Most of America’s Farm Owners Are White. This Program Is Rooting for More Diversity

Christina Chan connects with her family through food.
As a first-generation Chinese-American, Chan searches for ways to embrace her Chinese heritage. She doesn’t know much of the language and she doesn’t hold the same traditional values of her parents. But she does share a mutual love for soup dumplings. 
And a love for traditional Cantonese dishes. And a craving for simple dishes, like Chinese leafy greens steamed with oyster sauce. When she eats, she’s connected to her roots. 
“Not only do we use food to show each other care and affection, but it’s the part of my culture that I can understand the most,” she told NationSwell. 
While her family’s shared culture is a major part of her identity, it’s not the only one. She is also a farmer, which is part of why she’s committed to eating local organic produce. 
But Chan struggled to find organic versions of her favorite Chinese vegetables in New York. When walking through Chinatown or Jackson Heights, she couldn’t find t organic versions of the vegetables she grew up eating. “It felt like I had to choose between that part of myself or my culture,” she said. 

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Chan pinches a bunch of basil she’s just finished harvesting for the season.

Chan’s struggle represents a bigger problem in American farming. The crops our country grows aren’t diverse, and it’s partly due to a lack of diverse farmers.
The 2017 USDA Census on Agriculture surveyed 2.7 million principal producers in the United States. Of the 2.7 million, only 16,798, or .7%, identified as Asian. 38,000, or 1.4%, identified as black or African American. At 2.6 million of the 2.7 total, white farmers made up a majority of the principal operators. 
The statistics in Chan’s home state, New York, show a similar pattern — 97% of farms belong to white men, and their average age is 57 years old. While a majority of owners are white, farmworkers are overwhelmingly Latino.
“A system where over 90% of the people are white men is not a resilient system,” Gabriela Pereyra, the Beginning Farmer Program manager at GrowNYC, told NationSwell. “A system that is resilient, it must have diversity.”
The lack of diversity impacts communities in all kinds of ways. It means individuals living in New York City, one of the world’s most diverse populations, don’t always have access to fresh produce used in traditional recipes. It means young people don’t have mentors in a potential career path. It means that communities are disconnected from farmers, and therefore, disconnected from their food. 
So GrowNYC set out to narrow the diversity and age gap between farmworkers and farm owners. “We needed a new generation to bring food to the city,” Pereyra said. 
The nonprofit knew there was a population of young, diverse farmworkers, but because many were immigrants, they lacked the knowledge to navigate the U.S. farm system and establish their own business, explained Pereyra. 
In 2000, GrowNYC launched the New Farmer Development Project, a program to support Spanish-speaking farmers interested in starting their own agricultural business. A decade later, the program merged into what’s now called FARMroots. FARMroots offers both technical assistance for established farmers and a Beginning Farmer Program, open to any farmer with less than 10 years of experience. 
While any new farmer, regardless of background, can apply to the Beginning Farmer Program, the nonprofit is focused on cultivating a diverse group. This year, 40 people applied who immigrated from seven different countries and speak 12 different languages.  
The program is structured as an eight-week course where the 15 accepted farmers will learn every aspect of farming: Finances, land ownership, crop rotation, tractor driving, greenhouse management and land access are just a few they’ll delve into.
After the course, GrowNYC pairs the novice farmers with an established farmer. They’ll spend 200 hours on the established farm and gain firsthand experience.
“We’re not only talking about farming. We are creating the new generation,” Pereyra said. “A new generation that speaks about diversity, equity, community.” 
Kama Doucoure is one of those farmers. After completing the Beginning Farmer Program in 2017, he launched his own farm this March.
Doucoure, who immigrated to the U.S. 12 years ago from Mali, Africa, had been farming since he was 6 years old, Pereyra said. But when he got to New York, he couldn’t find an entry point into farming. Instead, he worked “every single job you could imagine.”
Meanwhile, his community, which is largely West African Muslim, didn’t have the proper foods to celebrate religious holidays. Doucoure was connected with FARMroots, where he completed the Beginning Farmer Program. After, Pereya worked with him to find the right land and location for his farm — he now works in Saugerties, New York, a two and a half-hour drive from Manhattan.
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Christina Chan stands in a backyard garden in Astoria, Queens, where she grows produce for a local chef.

As FARMroots developed its program, Chan was on a winding path to discovering her career in farming. She had initially planned to attend vet school but pivoted and earned a master’s in conservation science. She quickly learned that fieldwork wasn’t a long-term career route for her, so she went to London to volunteer at an urban farm. “And that’s when I kind of put all of these pieces of the puzzle together,” she said.
Chan loved being outdoors. She loved eating. And farming was at the crossroads.
She came back to the U.S. and started an apprenticeship in Hudson Valley. She then worked as a farmer and educator at Randall’s Island Park Alliance. There she met her boss, an alumnus from the FARMroots program, who suggested she apply. 
“They really helped take what is the fuzzy farm dream and bring it into focus,” Chan said. 
Chan still works on an urban farm in the city, and once or twice a week she takes the subway to Astoria, Queens, where she grows produce for a local chef in a backyard.
In raised beds, she’s grown four types of basil and Korean perilla. Along the entryway to the garden, Chan points out a Thai eggplant and bright red chili peppers. 
“Really this year zero for me is to kind of try varieties and figure out what grows well here, what’s productive, what tastes good and just kind of refine my skills with certain things,” she said. She plans to spend 2020 on a production farm or completing another apprenticeship.
Her long-term goal is to feed the community. She plans to find three to five acres of farmland in Hudson Valley where she can bring produce to the Asian communities across New York City. 
“There’s not really many people selling the types of vegetables that are things I would see in my household growing up,” she said. So she’s taking the first step to change that. 
Chan has the group of farmers she worked with in London to thank, as well as her boss on Randall’s Island. 
But she also has GrowNYC to thank, too. Chan and Pereyra have stayed connected as Chan begins the hunt for farmland.   
“You’re not doing it for you,” Chan said. “You’re doing it for the community.”
More: Could One Parking Lot Feed a City? They’re Betting on It

