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Listen Better, Serve Better

Posted by USDA Chief Customer Experience Officer Simchah Suveyke-Bogin, Office of Customer Experience in American Rescue Plan Equity Initiatives
Aug 24, 2023
Two hands holding soil with sprout emerging from soil

In support of Section 1006 of the American Rescue Plan and USDA’s commitment to advance equitable access to USDA program and services, the Office of Customer Experience, or OCX, spent the past year working to improve the support provided to USDA’s community-based partners who work to connect economically distressed and/or underserved communities with USDA programs and services, specifically American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program (ARPTAI) cooperators. The culmination of this work is USDA CARES, an initiative dedicated to Create, Assist, Rebuild, Empower and Strengthen our communities and customer relationships. USDA CARES is comprised of a series of resources that directly address cooperators’ needs.

OCX’s journey began in May 2022 with an effort to learn directly from ARPTAI cooperators, USDA staff, and other stakeholders about their needs regarding outreach, training, technical assistance, and USDA support. In over 130 hours of human-centered research, OCX:

  • Interviewed 11 cooperator organizations with over 600 years of experience working with underserved producer communities.
  • Interviewed 20 USDA subject matter experts (SMEs) throughout various offices at USDA.
  • Analyzed 65 listening session responses from USDA’s July 2021 Equity Listening Sessions.
  • Analyzed nearly 800 detailed equity recommendations that customers have shared with USDA dating back to 1965 on how to improve the state of farming for underserved farmers.
  • Hosted feedback sessions at 3 national conferences hosted by ARPTAI cooperators.

OCX heard firsthand about the challenges faced by community-based organizations when navigating USDA websites, deciphering eligibility requirements, and connecting to helpful USDA contacts. OCX also learned how programs and resources that are designed without respect to the unique needs of underserved communities fail to effectively help these communities. To address these needs, OCX designed three resources:

  • A training module and informational video that clearly communicates USDA’s vision, the distinct missions of its various agencies, and the programs and services they provide.
  • The Partner Portal: a digital collection of resources designed to help partners access the information and tools that are most relevant to their work all in one place.
  • The Key Programs Catalog: a resource detailing several popular USDA services and programs organized in a clear way to help USDA partners serve their communities.

Each of these resources underwent frequent feedback sessions with ARPTAI cooperators, USDA Outreach Coordinators, and 2501 Grantees to guarantee their utility.

OCX is proud to launch USDA CARES as of August 2023. For more information on the initiative, visit