Two months ago, I shared a new round of diversification commitments at One Acre Fund, primarily focused on leadership representation. As promised in that letter, I am now announcing a broader agenda of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts at the organization, and publishing a public work plan to hold ourselves accountable.
Why DEI Matters at One Acre Fund
One Acre Fund now has a moment of alignment that DEI and anti-racism is our top organization change priority – from our board, our global and in-country leadership, and staff. As I have written previously, One Acre Fund is not where we want to be on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and on becoming a truly anti-racist organization. Today we are publishing a public work plan that describes our current round of efforts through early 2021 – with further actions to be announced in the coming months and years. We welcome the chance to be held accountable to a transparent process, and welcome both support and challenge as we seek to improve as an organization.
As I look to our 10-year future, I believe that our DEI and anti-racism work is the most important for achieving more organization performance. I have always believed in the foundational importance of people, and stewarding an environment where people can achieve their best. One Acre Fund aspires to build a culture where all staff feel consistently valued, represented, and connected – so that our team can thrive as professionals, and achieve exceptional impact for the farmers we serve. I have seen the way that diverse and inclusive decision-making makes us stronger in both strategy and execution. We must improve with urgency.
Our DEI Commitments and Status Update
Transparency and accountability are important to create change. Below I share updates on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion commitments. Also, here is a link to our more detailed public work plan.
Foundations: We’re welcoming more expertise and accountability
- We have created a diverse, independent staff DEI council made up of members representing our country programs and many of our global teams. This group will advise on all key initiatives around DEI; hold our country and global leadership teams accountable for urgent and substantial progress; and champion change within teams and across the organization.
- We need experienced experts to advise us. Our Board of Directors, with input from representatives of the independent staff DEI council, is near to finalizing the hire of external DEI consultants. These external consultants will review our current performance management processes, hiring and retention practices, leadership structures, and other critical areas related to DEI outcomes at the organization. They will provide detailed recommendations to help us chart a DEI roadmap for 2021 and beyond.
Diversity: We’re ensuring our global and country leadership teams are diverse
- As I shared in my previous post, we’re in the process of dissolving our most senior leadership team (the General Partners) and forming a new leadership body to better represent the staff, farmers, and countries we serve. We’ll be doing this in partnership with the DEI Council and the external consultants. The new leadership body will become active in January 2021. We believe that a more diverse leadership group will lead to stronger strategy outcomes, and also structurally improve DEI and anti-racism work.
- All our country teams have now drafted country-level leadership diversity plans, which cover how teams will achieve our commitment to having at least 50% African representation on Steering Committees within the next year for any teams not already there, and to having an African Country Director or Deputy Country Director on all country teams. Country leaders will share these plans with their respective country teams this month for feedback from staff.
Equity: We’re reviewing our performance and development processes to remove potential bias
- A diverse staff committee is in the process of reviewing our career performance management system (which is both outdated and was originally written mostly by white Americans), and will hear feedback from more than 500 staff in re-writing it. This will also benefit from the experience of independent external experts. A new performance system will be rolled out in early 2021. We hope that this work will both improve performance management overall at One Acre Fund, and structurally address any source of potential bias. We are also improving the representativeness of our Promotions Committee--which reviews management-level promotions in the organization--and expanding its mandate to more proactively identify and address any inequity in career growth.
- As we roll out an improved HR information system this year, we are expanding our investment in collecting and monitoring key people data. This will enable us to consistently and proactively scan and improve outcomes related to diversity, equity and inclusion, such as promotion rates.
Inclusion: We’re providing training and strengthening our reporting processes
- In the next few months, we’ll introduce substantive anti-racism and anti-bias training for all staff. There will be heavier training and coaching options for leadership and managers, who stand ready to engage, learn, and embrace change. Moving forward, we’ll adopt the core concepts of this training into how all our staff, especially managers, conduct their work at One Acre Fund on a regular basis.
- We’re strengthening our existing grievance and whistleblowing procedures to ensure they are publicized, understood, and accessible to all staff.
As we set our overall work plan, we have attempted to strike a balance between urgency and authenticity of meaningful change. We will miss some milestones, kick off new initiatives, and have setbacks. But just like in our field programs, we will set ambitious goals, and do everything in our power to achieve them. Reaching ambitious goals is made possible by building on the existing work we have done in prior years. Going forward, I hope that publishing our commitments and regularly reporting on progress will help to maintain an ongoing commitment to meaningful change in the organization.
DEI and anti-racism are deeply connected to our organization’s mission and purpose, now more than ever. Operating as an effective organization requires diverse viewpoints in strategic decision-making, and an inclusive and equitable environment where all staff can build fulfilling careers and feel valued, represented, and connected. This supports overall organizational performance, and ultimately, better service delivery and more impact for the hard-working farmers we serve. I look forward to sharing regular updates on our growth and learning.