Serving Up Love in Milwaukee

On August 5, 2012, six people were gunned down by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, including Satwant Singh Kaleka, the temple’s president. In the aftermath of the shooting, Singh Kaleka’s son, Pardeep, reached out to Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist-turned-activist, to help him find answers amidst his confusion and heartbreak. Out of this meeting, Serve 2 Unite was born.
The organization works primarily with Milwaukee-based schools, bringing together students of all backgrounds to collaborate on art projects and activities, as well as participate in open discussions. Students are connected with Serve 2 Unite’s global mentors, a network of peace activists who have either survived genocide, been involved in gangs or previously promoted radical ideologies. These international peacemakers share a message of inclusivity and the importance of working together, no matter who you are or what your background.
Watch the video above to learn more about the unlikely bond between Singh Kaleka and Michaelis, and how Serve 2 Unite furthers their mission of mutual respect and trust among all people, all over the world.

Homepage photo by Jayrol San Jose.

The Faces of America’s Diverse New Leadership

It’s a watershed moment and a season of firsts in U.S. politics. London Breed was just elected as San Francisco’s first African-American woman to serve as mayor. Hoboken, New Jersey, mayor Ravinder Bhalla is the nation’s first Sikh to hold that position. Danica Roem is the first transgender woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. And there is a record-breaking number of female candidates — more than 300 and counting — who are currently running for seats in the House.  
Here are four up-and-coming candidates who, if elected, will upend the status quo and make history in the process.

Stacey Abrams

In May, former state House minority leader Stacey Abrams secured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia. Abrams is the first black woman to be chosen as a major party’s nominee for governor, and if elected, she would be the first black woman to ever govern over a state in the nation’s history.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to, you know, sort of tile this ground for folks. But I’m also excited about what it means for everyone who has yet to see themselves reflected in leadership in America,” Abrams told the New York Times after her win against former state Democratic Rep. Stacey Evans. “My goal is to make certain everyone has a seat at the table and that folks can see themselves and their values reflected in our government.”
One of Abrams’ biggest challenges is the state’s Medicaid expansion.
Georgia was one of 19 states that didn’t expand Medicaid services offered through Obamacare. A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests that if the state were to expand Medicaid in the near future, it could provide health insurance to 473,000 more residents in 2019.
“Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state,” Abrams told the Times. “It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.”

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New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland could make history as the first Native American woman to serve in Congress.

Deb Haaland

“So tonight we made history,” Deb Haaland told a crowd of supporters on June 6, after winning the primary for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. If Haaland wins — as she is expected to — she will be the first Native American woman ever elected to Congress.
But it’s not just a win for diversity. One of Haaland’s top priorities, she says, will be environmental protection. “I’m concerned that if we don’t do more to protect our open spaces and reduce climate change, there will be devastating and lasting impacts on us and future generations,” Haaland wrote on the Daily Kos. “Ignoring climate change sets up our students and workforce for failure by not educating them about the needs of the future.”
New Mexico has recently experienced an oil boom, with Exxon and other companies investing billions in oil production. This also means that the state currently ranks third in the nation for crude oil production, which runs counter to the idea of reducing carbon emissions. Despite this fact, Haaland, a former Democratic state party leader, has proposed to make New Mexico the “clean energy leader” in the nation. “I will fight special interests in Washington who exploit Native, rural, and low income communities,” she wrote, “for the purpose of fracking and drilling that pollutes our environment.”

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Congressional candidate Dan Koh is focusing on improving Massachusetts’ education system.

Dan Koh

Dan Koh was Arianna Huffington’s chief of staff and the first general manager of Huffpost Live before being chosen as Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff in 2014 — all before Koh turned 30.
At 33, Koh is taking on a congressional race for Massachusetts’ 3rd District — and he’s raised $2.5 million in less than a year. If Koh wins, he will be the first Korean-American Democrat in Congress.
A product of a Massachusetts education, with two degrees from Harvard, one of Koh’s primary positions is a better education for everyone in the Bay State. “Massachusetts has one of the best education systems in the country, yet too many of our students are being left behind, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods,” reads his website.
It’s true that Massachusetts has some of the highest-ranked schools in the country, even when compared to other nations. But with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ focus on voucher programs, which Koh argues guts public school funding, there are fears about the future of the state’s education system.
Koh proposes a three-pronged approach to helping education flourish in the state: invest in tuition-free community college; support funding for teacher development and recruitment; and provide universal pre-K for all students.

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As the daughter of immigrants, Lupe Valdez says, “It is my goal to make sure that young Texans don’t face the same inhumane treatment I witnessed firsthand growing up.”

