‘Broadband access is a fundamental right’: Land O’Lakes launches boots-on-the-ground effort to bridge the digital divide

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The ACC programme aims to foster a new generation of leaders to tackle their community's most pressing connectivity challenges. Pic: GettyImages/ipopba
The ACC programme aims to foster a new generation of leaders to tackle their community's most pressing connectivity challenges. Pic: GettyImages/ipopba

Related tags land o'lakes digital American Connection Corps Lead for America communities in need broadband

One of America’s leading agribusiness and food companies is spearheading the American Connection Corps (ACC) programme, aimed at fostering a new generation of transformational leaders to tackle the most pressing connectivity challenges within their communities.

Millions of Americans in rural and under-resourced communities live without broadband internet access – today an essential tool in everyday life. Certainly, the pandemic has driven home how critical it is in order to stay connected not only with others, but also to have access to daily staples.

The American Connection Corps (ACC) is an initiative spearheaded by Land O’Lakes, Lead for America (LFA), Heartland Forward and other partner organisations to take decisive action to close the digital divide and provide connectivity options in these communities.

Fifty successful applicants will be selected to serve their home communities in high-impact, high-urgency two-year full-time paid positions within local institutions, such as local governments, nonprofits and community foundations.

‘Action cannot wait’

“Millions of families are operating day-to-day with a lack of basic infrastructure – adequate broadband access – that has become a necessity in today’s world and, frankly, a fundamental right. Action cannot wait,”​ said Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes, Inc. president and CEO.

“Through our years-long work on broadband advocacy and conversations with our farmers, our customers and so many others, we’ve seen and heard firsthand how critical digital infrastructure is to the success of communities and businesses across America.

“From everyday life to prospering in a global economy, investing and focusing on this issue now will pay dividends.”

The ACC programme is based on LFA’s proven Homecomers model, which works to develop the leadership needed to address the nation’s toughest community challenges to ensure that every child has a chance at a better life no matter their neighbourhood or family circumstances. By 2040, LFA aims to recruit, train and place 50,000 of America’s most outstanding young leaders in high-impact changemaking roles in their hometown communities.

“Our work has shown that we can change the narrative that success means leaving home for good, and instead that young leaders can create meaningful impact in their hometowns,” ​said Benya Kraus, co-founder of LFA.

The ACC pilot programme is being funded with the support of Heartland Forward, along with 19 partner organisations, including CoBank, Tractor Supply Company, Microsoft, Mayo Clinic, Ariel Investments, Scoular, CHS, Zoetis, Tillamook, Accenture, University of Minnesota, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Midwest Dairy, Purdue University, Partners for Education, CentraCare, Common Sense Media and University of Illinois Extension.

“I’m so grateful to these partners who also recognise that together, we can take bold steps now to help solve these challenges, to help create the future and to benefit us all in our ever-connected world,”​ said Ford.

Angie Cooper, chief programme officer for Heartland Forward, added, “We are excited to put true grassroots – person-to-person outreach – in communities across the heartland to connect their residents to high-speed internet and ensure everyone can enjoy full access to essential online services."

Call for applicants

Application to participate in the inaugural class of Fellows is now open until 15 May 2021. To apply, applicants must be under the age of 30 (as of June 2021) and a US citizen, permanent resident or DACA recipient. The candidate must have earned – or be on track to earn – an undergraduate degree. Obviously, the individual must be able to make a full-time commitment as the fellowship is a full-time job. To register, click here.

The inaugural class will be announced in early June 2021.

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