2024 Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice

About the Community of Practice

We are thrilled to be offering a second cohort of the Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice for funders. In 2021, in response to growing interest in a substantive engagement at the intersection of Indigenous food systems and sustainable agriculture and food systems, we convened our first cohort of the Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice. In this second cohort, funders will gather to:

  • Interact, learn, and build relationships with Native American practitioners, organizations, and communities offering food systems solutions;
  • Share and sharpen their skills and strategies for investing in Indigenous partners who are leading sustainable agriculture and food systems work in Indian Country;
  • Build awareness of and respond to the historic, structural, current, and philanthropic barriers that Native communities and Tribal governments face in obtaining funding; and
  • Enjoy the fellowship and support of other funders committed to investing in Indigenous communities.

This community of practice is developed by Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), First Nations Development Institute (FNDI), and Melvin Consulting PLLC, a Hopi owned and led firm.

Collaborative Partnership

Melvin Consulting PLLC, a Hopi founded and led firm, will lead the design of the community of practice. The cohort will be facilitated by Eileen Egan (Hopi) and Daryl Melvin (Hopi, Navajo), who specialize in leadership development, program design, strategic planning, and community development. 

First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) will bring more than 40 years of Native philanthropic experience and introduce you to exceptional people and projects across Indian Country.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) will convene the community of practice. SAFSF will be the primary communicators with CoP members and will offer logistical and other support to funders during and after the cohort. 

Community of Practice Focus

Native communities receive only about one-quarter of one percent of all philanthropic giving, and only a small portion of those grant dollars go to Native-led organizations. Members of this community of practice will learn from and with Indigenous people leading projects in communities in order to build effective allyship skills. Participants will learn about the root causes that bar funding and resources from reaching Indigenous communities, and, we hope, apply these learnings to their own work.

Guided by our learning content and guest speakers, we will explore the historical and present-day complexities of Indigenous communities and food and agriculture systems. We will delve into the structural underpinnings that have institutionalized inequity and the barriers that Native communities and Tribal governments face in obtaining funding. We will simultaneously explore the beauty and richness of Indigenous agriculture and food projects, people, and institutions. As we learn from Indigenous topic experts and each other, we will co-design ways to change funding practices from within our funding organizations and networks.

Throughout the community of practice, participants will share their experiences making investments in Indigenous communities. Discussion of completed, in-progress, and/or anticipated real-time funding experiences will expose all members to a range of investments and funding dockets that include Indigenous projects and provide opportunities for participants to explore areas of collaboration with one another. At the same time, this community of practice will expand participants’ understanding of the strengths, abilities, and talents of Indigenous communities in our collective undertaking to create more just and sustainable food systems.

Who Should Apply

The application period has closed and the cohort is in session.

This Community of Practice is open to grantmakers, lenders, and investors who bring a commitment to investing in Indigenous communities. Funders who have a range of experience with grantmaking or investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems work in Native communities are invited to apply. This includes both those funders who are preparing to invest in Indigenous food and agriculture systems for the first time, as well as those who have already made or are making investments in Indigenous-led projects. We hope those participants who have not yet funded in an Indigenous community will leave this experience having committed to do so. 

The group will be limited to no more than 15 participants. 


This Community of Practice will begin with a (required) in person 2 day gathering of participants in April, followed by four (4), two-hour virtual meetings held in May, June, August, and September 2024. Additionally, participation at the FNDI LEAD Conference in September/October will be an optional opportunity to meet once more with cohort peers in person.  Cohort members will be assigned pre-session reading, homework and group assignments, and will be encouraged to expand their learning and peer connections outside of formal meetings.

Meeting Dates

  • April 15-17, 2024: In Person Meeting in New Mexico (arrive by 4pm MT on April 15) 
  • May 22 at 12-2pm MT: Virtual Session 1 
  • June 26 at 12-2pm MT: Virtual Session 2 
  • August 14 at 12-2pm MT: Virtual Session 3 
  • September 4 at 12-2pm MT: Virtual Session 4 
  • TBD Dates for Optional Attendance at FNDI Summit in Person

Cost of Participation

The cost of participating in the community of practice is $4,500. A deposit of $500 (plus a transaction fee) is required at the time of registration. The deposit must be paid by credit card online. If the cost of participating is prohibitive, please contact [email protected].

You will be notified of application status by March 1, 2024 and, if you are accepted into the cohort, the registration balance will be due by March 15, 2024. If you are accepted and cancel by March 15, 2024 , we will refund your deposit minus a $50 administrative fee and the transaction fee. If you are not accepted or if the cohort is cancelled by SAFSF, we will refund your full deposit, minus the transaction fee. 

Please note: In-person meeting expenses (such as lodging and airfare) will be each participant’s own responsibility.