Lupe Valdez

After securing the Democratic primary nomination in late May, Lupe Valdez is the first openly gay Latina to run for governor of Texas.
A former Dallas County sheriff and a hardline progressive, Valdez could be a major player in the immigration debate by leading a state that is in the middle of a heated partisan battle on how to secure the nation’s borders.
A challenge Valdez faces in protecting immigrants is the state’s SB4 law — similar to Arizona’s “show me your papers” law — which allows police officers to act like immigration law enforcement and ask for proof of citizenship during, for example, a routine traffic stop.
“Standing up for immigrant communities has been a staple of my life,” Valdez writes on her website. “It is my goal to make sure that young Texans don’t face the same inhumane treatment I witnessed firsthand growing up.”
Valdez has said she grew up in the poorest zip code in San Antonio, with migrant parents who had eight kids. But through military training and access to good public education, she was able to thrive despite these odds. “I’m the candidate of the everyday working Texan, and I’m going to be their voice,” she says.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Dan Koh was running in Boston; he is, in fact, running for Massachusetts’ 3rd District, which is just north of Boston.

Embracing Diversity in the Great Outdoors

When Nailah Blades moved to Salt Lake City from sunny Santa Clarita, California — a suburb about 20 miles outside of Los Angeles, where she would often go hiking — there was one thing that didn’t change as she walked the nature trails: Everyone around her was very, very white.
“Being outdoors and hiking, and exploring the outdoors and paddle-boarding, is one of those realms where you’re just not expecting a ton of black women to be, or really any people of color,” she tells NationSwell, adding that even women-specific meetup groups she joined also lacked people who looked like her.
“It was intimidating,” recalls Blades. “The lot of groups I saw were women’s groups, but all white women or all women who had been doing this since forever and were experts in biking, hiking and rock-climbing. I did not want to go into that world as a beginner.”
Blades, originally from Montreal, had always been surrounded by people of various backgrounds. But the dearth of diversity she encountered in the great outdoors inspired her to start her own adventure club, called Color Outside, last year.
“I thought it was important to create a community of black women to build each other up,” Blades says.
She’s not alone. There are scores of clubs and communities around the nation — Brown People Camping, Unlikely Hikers and Outdoor Asian, to name a few — that focus on getting underrepresented groups out in nature. Diversify Outdoors, a coalition of like-minded nature lovers, highlights the recent boom, with a reach of more than 150,000 followers on Instagram alone.
But the swell in diversity-focused outdoors groups highlights another issue — namely, that retailers have failed to market premium outdoor products to a portion of society that has seen massive jumps in salaries over the past few years.
One of Diversify Outdoors’ affiliated groups is Sending in Color, co-founded by Justin Forrest Parks (yes, that’s his real name) and a fellow mountain-climber friend in Chicago. The outdoor enthusiasts had noticed that rock-climbing gyms in their city had grown in popularity — one location multiplied to four in a matter of a few years, Parks says — but almost all of the climbers were white.

Justin Forrest Parks co-founded Sending in Color in Chicago after noticing that almost everyone in the city’s climbing gyms was white.

“So here was this massive expansion of climbing in the city, but then we started looking around and seeing that there weren’t a lot of black or Latino individuals here,” says Parks, who is African-American. “And so we decided to create a group for meetups for people of color in a space that would feel welcoming.”
Sending in Color’s first gathering, last November, drew a few people. Now as many as 80 people attend the group’s monthly meetups.
But feeling welcome in the world of outdoor recreation isn’t always something that comes easy. Both Parks and Blades point out that activities like camping, rafting and hiking have long been marketed as “things only white people do.”
That argument doesn’t come out of nowhere. In 2016, environmental-advocacy nonprofit The Outdoor Foundation found that nearly three-fourths of those who participated in outdoor recreation were white; less than 10 percent were black. Similarly, a 2011 National Park Service survey reported that only one in five visitors to a national park is nonwhite, and one in 10 is Hispanic. The stark difference in participation by race earned a name among activists, who started referring to it as the “adventure gap.”
Historically, outdoor retailers and brands have reflected this gap in their advertising and branding materials.
“There’s this thought, in terms of race, that [being] black means being low income. But if you look at studies of who’s spending money on vacation, typically communities of colors are spending more,” Parks says. “It’s a narrative of ‘We’re not seeing you out here, you don’t want to be here,’ when in reality most probably just don’t know there is a ‘here’ to go to.”
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Advocates like Nailah Blades (right) are looking to change the narrative about outdoor recreation in the U.S.

According to the Mandala Research firm, African-American families were likely to take two or more international trips per year, which amounts to $48 billion spent. They’re also responsible for more than half of total spending in certain categories domestically, according to a Nielsen consumer report published this year.
And as other minority groups continue to make up more of the market share, smart retailers have adopted new strategies to include more diverse faces in their branding and advertising.
REI is one example. In 2014, the retail and outdoor recreation chain began to tailor its advertising to minority populations, in part by sponsoring the American Latino Heritage Fund’s American Latino Expedition, which awarded three Latino adventure groups with tours of national parks.
There’s a market for brands looking to be more inclusive in their messaging, says Becky Arreaga, president of the marketing firm Mercury Mambo in Austin, Texas.
“For brands looking to connect with multicultural communities, the timing couldn’t be better. I am very excited to see the groups and nonprofits emerging from the shadows,” says Arreaga, whose firm focuses on helping brands work with diverse voices. “Groups such as Latino Outdoors and Outdoor Afro have been leading the way, and this year I’ve seen a surge of other organizations becoming visible on social media.”
In a 2017 interview, Arreaga expanded on the benefit for brands to go outside — pun intended — their usual demographics.
“The point is to bring people into the conversation that represent this market and know the ins and outs,” she said, adding that the Latino and Hispanic communities, for example, are a growing and influential demographic that will need to be front and center for brands. “So what we are doing as an agency is creating these network of [social media] influencers, so that when brands are looking for that authentic voice, we’ve got the connections to help them do that.”
It’s something that Parks and Blades have been eager to see, as their own organizations have focused on an Instagram-first strategy of inspiring more people of color to get outdoors, share photos and spread a message of inclusion.
“There’s a lot of importance in feeling like you’re taking up space, wherever that space is, whether it’s outdoors or inside the boardroom,” Blades says. “I think it’s important for people of color to co-occupy this space, now, and traditionally be where we haven’t been able to do that.”

