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NACD’s DEI Task Force on the Significance of Local Work Groups

In July 2020, NACD’s Board of Directors produced a statement on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which called for the formation of a DEI Task Force. The Task Force reviewed NACD internal governance, examined programs, policies and procedures. Conservation is important to all communities and to be effective, we must improve our reach into diverse communities and actively engage people and communities are not normally reached or face additional barriers to access services.

The following is an excerpt on the Significance of Local Work Groups from the Task Force’s final report.

The locally-led conservation effort is the foundation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s conservation program delivery process. The local working group supports the locally-led conservation effort by coordinating USDA programs with other federal, state, tribal and local conservation programs to provide an integrated solution to addressing natural resource concerns.

Local working groups, convened by the local conservation district, provide recommendations on local natural resource priorities and criteria for USDA conservation activities and programs. Local working group membership should be diverse and focus on agricultural interests and natural resource issues existing in the local community. Meetings should occur at least once a year and should be open to the public. For more information, contact your local NRCS District Conservationist.

There are a variety of factors to be considered when conducting local work group meetings, which could in fact be limiting/affecting meeting access to some members of the local community.

Factors:

  1. Lack of outreach to underrepresented/underserved communities, different disciplines and stakeholders
  2. Lack of access to meetings (too far away, lack of transportation, inability to access remotely, no phone conference/listening capabilities provided by the conservation district, lack of internet access, lack of phone services, translation services, sign language)
  3. Public notice/announcement: Timing of publishing; funding to cover the expense can be a challenge for some districts; translation of announcements
  4. Materials – have documents translated into other languages spoken within the CD and appealing depending on the audience
  5. Equipment

Recommendations:

  1. To keep them engaged, tell stakeholders what the conservation district and NRCS will do for them and how we will use their input with the input they have provided. Plan for the next meeting of the Local Work Group, including a date, location and agenda
  2. Newsletters – include them on distribution for local newsletters to keep in contact with them on what CD is doing. Communication more than one time a year.
  3. Develop materials such as public notice/announcements, agendas, materials presented at meeting, etc. in other languages to reach non-English-speaking producers/partners
  4. Place announcements in locations underrepresented/underserved communities meet and congregate; visit in their languages and provide information for special accommodations if needed
  5. Look for ways to meet remotely by using new technology, phone lines, etc. If not access to new technology, use newspapers or local media to share information.

To read the full report and toolkit visit NACD’s website.

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