the contemporary coop movement, meaning that they codified, or wrote down, the principles [of coops] as they understood them. So they show you a picture of 10 white men in England, where one of the dudes had the baddest mushroom haircut I’ve ever seen in my life,” LaDonna said, as the room erupted in laughter.

“But what they don’t tell you is the Rochdale Pioneers organized themselves to take control of their economic destiny. That doesn’t come across when you see the photo of these 10 white men. Me, a Black woman, when I saw this I thought, ‘This is only for white people.’ So when we talk about the narrative of coops, we have to talk about power and who has the power to tell these stories.”

For the next 30 minutes, LaDonna challenged the “white’s only” cooperative narrative by highlighting the stories and histories of Blacks in the United States.

“In 1787, 60 years before the Rochdale Pioneers, Africans formed cooperatives for their freedom in the U.S. The Black Panthers 10 Point Platform has the same values as our local coops. When someone asks me what is a coop and cooperation, I say it’s the Underground Railroad. It’s all the pieces and principles coming together.”

Back to the basics

Participants reflecting on the coop timeline development activity

For the final part of the meeting, guests were asked to get in pairs and participate in a gallery walk. On the walls of the room were pictures and descriptions of various coops, such as New York City’s Colors Cooperative, Oakland’s Mandela Marketplace, Pine Ridge Reservation’s Owíŋža Quilters Cooperative and Minneapolis’ Village Trust Financial Cooperative. As they circled the room, the pairs reflected on common themes and coop principles.

At the end of the gallery walk, guests shared their final thoughts and what resonated with them regarding cooperatives. One participant commented on one thing that is missing from nonprofit and federal programs.

“When we transition programs to nonprofits and to the federal government, community is lost in this transition. Coops can bring that back,” said one participant.

Everyone stressed the importance of getting back to the basics, as was summed up by one of the final thoughts of the evening.

“Capitalism and white supremacy are in place so we don’t practice what is at our basic core. If you take away those things, cooperation is human nature. It makes sense because it’s who we are.”


If you have any questions regarding the Cooperative Learning Series, feel free to reach out the Nkuli Shongwe, the Community Wealth Building Coordinator- nshongwe@nexuscp.org

In a recent Next City article titled “City Halls Now Hiring for Community Wealth Building,” Reggie Gordon lifted up community wealth building as a strategy that cities across the country are beginning to invest in.

Reggie Gordon is the director of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building, the first of its kind in the nation. As he says, minorities all too often suffer from high unemployment or are pushed into low quality, service-sector jobs that don’t give them the opportunity that they need.

“The first step is to call it out,” says Gordon. “This isn’t fictional. Sixty years ago, there was intentionality around redlining and segregation that led to concentrated poverty. And here we are in 2018 receiving the byproduct of those intentional decisions … It’s up to us to be just as intentional about solving these problems.”

Check out how Community Wealth Building is gaining momentum around the country!

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) CSA shares are back at Nexus again this year! Sign up today for your spring and summer shares to pick up Thursdays between 12-4:30pm at Nexus Community Partners.

Welcome to the 2018 HAFA CSA! We offer fresh produce and flower shares throughout the growing season. The HAFA CSA features produce grown by Hmong farmers in the Greater Twin Cities area. When you purchase a HAFA CSA, not only are you committing to eat fresh produce, you are investing in local farmers and your community.

Check out HAFA’s CSA site for more information and to sign up today!

For Nexus Community Partners, business conversions to worker ownership is part of its community wealth building initiative that seeks to promote local and broad-based ownership and encourage economic practices rooted in cultural communities.

This work received a shout out in the Nonprofit Quarterly’s “Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability.”

“If you’re a boomer business owner planning for succession, you can’t afford to overlook the employee ownership option,” writes Lori Shepherd in Entrepreneur.

At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business owner to do so?

While the ability to defer capital gains tax is a factor, it turns out there are also powerful market incentives. A wave of retirements (2.4 million, Shepherd estimates) has long been expected in the decade or so to come, and as Shepherd points out, “In a crowded marketplace, transferring full ownership to the workers may represent [retiring owners’] best chance to sell their businesses at fair market value.”

Full article here

Nexus is proud and excited to share that three of our community partners are receiving the 2017 Bush Prize for Community Innovation!

Congratulations to Appetite for Change, the Hmong American Farmers Association and the Latino Economic Development Center for the well-deserved recognition and added capacity for all your amazing work in community!

“Now in its fifth year, the Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. As models of true problem solving, they work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make their communities better for all.

“’The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that are creative, fierce and dogged in the way they work and in what they accomplish,” said Bush President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “As models for problem solving, they consistently pick a path of innovation that drives profound results for their communities.’” 

Read the entire announcement and learn about all seven 2017 Bush Prize winners from the Bush Foundation here.