Funding the Social Causes Worth Fighting For

Kim Syman has lofty ideas about how New Profit, a social-impact funding organization that she helped get off the ground 20 years ago this week, can do better work. Much of it involves changing perceptions around the role of business in social enterprises, which can be a daunting task. Case in point: New Profit’s mission to finance nonprofits in an unconventional way — that is, with venture capital funding. But venture capital is usually designed to make the rich even richer, while social-innovation organizations tend to address systems of inequality and oppression — systems that can be exacerbated by those very same investments.
Yet Syman is a firm believer that the tools of business can and should be used to propel people toward social and financial stability. So when New Profit founder and CEO Vanessa Kirsch proposed the idea of the organization to her, as a way to bridge the gap between investments and impactful nonprofits, Syman jumped onboard.
Part of the problem is that investing for social good is still a relatively new idea. “Venture capital, as a concept, wasn’t known in the philanthropy world, especially 20 years ago,” says Syman, New Profit’s managing partner overseeing field leadership. She also helps with the nonprofit’s annual Gathering of Leaders, taking place this week in Boston. “The idea of venture capital for nonprofits still sounds kind of crazy for a lot of people.”
Syman’s ambitious goals include getting nonprofits to refocus how they deploy their funding. Syman worked in media before transitioning into a role at the education nonprofit City Year, so she knows firsthand how hard it is for fledgling social-impact companies to create capital (spoiler alert: it’s not easy).
“There was this mind-set that the best way [traditional funders and philanthropists] managed risk and made sure their dollars were well used was to support direct service provision instead of, say, building internal capacity to grow and achieve more impact,” Syman, a NationSwell Council member, says. “Overlooking the latter can be a huge barrier to success on the former, but capacity-building is still an under-leveraged and underfunded approach in philanthropy.”

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“The idea of venture capital for nonprofits still sounds kind of crazy for a lot of people,” says social-impact investor Kim Syman.

Typically, nonprofits have relied on creating their own endowments — be it from fundraising or donors — that amass principal over a number of years and help finance the organization for the long term.
But even with endowments and other grants, there are often restrictions imposed by donors, such as only being able to spend the principal or only spending specific amounts on certain programs.
The problem with that, Syman says, is that the conventional wisdom where philanthropists double down on funding specific programs doesn’t help solve problems on a larger scale.
The reality New Profit found was that nonprofit organizations — just like their peers in the for-profit business world — needed to scale their brand and operations in order to be effective, but that requires lots of money, with fewer restrictions than what is typical with grants.
Besides challenging traditional funding models, Syman is focused on increasing diversity in the social-impact space. And she is doing this in part by formally recognizing her own organization’s lack of diversity.
“We saw that implicit biases come from within our sector and we needed to begin to tackle them, which meant holding a mirror up to ourselves and really asking the question of how much are we paying attention to this, each of us?” she tells NationSwell. “It’s clearly a work in progress on every level, but I will say that we have changed every aspect of how we work to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, and we’re working to make continued progress.”
To that end, New Profit is making a concerted effort to partner with organizations that are actively engaged in the communities they serve; they’re also taking into account gender and racial diversity with almost everything they do, says Syman.
But a lack of diversity is hardly unique to New Profit. Studies show that despite overwhelming representation of women in the nonprofit workspace — which bodes well for general gender equality — the majority of executives in those companies are white men, with minimal representation of black or Hispanic men and women in top roles.
Syman says there are ways to fix that, even for organizations that have little capital to invest in diversity action plans. One idea is to partner with other organizations to help provide mentorship on hiring or training — a concept inspired, in part, by a NationSwell Council event — or use firms that specialize in helping companies achieve more diversity.
Syman says her biggest lessons haven’t come from New Profit’s numerous challenges, but rather from the joy of the work she does, and from the connections she’s made with other people in the field. “It wasn’t a total surprise, but how deep and consistent those relationships have been with our [organizations] is the engine that really drives our work. It’s always a little bit surprising. But it’s always very real.”

This post was produced in partnership with the NationSwell Council, a membership community of service-minded leaders committed to moving America forward. To learn more about the Council, its members and signature experiences, click here.

The Power of Corporations Doing Good

Dalila Wilson-Scott’s parents met during the Vietnam War; her dad was in the Air Force and her mom was a local Vietnamese woman who didn’t have much more than an elementary education. “When I think of the broader work of inclusion and opportunity, that’s my parents’ own story,” says Wilson-Scott. “A focus on economic opportunity and diverse perspectives is just something I grew up with.”

Today, Wilson-Scott brings the passion for equality and diversity from her upbringing to her roles as the senior vice president of community investment for Comcast NBCUniversal and the president of the Comcast Foundation.

In the third installment of our series 10 Leaders on Business for Good, NationSwell founder and CEO Greg Behrman chats with Wilson-Scott about her social-impact work and the changing nature of corporate civic engagement.

Is there a moment in your career where your background allowed you to understand the merits of equity and inclusion in a way that others couldn’t?

