The 2023 Cohort of the NCF Next Generation Leadership Institute completed their mid-year training session this April. This cohort marks the first time the program has moved to a three session model, which allows for less travel but more face to face time with a week-long session in the middle of their leadership journey.
The cohort members arrived in Washington, D.C. on April 23, and began work bright and early on Monday, April 24. They spent the day in the classroom, focusing on Legislative Affairs. The cohort had the opportunity to learn from NACD Government Affairs staff, Pelham Straughn (9b Group), representatives from NRCS and EPA, Farm Credit leadership, and Hill staffers. The groups shared their top priorities in legislation and how conservation districts are poised to help accomplish those priorities. The cohort members were also prepped for their meetings with their congressional representatives. These took place on Tuesday, April 25 with help from NACD staff to ensure that the cohort learned how to make appointments, conduct a successful visit, and navigate Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday afternoon the group traveled to the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. This wonderful facility is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is available to all Federal employees and their partners for training purposes. The all-inclusive campus is a great learning environment for conservation-minded groups!
Wednesday, April 26, was another classroom day, this time focused on Communications. The cohort had the opportunity to learn from and visit with Paul Minehart, Head of Corporate Communications for Syngenta North America. Minehart has brought his valuable expertise to each NGLI cohort and has invaluable information on strategic communication through interviews, standard media, and social media. That afternoon, the group focused in on Conservation District specific messaging with Laura Meyer, VP of Creative Strategy for KR Creative Strategies. The group conducted some hands-on activities on creating an outreach strategy and conservation words that resonate.
Thursday was Partnerships Day, and the group was taken on a conservation projects tour. This tour was arranged and partially sponsored by the West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts, the West Virginia Conservation Agency, West Virginia NRCS, and the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District. The tour included stops that focused on projects completed through partnerships with various agencies, NGOs, and private landowners to accomplish a set goal. Projects ranged from watershed dams, turf farms, education facilities, and a university-run research farm.
To conclude on Friday, April 28, the group had a debrief on their experiences from the week before taking off for their homes across the nation.
The group will finish out their curriculum experience via webinars throughout the rest of the year, and are scheduled to graduate the program at the NACD Annual meeting in San Diego, California, in February of 2024.