From a little acorn a mighty oak grows, as the old saying goes, and from the diversity-and-inclusion movement that’s expanding across the country in corporations, government, schools and everyday conversations, One Acorn is growing.
“We’re bringing individuals and organizations together to have conversations around this whole notion of: What is equity and economic mobility?” says Russell Booker, who founded One Acorn, a Spartanburg-based consultancy, last January with Sheryl, his wife of 25 years.
“The core of what we’re longing to see in our community, in Spartanburg especially, is a unified community, striving for a just society,” he says. “That’s our mission.”
Russell Booker capped off his 38-year career in education last June when he retired after a decade as Spartanburg District 7 schools superintendent. In November, South Carolina awarded him the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor.
These days, while Sheryl Booker handles One Acorn’s day-to-day operations, her one-man-speaker’s-bureau husband also serves as executive director of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, an education initiative through OneSpartanburg Inc. (formerly the Chamber of Commerce).
Among its early clients, One Acorn counts ReWa, the Upstate organization that transforms wastewater into renewable resources, which reached out to Booker earlier this year for consultation and leadership training.
“Everybody’s talking about diversity and inclusion, so we really spent some time helping them to build trust and to strengthen their ties so they can really get into this work on how to have these conversations with one another,” Russell Booker says.
ReWa CEO Graham Rich says Booker’s presentation included exercises in sharing life stories and in listening.
“We’re bringing individuals and organizations together to have conversations around this whole notion of: What is equity and economic mobility?” – Russell Booker, founder, One Acorn
“Getting to know our very own colleagues better, guided by Russell’s genuine curiosity, is a way to bring voices together around an important dialogue that all are inspired to continue,” he says.
With a calendar already chock-full of speaking engagements through the coming months, the Bookers say One Acorn isn’t actively seeking new long-term clients; the consultants train their focus on designing organization-specific presentations.
“We try to research and learn about their mission and learn about the groups of participants and just try to really make sure that when we have the engagement, that we are connecting on an individual level,” Sheryl Booker says.
In addition to ReWa, clients have included, among others, the U.S. Air Force Academy, schools in North Carolina and the Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute – Pelham in Greenville.
Nika White, senior advisor to the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, offers similar programs through her Greenville firm, Nika White Consulting, which she founded in February 2017.
“I have a great level of respect for the work he’s bringing, his lens from the education system,” she says. “We need as many practitioners in this space as possible that are aligning their talents, skills and expertise with different organizations throughout the Upstate.”