I wouldn’t say there was one defining moment, but I remember being in a meeting once and a woman said, “I’ve never met anyone who grew up poor.” I was like, “Well, I guess technically if you looked at income data, you could argue I fit into that demographic.” I mean, how do you know if you grew up with somebody who was poor or not? Her perception was that no one in that meeting could have grown up poor; otherwise, how would we have ended up in the same place? It helps to realize that people have a tendency to form those kinds of assumptions.

What are some things that set Comcast NBCUniversal apart in the way they address corporate citizenship and social impact?

As a recent example, I’d say how we came together so quickly after some pretty astronomical hurricanes in a short amount of time. During Harvey and Irma, we really showed up, from opening our Wi-Fi network so that emergency workers and everyone else — whether they were a Comcast customer or not — could be as connected as possible. We leveraged our presence through our TV stations around the country to help drive donations to the American Red Cross. We even launched new technology on our X1 platform, where people could say into their voice remotes “Hurricane Harvey” or “Irma” and make an immediate donation toward relief and recovery.

What do you think are the ingredients to success for corporate social responsibility programs?

Authenticity is so important. Wherever a company chooses to focus its efforts, it’s got to feel true to its brand. Imagine if we at Comcast — a technology and media company — were to suddenly say, “Oh, now we’re going to tackle health issues.” That’s probably not a space where we can have as much impact as companies that are thinking about global health every day. Sure, we could maybe have an effect from a delivery standpoint — for example, how technology can make delivery of resources better — but that would come off as inauthentic and probably not sustainable. And those two things are key.

How are CSR efforts different than they’ve been in the past?

It was more common in the past for social-enterprises to be criticized as not being the best for business, and I think that’s definitely changed. At minimum, companies need to have a purpose and define it in a way that every customer and employee can get behind. Before, it was enough to say, “We’re going to make the best product in the world, and we’re going to make a lot of money from it.” That’s not acceptable anymore to message it in that way. The standards are higher, and more companies are aspiring to deliver their product or service in a way that is purpose-driven but still profitable and focused on delivering results for both communities and company stakeholders.

What drives you? What’s your North Star?

For sure, my children. But I’ve also been fortunate to find my voice and use it to challenge assumptions and the status quo. If I’m going to do that and take that kind of risk, I want it to be for the greater good. There are so many people I’ve met — and I’ve been one of those people in the past — who don’t have the ability to have their voice represented at so many different tables. While I’m not at every single table, I know that I’m more fortunate than a lot of people. The amount of inequity in society frustrates me, especially how it’s just an assumed state for most people. All of us should be able to find our ability to impact that, and I’ve been fortunate to make that my life’s work.

Dalila Wilson-Scott is a NationSwell Council member.

Ending the Revolving Door of Minority Teachers

New York might be one of America’s most racially diverse cities, but its teacher pool is decidedly not.
In a city where 85 percent of the public school students are racial minorities, 60 percent of the teachers serving them are not. Only a quarter are male, and of that group, less than 8 percent are men of color — a concern because, as multiple studies have shown, the more diverse the teaching population, the better the outcome for minority students. In one such study, for example, black teachers were more likely to have higher expectations of black students compared to white teachers.
To help remedy that stark disparity in student-teacher demographics, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration launched the NYC Men Teach initiative in 2015, vowing to put an additional 1,000 men of color on course to become teachers over three years.
But the city may be focusing too much on recruitment rather than retention, some education advocates say.
On the surface, the initiative has come close to achieving its goal. According to WYNC, Men Teach has recruited some 900 non-white men to the profession, with 350 of them currently employed in the school system. The problem? There is little proof that they will remain in those jobs for the long haul.
“Historically, financing has gone to initiatives that focus on recruitment, and there has been little focus on keeping teachers of color in the field once we get them there,” says Cassandra Herring, executive director and CEO of BranchEd, a new organization that works with minority-serving institutions, or MSIs, on analyzing recruitment and retention practices.
Herring points to a landmark 1983 report by the U.S. Department of Education, called A Nation At Risk, that boldly outlined the problems within America’s school system, including the lack of diversity among teachers. In the wake of the report’s publication, programs that recruited minority candidates surged, resulting in a 104 percent increase in teachers of color between the 1987 and 2011 school years. Those numbers have since have dropped.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Similarly in New York, which counts 75,000 teachers and 1.1 million students in the district, the number of male minority teachers had been steadily ticking upward until recently. By 2015, the number of black male teachers had shrunk to less than 4 percent, a drop of one percentage point since 2004. The ranks of male Asian and Latino teachers, meanwhile, have held steady at around 3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. But during the same period the city has seen a surge in the city’s Hispanic population, according to data collected by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools.
“I remember I asked a principal, ‘What is your graduation rate?’ and she answered, ‘Well, a lot of our students come from the housing projects,’” said former U.S. Secretary of Education John King in a panel discussion last year at the University of Southern California. “People just give up on these kids because of their backgrounds.”
In October of 2016, the Obama administration tried to address the issue by revising federal regulations to make it easier to be accepted into teacher preparedness programs. The hope was that doing so would attract more diverse talent, but to critics it was a slap in the face.
“It’s such a tremendously insulting move to African Americans and Latinos to say, ‘We want you to come into the profession so badly, and the only way we can make that happen is if we have no standards.’ I can’t imagine what that does to someone’s psyche,” Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, told the Hechinger Report. “We do a tremendous disservice to think that the way to diversify the teaching profession is to lower the bar.”
By focusing solely on attracting minorities to teaching, the government and outside organizations do a disservice to the ones who are already in the classroom, argue critics. The numbers bear this out: Black and Latino teachers leave their jobs at higher rates than their white coworkers.
One reason could be the conditions in which minority teachers find themselves. A report by the Brookings Institution found that these teachers are siphoned into schools with more curriculum problems and poor funding, resulting in longer hours compared to white teachers in more well-funded schools. Take Teach for America, for example; turnover among its participants has been a consistent problem for the nonprofit, which trains and places high-performing college graduates into some of America’s most problematic schools.
The good news is that some programs, like BranchEd where Herring works, are starting to direct efforts at keeping minorities in the profession by exposing prospective teachers to other aspects of the job, such as what it’s like working with poverty-stricken kids in underfunded schools. In addition, BranchEd partners with educator-training programs that enroll the most non-white candidates, such as historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.
The black, Latino and Asian teachers that graduate from MSIs, says Herring, are staying in their jobs longer than their traditionally educated peers. She credits the success of these institutions to a “special sauce” that emphasizes student outcomes and supporting students’ emotional integrity rather than focusing solely on course and curriculum development. Through BranchEd, Herring is sharing that recipe of success with other organizations, which includes giving candidates a trial-by-fire lesson in teaching a class and then getting feedback — a model she calls “learning by doing.”
“The problem [of hiring and retaining minority teachers] is a bit gargantuan, and every program and school is trying to address it by taking different approaches, but we need to become more unified,” she says. “We see success in what we’re doing at BranchEd, which is hoping to simplify the MSI model for other institutions to learn from.”
But despite the efforts of organizations like NYC Men Teach and BranchEd, advocates are worried that the progress that’s being made won’t be enough, at least in the immediate future.
“We think of the work of transforming the field of education as generational; it’s not a shift that happens within a year or five years,” says Peter Fishman, vice president of strategy with Deans for Impact. “It takes 10, 15, 30 years before you see the true impact.”
Nonetheless, he says, there is hope that current teachers of color will at least spark aspiring students to continue in the career path of their favorite teacher. “When you achieve [teacher diversity], you’re impacting one student of color and then inspiring them to do the same, and so forth. It becomes a bit of a virtuous cycle.”

