The Story of the Blue Line Coalition

  • By Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, December 14, 2017

How Philanthropy Can Promote Equity through Community Engagement

This post was written by Nexus Community Partners and The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota

When Nexus Community Partners and The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota heard that there was a light rail extension planned to connect Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park, they knew there was an opportunity to leverage their resources to support community power in the process. Many of the neighborhoods that the light rail extension would pass through are home to a population of majority people of color and immigrants who would likely be left out of the conversation if traditional planning processes were followed.

There is a long and damaging history in this country of transit planning and development negatively impacting communities of color, especially historically African American communities. We need look no further than the Rondo Community in St. Paul, Minnesota, decimated by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1950’s and 60’s, when highway planners failed to engage and listen to the concerns of the community. As Patrick Troska, Executive Director of the Phillips Family Foundation said,

“If the community wasn’t engaged in this decision from the very start, then the outcomes the community needed wouldn’t have been accomplished.”

Nexus and Phillips are organizations committed to living out the values of community engagement and working alongside community leaders and organizations. They believe that every community member, especially those who have been historically oppressed or ignored, should have access to opportunities to influence decision-making that affects their lives. Using their resources to fund and support community engagement was critical to ensuring all of the community could benefit from this large public infrastructure investment.

Beginning in 2012, Nexus and the Phillips Foundation partnered to fund and convene a group of organizations that would later become the Blue Line Coalition to engage communities of color in advocating for equitable outcomes in the planning of the Bottineau Blueline light rail extension through North Minneapolis and into Brooklyn Park. Today, Blue Line Coalition members have seen their impact on the policies and structure of the light rail plans, and in building community capacity.

The Blue Line Coalition has created videos that demonstrate the power of funding community engagement as a key strategy to advance equity in our communities. Watch the video to learn more about the Blue Line Coalition’s work and to learn how you, too, can be involved.

Please contact Annelise Rittberg at if you have any questions about this partnership or the work of the Blue Line Coalition.