The One Acre Fund Way
What is culture? It’s the way we act when we’re at our best. It should reflect our values (the big beliefs that anchor everything we do as an organization). But our culture is more personal. It captures how we each strive to act. It’s the daily behaviours that matter the most—and make us uniquely us. This is our culture. This is the One Acre Fund Way.
Put Farmers First
We keep farmers at the heart of our daily work.
Farmers are our inspiration. They have the most important job — growing the food that we eat. Every day, farmers work hard, tilling the land, sowing the seed, and selling their harvest. When farmers succeed, whole communities prosper.
Farmers shape every decision we make. Everything we do—every training, every delivery, every meeting, every spreadsheet, and email—is in service to farmers.
When we are at best, we live out our motto: Farmers First!
Putting Farmers First in Action
When COVID-19 hit, we needed to figure out what putting Farmers First meant in the context of a global health emergency. We determined the most important thing we could do was to draw on our delivery expertise to supply millions of kilograms of soap to farmers to facilitate handwashing. We also saw an opportunity to leverage our trusted community ties to disseminate crucial health trainings to the communities we serve.
Our procurement teams reached out to existing and new suppliers to purchase 2.3 million kilograms of soap – some of whom agreed to drive up production to help us meet our target! With just weeks to work with, we used our distribution networks to deliver this soap at no cost to farmers.
Traditionally, our delivery model involves large groups of farmers meeting in one spot to receive their supplies; we switched from mass group distribution to one-on-one home deliveries. In other places, we used our regional offices as distribution points for small group pick ups. We also trained our field officers on prevention measures and behavior change geared towards physical distancing for onward dissemination to farmers. Finally, we created guides on how to build at-home handwashing stations using readily available material, and partnered with local organizations to teach farmers to make washable, reusable masks.
You can read more about our Farmers First approach to COVID-19 here.
Think Like a Business
We pursue our mission by serving our customers.
Our business is improving the lives of our customers. Guided by our mission, we use the discipline of a business to deliver cost-effective services to millions of people. We believe that heart plus rigor can change the world.
We aim to scale because each new client is a farmer who matters. Each year, we ensure more and more families access life-improving farm services.
We spend resources efficiently, putting every dollar towards what’s best for farmers. We always ask ourselves: How can we use our resources to do the most good?
We deliver impact as our bottom line. Farmers invest their hard-earned money with us. We multiply it into more crops in their fields and income in their pockets.
Think Like a Business in Action
Click here to read about some of the ways in which we put these concepts into practice.
Insist on Impact
We measure our success by the impact we create.
Insist on impact
We measure our success by the impact we create.
Impact starts with helping farmers grow more this season than they did the last. We can see our impact firsthand, in healthy fields and big harvests. But impact doesn’t end there.
Agriculture is passed down through generations, so we plan with farmers for the long-term. We help farmers manage swings in weather and crop prices. We equip them to broaden their diets, enrich their soils, and build assets for their children.
We aim to make hunger history and farmers more prosperous. Impact is our guiding light.
Insist on Impact in Action
Maureen Ongachi, one of our clients in Western Kenya, joined One Acre Fund in 2015. Her life looks very different today. Here's her story.
Go to Gemba
We go to the place where the work really gets done.
Gemba can be a farmer’s field, a warehouse, or a group leader meeting. Or it can be a colleagues’ desk, a call center, or a team meeting. Gemba is anywhere someone uses what we’ve made.
We go to Gemba because we learn best by seeing our work in action. Maybe our customer is a field officer leading our new trainings, or a colleague trying our new tool. To understand their needs, we observe them firsthand.
Either way, it rarely works exactly as planned—and that’s how we improve. We love testing our ideas against the challenges that reality throws our way. We try, and fail, and try again until we get it just right.
Have you gone to Gemba lately?
Going to Gemba in Action
“Plenty of ideas can sound good on paper and fail in the field. My best insights come from spending time with field officers, who work directly with our customers.
On one field visit, I asked a field officer, ‘Could we see what’s in your bag?’ He took out piles and piles of papers sent from headquarters—just for a single week’s work.
I took a photo of it back to headquarters, and showed it to all the teams who were sending out documents, and said: ‘How is this field officer supposed to pick what’s most important this week? Let’s fix this.’
A year later, when I asked the same question, the field officer pulled out a few neatly organized documents, each one clearly connected to his work with farmers.”
— Eric, Rwanda
Grow through feedback
We use feedback to fuel our growth.
We run on the active exchange of ideas. We all have insights to offer and areas to learn. Feedback helps us make our work, our organization, and each other better.
We give feedback generously. We share praise often and phrase constructive feedback with care. When we raise concerns, we always propose solutions, too.