Generating Coding Fever in Tech-Loving Minority Teens

Alongside the glinting waves and pristine beachfront property, a surge of talent is transforming Miami into a tech hub.
The Kauffman Index rated the metropolitan area of Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach as the number one entrepreneurial area in America, and international tech startups are using the city for its geographic proximity to Latin America.
But in Broward County, just north of the white sands of Miami Beach, there’s a stark reality for the youth of color: They don’t have access to technology or entrepreneurial leaders the same way that some of their well-to-do peers do.
“In areas of high growth in the tech and entrepreneurial or small business sector, [minority] populations are completely left out of that activity,” says Felecia Hatcher-Pearson, co-founder of Code Fever Miami. “If you have an idea, oftentimes you have to leave your neighborhood in order to execute on that idea or get the right resources in order to make that happen. And that’s a problem.”
Hatcher-Pearson’s organization is bridging that digital divide — which she refers to as an “innovation desert” — by providing opportunities to young teens of color in coding lessons and pitching business startup ideas.
Since 2013, Code Fever has introduced more than 3,000 youth and adults to the tech ecosystem. It’s also served as host to more than 100 tech events, including boot camps and hack-a-thons.
This isn’t Hatcher-Pearson’s first attempt at bringing entrepreneurship to youth. After losing her marketing job at Nintendo in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, she moved back into her parent’s Florida home and opened an ice cream and popsicle stand in Broward County. She noticed that the kids in the community looked up to moneymakers: those selling drugs.
“Sometimes the first way [these kids] get introduced to entrepreneurship in their neighborhoods when they live in impoverished neighborhoods, it’s the guy that’s selling on the block, right? And if he’s successful, he’s getting a mentor, like someone showing him how to do it,” she says.
Hatcher-Pearson began pairing teens with entrepreneurs to learn how to market and sell sweets using extra stands she had laying around.
“We know what happens when young people can’t get their first jobs or don’t learn the basic skills on how to be self-sustainable, the entire cycle of poverty continues,” she says.
As Miami’s tech scene started taking off in 2010, Hatcher-Pearson recognized a similar lack of entrepreneurial mentorship.
“It wasn’t inclusive,” says Hatcher-Pearson, referring to the tech scene in Miami. “It didn’t include the black community or the Caribbean community in any of the activity, the resources, the programming or any of the spaces.”
With the help of her husband, Derek, the two started Code Fever.
The organization’s reputation is built on its ability to foster African American tech talent through its Black Tech Week. The summit provides multiple pitch opportunities to help finance burgeoning startups, class intensives geared toward making older generations more digitally native and education for teachers on how to bring in more technology into the classroom — a massive hindrance for students, Hatcher says.
“Oftentimes, their teachers don’t have the right tech training or tech confidence, and they’re the ones that are not doing a good job of allowing technology to be in the classroom,” Hatcher-Pearson says.
Ryan Hall, who heads the curriculum for Code Fever and Black Tech Week, says that based on his own personal experience, the role the organization plays in students’ lives is essential.
“I personally found that I was in a lot of these tech spaces, and I didn’t see a lot of people who look like me,” Hall says. “We care about taking people who are minorities and bringing them into the technology economy, because it has the ability to raise people out of their socioeconomic situation.”
Both Hatcher-Pearson and Hall attribute the program’s success to its ability to allow kids of color to integrate their own personal lifestyles and interests into coding. Code Fever accomplishes this by bringing in local black celebrities and creating hybrid projects that merge music and tech or sports and tech.
“Culture plays a major role in introducing students to [science, technology, engineering or math] fields,” says Hatcher-Pearson. “We have to introduce them to computer programming because… the current narrative is that the black and brown community doesn’t exist in tech, and we are pioneers in tech and innovation.”
The 2017 AllStars program is produced in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and celebrates social entrepreneurs who are powering solutions with innovative technology. Visit from Oct. 2 to Nov. 2 to vote for your favorite AllStar. The winner will receive the AllStar Award, a $10,000 grant to help further his or her work advocating for change.
Correction: A previous version of this video stated that Miami is the birthplace of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He was born in Albuquerque, N.M. NationSwell apologizes for this error.
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6 Ways Every Boss Can Bring Diversity to the Workplace

