Last year we set about forming a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) community for conservationists. Over 90 staff, board and volunteers responded from 75 different organizations throughout PA, MD, D.C. NJ, DE, and from national organizations wanting to learn more.
The questionnaire responses from that initial meeting were:
What is one DEIJ challenge or opportunity that you are facing (personally or at your organization)?
1) Board & Staff predominantly white/ need for capacity building
2) Create meaningful change
3) Connecting our organization with BIPOC
Why am I here? Why did I sign up for this meeting?
1) This is an important topic
2) Mission-driven (or is it?)
What are my hopes for this DEIJ council?
1) To learn
2) To create a model
3) To affect change
Out of that initial meeting, a smaller “planning committee” self-selected and committed to working together for six months to form a path forward. We hired professional DEIJ facilitator Marcelo Bonta to guide our work. We met regularly from October 2020, through March 31, 2021 and developed the following working purpose statement:
This community provides a forum for people to share experiences, learn about and advance effective practices, and identify opportunities to individually and collectively promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in conservation work and environmental organizations.
Self-selected (to unanimous agreement) Steering Committee co-chairs are currently Carissa Schnabel and Renee’ Carey. Other Steering Committee members include Sara Painter (point person for WeConservePA), Marcelo Bonta (facilitator), and self-selected Pod Leaders: Andrew Kirkpatrick, Margaret Hodgkiss-Lilly, and Lina Beron Echavarria. The Steering Committee will meet monthly and provide support for Pods.
- Empower council members to access resources – Curate and share resources for council members to use and bring back to their organizations;
- Address power and privilege and create a more equitable and inclusive culture as individuals and within organizations (staff and board);
- Expand capacity at member organizations to do DEIJ work and make workplaces a welcoming environment;
- Assist with equitable hiring practices recruitment and retention;
- Center BIPOC and other non-cis/white/hetero/able-bodied practitioners and organizations;
- Relationship building and coalition building amongst the entire social and environmental justice community;
- Enhance engagement with communities of color and underserved communities;
- Center BIPOC communities – as we engage with communities of color, our goals directly address their priorities; See 8a and 8b below
8a. Prioritize climate change adaption and mitigation work that provides response-relief and recovery-repair for BIPOC communities;
8b. Facilitate transformation of workforce development
To address the above strategies, we have created several workgroups. dubbed “pods”. They currently are: Relationship Building, Strategic Planning, Structure, and Programming.
Relationship Building: Relationship building and coalition building amongst the entire social and environmental justice community; Enhance engagement with communities of color and underserved communities; Center BIPOC communities – as we engage with communities of color, our goals directly address their priorities
Programming: Curate, house, and share educational DEIJ resources; provide opportunities for awareness/movement-building within and beyond the DEIJ Community to promote racial equity, instill accountability, and foment an inclusive work culture in the conservation and greater environmental community.
Structure: Focus on overall structure of the “Council” and Pods
Planning: Focus on strategic planning for the direction of the overall DEIJ Community
We also have a proposed New Pod: Workplace Improvement, which will focus on expanding capacity at member organizations to do DEJ work, make workplaces a welcoming environment, and center BIPOC and other non-cis/white/hetero/able-bodied practitioners and organizations
We have also identified the need for a new pod, and will proceed when we have sufficient members and leadership: Workplace Improvement; Address power and privilege and create a more equitable and inclusive culture as individuals and within organizations (staff and board); Expand capacity at member organizations to do DEJ work and make workplaces a welcoming environment; Assist with equitable hiring practices, recruitment, and retention; Center BIPOC and other non-cis/white/hetero/able-bodied practitioners and organizations
These pods have been meeting monthly since January and will continue to meet regularly in the future.
If any of these existing pods or the proposed new pod dovetail with your interests and/or expertise, please let us know so you can join a pod and your voice can be heard in this work. Please email [email protected]
For those who may not have interest or capacity in active participation, please check out additional resources here: https://weconservepa.org/diversity-equity-inclusion-justice/. The council plans on updating this page regularly as well as continuing to reach out to this email list regularly so you can stay up to date with the Council.
I would also like to extend an invitation to you all to attend a free virtual program featuring Mr. Dudley Edmondson on May 17. Register here: https://weconservepa.org/event/attempting-to-understand-the-disconnect-between-african-americans-and-the-outdoors/
We are looking forward to continuing this journey together towards a more equitable and inclusive conservation community and hope you will join us in this important work.
I would like to give my deepest gratitude to the people who gave their time and energy for over six months to help co-create the DEIJ Community:
Valerie Bader, North Country Trail Association
Jenn Bigler, Wissahickon Trails
Marcelo Bonta, JEDI HEART, ELP
Margaret Hodgkiss-Lilly, Chester County Parks + Preservation
Tykee James, Wyncote, Audubon Society, ELP
Amanda Hickle, Lancaster Farmland Trust
Katie Hess, South Mountain Partnership, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Scott Cope, Wildlands Conservancy
Renee Carey, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
Keisha Scovens, Let’s Go Outdoors (LGO), ELP
Andrew Kirkpatrick, Willistown Conservation Trust
Carissa Schnabel, Berks County Conservation District
Carlos Claussell-Velez, Institute for Sustainable Communities
Genny McIntyre, Western PA Conservancy
Kip Le Warn, CDRW
Jean Lynch, PA DCNR
Sara Painter, WeConservePA, ELP
Andy Pitz, Climate Reality Leadership Corps, ELP
Sarah Corcoran, Sierra Club
Alicia Cramer, US Endowment for Forestry
Nicole Faraguna, PA DCNR
Lina Berón Echavarria, WeConservePA
Director of Outreach & Development