Agriculture Future of America (AFA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing, preparing, and empowering almost 1,000 college students and young professionals as transformational leaders in the food, agriculture, and natural resources industries. AFA’s programs provide a pipeline for these future leaders to build their skills and connect with over 150 companies and partner organizations in agricultural fields.
THE CHALLENGE Develop robust internal DEI initiatives representative of a changing industry demographic
AFA considers cultural EQ (emotional intelligence) to be one of six core competencies essential to leadership development. However, AFA’s success at building inclusion into their student leadership programs led the company to recognize they needed to strengthen their own internal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and set the tone for a new industry standard.
To properly reshape their internal policies, AFA sought out a team of DEI experts who could not only meet AFA’s specific needs and goals but also understand their unique role in the agricultural sector and the many people they serve. A diversity specialist within their network referred AFA to The Diversity Movement (TDM). TDM’s depth of knowledge, holistic approach, and ability to personalize sustainable solutions made them the ideal partner in AFA’s DEI journey.
We needed a shared language, a shared understanding, and a common identity around what DEI means as a commitment organizationally. It felt incredibly daunting because we work with students, with young professionals, and with industry leaders, so we needed someone that could help us get a pulse on all those different stakeholders.Katie Gaebel Director of Programs, Agriculture Future of America
THE SOLUTION A customized DEI action plan, educational tools, and a public commitment to growth
AFA’s busy program calendar meant creating and presenting the initial stages of their DEI plan to the board and staff during their slower summer months. TDM delivered, impressing AFA with their level of detail and amount accomplished within a tight schedule.
Surveys, listening sessions with employees and student leaders, and a thorough review of internal processes allowed TDM to identify areas for improvement in company culture, talent recruitment, and retention. Talking through each point, TDM and AFA set clear goals and put performance indicators in place to measure their progress.
During this time, the first online training course, Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox – Essentials, was introduced to AFA staff. An additional key milestone was TDM’s assistance in finalizing AFA’s DEI commitment statement, now a valuable resource in AFA’s communications with partners and stakeholders.
TDM was transparent throughout the whole process. Because they helped us put such a strong action plan into place--because it spoke back to everything the staff had opened up about in the listening sessions--the staff really felt validated and heard.Katie Gaebel Director of Programs, Agriculture Future of America
THE RESULTS An industry-wide ripple effect fostering deeper discussions, awareness, and connections
In collaboration with TDM, AFA developed and rolled out their DEI action plan within five months. Among their achievements:
- Ongoing DEI programming and training for all staff
- Updates to internal recruiting process, compensation scales, and leadership succession plans
- Publication of their DEI statement
- Enhanced ability to educate and support program participants
AFA’s dedication to DEI has garnered enthusiastic feedback from employees, student leaders, and industry partners alike and encouraged greater engagement between them. Member organizations are asking how to tap into DEI programming, and they’re looking to AFA to guide the conversation going forward.
As their DEI initiatives evolve, AFA knows their partnership with TDM will continue to empower them in their goal of opening more doors of opportunity and ensuring they provide a welcoming space for all people.
We now have the GPS coordinates. Before we were doing things because it felt important, but we didn't know where we were going or why those things were important. TDM gave us the structure and language to be able to articulate that.Katie Gaebel Director of Programs, Agriculture Future of America