As tech companies continue to receive heat over their lack of inclusivity of women and people of color, more studies are showing that there is a measurable benefit to focusing on diversity in the workplace.
Through a mix of civic action on tax reform, altering hiring practices and recognizing religious differences, here are six examples of how to push for more inclusivity in your own workplace.

1. Attract More Women With Different Incentives

When Netflix announced a revision to its parental leave policy to include a minimum of three months’ full pay for hourly employees and up to 12 months for salaried workers, the internet was abuzz with how much progress American companies were making when it came to the new moms in their ranks.
But Netflix is an exception to standard policy. Currently, federal law only requires large and medium-sized companies to provide 16 weeks of parental leave, all unpaid. And there is even less support for working mothers, as federal subsidies for childcare are at a 12-year low.  
To improve the landscape for working women, look to Canada. After our northern neighbors altered their tax system in the 1980s and ’90s to allow for childcare subsidies and mandatory paid maternity leave, more women joined the workforce. Today, there are about 8 percent more women working in Canada than in the U.S.

2. Embrace Global Workers — And Their Customs

All companies want to grow their business and increase their bottom line. One way to do that: Sponsor international workers.
Yet when it comes to bringing in new people from across the globe, most industries rely on old hiring tactics, using generic language in job listings or posting to job sites that aren’t used in other countries.
“There has been an idea for some time that you could standardize the [human resources] function globally,” said a 2012 report from KPMG International. “Many markets today, though, are so distinct that [HR] needs to focus on understanding local needs.”
In the same study, leaders from multiple companies found that international workers were essential to their business. For those pushing to hire people from other countries, the process was found to be the most successful when HR departments accommodated the worker’s local customs and culture.

3. Include More Holidays on the Company Calendar

New York is one of only a handful of cities that observe holy days of multiple religions. In 2015, the city’s school system added two Muslim holidays to its number of days off and have also designated times during which students of certain Christian denominations can leave school one hour early for religious study.
For businesses that want to do the same, the website Diversity Best Practices has a full list of religious and cultural holidays, including the Indian feast holiday Makar Sankranti (Jan. 14) and Native American Citizenship Day (June 15). Some companies have taken up the trend; UPS, for example, recognizes a number of cultural holidays such as Passover and the Chinese New Year.
“The key … is to make sure no one feels excluded or forced to participate in workplace festivities,” according to a post by the Society for Human Resource Management.

4. Use Technology as a Guard Against Implicit Bias

Despite a hiring manager’s best efforts to avoid discrimination in interviews, it’s completely natural to have biases — and it’s even harder to recognize them. To best diversify a workforce, it’s crucial to take a look at the technology that’s being used to communicate with potential hires, from how the job is posted to the method used to extend an offer of employment.
When the social media developer Buffer changed job descriptions from “hackers” to “developers,” they found women applied to the jobs more often. “It was eye-opening for us to realize the ways we had perhaps been implicitly biased without realizing it,” wrote one employee for the company’s blog.
Companies can utilize software that analyzes internal emails, documents and job postings in real time to avoid bias. Joonko, for example, “can identify events of conscious and unconscious bias,” says cofounder Ilit Raz. “The point isn’t just to hire more diverse people, but the right people for your company.”
Gapjumpers and Blendoor are two companies whose software removes a candidate’s name and any data not relevant to the job descriptions so managers can base hiring decisions solely on merit. The Google Chrome extension Unbias also blurs out LinkedIn images and names to reduce unconscious bias. Think of it as hiring à la “The Voice,” where judges hear singers before they see them.

5. Dish Out Diversity in Lunchrooms

Outside of benefiting a business’s bottom line, having a diverse work environment also introduces other people to cultures they might not otherwise interact with.
Communities are better strengthened when the people in them socialize with one another, says Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam. As the Houston Chronicle put it, “When a variety of viewpoints are thrown into the problem-solving mix, new and innovative solutions can be reached.”
Encouraging social diversity can be as easy as mixing up the menu. In Australia, for example, companies are encouraged to participate in A Taste of Harmony, a program that introduces employees to new cultures through food. And if you have a fairly diverse workforce already, try organizing a potluck where staffers bring in their favorite cultural dish to share.

6. Enlist Outside Expert Help

More companies are starting to beef up diversity by hiring outside help, such as diversity consultants, to oversee their company strategy.
Organizations like Paradigm and Project Include, cofounded by former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and other high-profile female techies, help startups analyze their company’s needs, and then hire and retain diverse talent.
“We convened as a group of tech women to strategize and try to move diversity forward by having hard conversations and redirecting efforts,” reads Project Include’s manifesto. “We want to provide our perspectives, recommendations, materials, and tools to help CEOs and their teams build meaningful inclusion. We know how hard change is from our own experiences.”