We receive feedback openly. We ask often for input on our decisions and insight on our performance. We use the added perspective to guide our growth.
We apply feedback actively. We revise our drafts, refine our decisions, and develop our skills. As we improve, we strengthen our services to farmers.
Grow Through Feedback in Action
We asked six staffers to share the most useful feedback they’ve received over the years and to tell us about how they applied it to their work. This is what they had to say.
Own the results
We take responsibility for the outcome of our work.
We are a team of owners. We rely on established processes, but we’re not just following instructions. We take personal responsibility for seeing our work through to the end result, and for making our work better for next season.
We roll up our sleeves and deliver real products to real people. We rise to challenges and get stuff done because our customers deserve no less. We know that late seed is worthless—and that the rains are coming.
As owners, we also know that executing like last season isn’t good enough. When we see an area for improvement, we step up and own it. When thousands of us make small changes, we make big breakthroughs for farmers.
Own the Results in Action
In 2019, our farmer call center in Kakamega, Kenya, answered an average of 1,109 calls from farmers each day. Our customer service team is highly efficient and resolves most calls within three minutes.
But when we asked farmers for feedback on the end result, we found that many farmers were frustrated because they were unable to get through to our lines when they called. We learned that around 150 clients a day couldn’t get through to an agent on the first try.
So we doubled our phone lines, increasing our ability to receive calls concurrently. Within a month, the number of farmers who couldn’t get through had dropped to just 6 clients a day. By taking ownership for this small change, we built from good customer service to outstanding customer service―for 345,956 calls last year!
Lead by example
We all lead by serving others.
We are all leaders. Leadership isn’t just a title, it’s the example we set every day, in every role. It’s the personal responsibility we feel for making the organization better. It’s putting the mission before the team, and the team before ourselves.
Leadership is how we empower the people around us. It’s building others’ abilities, earning their trust, and inspiring their best effort. It’s collecting input before making a decision, and explaining it before acting.
Lead by Example in Action
We asked our staff which leaders they feel exemplify “Lead by Example” best, and one name quickly rose to the top of the list: Gaudence Niyompatsi. Meet Gaudence and hear our Rwanda team explain how Gaudence embodies “Lead by Example.”
We draw on our differences to strengthen our work.
Collectively, we’re a diverse team united by a common purpose. As a group, we represent a wide range of nationalities and cultures. As individuals, we each contribute unique identities and life experiences.
We make better decisions with diverse perspectives at the table. So we seek out people with new experiences and make room for new voices. We use our differences to refine our thinking and improve our services.
We do our best work when we realize the full potential of all our people. Diversity makes us stronger.
Advance Diversity in Action
We’ve always based our decision-making deeply rooted in thinking about the farmer and her needs. And, as our organization and leadership teams have grown, we’ve been able to get more perspectives that help us see ways in which we can continue to push ourselves to serve farmers and support our staff even better.
Hear Leonce Ngaboyakema recount his experience on how including more diversity of thought improved goal setting with our field operations team in Rwanda in 2017.
We rally as a team to realize big goals.
Our work requires collaboration. Each season, we must deliver millions of orders, at the right time, to the right place. Dozens of teams act in an unbroken chain, one after the next. We all pull our weight and do our part.
When things go wrong, we lean on each other. We come together to reprioritize and reset. We’re willing to be flexible to help fix the problem.
When things go well, we celebrate together. Picture a big harvest, stacked to the ceiling. Doesn’t that make you want to dance?
Together, we are capable of incredible accomplishments. We are all proud to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Rally Together in Action
Each season, we must deliver millions of orders, at the right time, to the right place. Pulling that off requires a coordinated effort from nearly every single team.
- We plan: Our program innovations and new country expansion teams plan ways to reach more farmers, and our government relations teams build local support
- We raise money: Our finance team projects the number of farmers to reach, and our business development team raises capital to offer farmers goods on credit
- We test products: Our product innovations team run trials of new products to offer each season, and our monitoring, evaluation and learning team measures the impact for farmers
- We buy supplies: Our global inputs team orders 41 million kilos of bulk farm supplies, and our logistics team stores them at warehouses in 10 countries
- We sign up customers: Our field operations and technology teams support 7,000+ field offers as they collect orders from more than a million customers
- We collect deposits: Our technology and business operation teams ensure great customer service as farmers pay small deposits on their orders
- We distribute orders: Our logistics and field operations teams distribute correct, on-time orders in 2,500 delivery sites, within walking distances of farmers’ homes
- Customers pick up orders: Thanks to the coordinated efforts of thousands of staff, farmers pick up their quality seeds and supplies in time for planting