10 Ways to Break Down Barriers for Entrepreneurs in Your Community

How do you build a thriving community of entrepreneurs? At a time when the doors of economic opportunity seem to be shutting out so many people, entrepreneurship is crucial to local neighborhoods. The Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural ESHIP Summit brought together more than 400 diverse entrepreneurial community leaders from all over the country to answer this question.
Below, these entrepreneurial ecosystem builders — people who build communities to support entrepreneurs — share their top tips for energizing entrepreneurship in their communities, no matter where in the world that is.

1. Find Common Ground . . .

Participants came to the ESHIP Summit from 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 10 countries, each facing their own challenges. But as attendee Alistair Brett of Rainforest Strategies in Washington, D.C., says, “What works in one place may not work in another, but the core of this kind of work is the same for everyone.”

2. . . . But Don’t Copy Silicon Valley 

Despite its huge concentration of high-tech startups and venture capitalists,the Silicon Valley model has its weaknesses, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion, says Kate Stewart, the executive director of JAXCoE, a network of entrepreneurs and supporters in Jacksonville, Fla. “The more inclusive a company or an ecosystem is, the more robust it is,” she adds. Philip Gaskin, the director of entrepreneurial communities for the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., agrees: “As the demographics in the nation are changing, you need equal representation in your businesses, in your leadership and on your boards to reach your customers and understand their needs.”

3. Unearth Potential 

“The capital of economic development is no longer businesses moving from place to place; it’s talent moving from place to place,” Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., told the Summit. Many communities also have massive untapped potential in populations that haven’t previously had access to the resources needed to start new businesses. “Women in our state are just now beginning to find their footing” and connect to the support they need, as are minority entrepreneurs, says Shannon Roberts, program manager at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

4. Get Ideas Out of the Lab

Professors and students are conducting cutting-edge research and generating innovative ideas. But the town-gown gap can be hard to bridge. The key is understanding how the motivations of academics differ from those of traditional entrepreneurs, says Lydia McClure, vice president of scientific partnerships at the Translational Research Institute in D.C. Researchers tend to be driven by the impact they can have and aren’t necessarily as interested in creating the next big startup. Everyone involved should be asking themselves, “What do I have to offer?” McClure says.

5. Challenge Stereotypes 

What does the typical entrepreneur look like? Accion, an organization that provides microloans to small business owners, often works with low-income minorities who are opening businesses to provide for their families. But no matter the scale of a business, “entrepreneurship is a source of income, job creation, asset generation, and products and services that create value for the community,” says Anne Haines Yatskowitz, Accion New Mexico’s CEO. And with their tenacity, resourcefulness and perseverance, she says, “entrepreneurs can be incredible role models.”

6. Reach More People 

Preston James, the CEO of DivInc, a startup pre-accelerator that supports entrepreneurship among people of color and women, is trying to solve a problem he sees in the otherwise thriving startup ecosystem in Austin, Texas. “What we’re doing in Austin is expanding the ecosystem by being more inclusive of a broader audience,” James says. DivInc connects underrepresented entrepreneurs with mentors, educational opportunities, domain experts and other resources that help lay the foundation for successful new companies. “Some of the other hubs that are up and coming, the sooner they can do that, the more successful they will be — faster.”

7. Consider Your Impact 

“I have a fundamental belief that business’s role on the planet is to make life better for people,’’ says Kim Coupounas, the director of B Lab, an organization with offices around the country that supports businesses aiming to be a force for good. Coupounas believes companies should think about their social impact from the beginning. “A huge source of innovation is when companies really consider how they impact their stakeholders,” she says. Ecosystem builders should be thinking about how they’re affecting the world around them too, she says. “It’s not just about creating jobs; it’s about creating good jobs.”

8. Keep It Simple

One successful company can jump-start an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem, and just one connection can help information flow more freely through it. “If one tiny connection fails in your computer, it won’t work,” says Alistair Brett. “But if you make that one tiny connection, it’s back to working.” Adds Wayne Sutton, cofounder of Change Catalyst in the Bay Area, “It’s not rocket science. We’re not talking about going to Mars; we’re basically talking about working with people. You just have to put in the work.

9. Forge Connections — and Friendships

“Entrepreneurship is a lonely experience without community,” says Scott Phillips of Civic Ninjas in Tulsa, Okla., a nonprofit whose network of coders strives to solve societal ills through technology. So is trying to support entrepreneurs, particularly underrepresented ones who are up against real economic, political and cultural barriers in their attempts to access to opportunities. “It’s very isolating sometimes to fight something that seems as big as this is,” adds Geraud Staton, founder of the Helius Foundation, which mentors and coaches entrepreneurs in Durham, N.C. The power of connecting with other people doing similar work can’t be underestimated.

10. Focus on the Future 

“Entrepreneurship, to me, signals taking responsibility for how the future develops,” says David Witzel of RASA, an organization in Oakland, Calif., devoted to regenerative agriculture. Keeping an eye on the future makes this work meaningful. “I have two young grandchildren,” says John Bost, the president of the Clemmons Community Foundation in Clemmons, N.C. “They need a future they can grow into, and it won’t be the past I’ve lived out of.”


This content was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which works in entrepreneurship and education to create opportunities and connect people to the tools they need to achieve success, change their futures and give back to their communities. In June 2017, the foundation hosted its inaugural ESHIP Summit, convening 435 leaders fighting to break down barriers for entrepreneurs across the country.