By Doryán De Angel & Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus
Inviting diverse communities outside to enjoy the bright, warm sun, the singing birds, and the whispering trees is key to our mission at TTF. Wanting to learn how we can do better, staff members Doryan and Nagiarry attended the Watershed Professionals Institute in late August sponsored by the Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River (AWE).
TTF is a member of AWE. AWE has made a commitment to seek, promote, and sustain a sense of belonging and a valuing of the contributions, beliefs, way of living, and ethnicities of the people and communities of AWE and its centers. AWE’s Inclusion Statement, included in its organizational Vision, Mission, and Goals, is provided below.
The event was led by Youth Outside, a consultant and advocate for equitable outdoor experiences. The Youth Outside leader gave an inspirational presentation on unconscious biases, inclusive language, and pathways to create change together.
Here’s what we learned:
What is unconscious bias? It is where our own privilege comes forward, and reinforces our own feelings about our own ‘goodness.’ We all have unconscious biases that impact our personal behaviors and the values we bring to our organizations.
Lasting diversity results when equity and inclusion are practiced consistently and intentionally. In order to have sustainable change, instead of focusing on external factors, we must instead ask – what should I be doing to elevate those who are underrepresented in my actions and words?
Community agreements can be helpful in guiding group conversations. Some of these agreements can include: speak with honesty, notice intention, acknowledge our own impact, withhold judgement, be mindful not to overshadow other voices, be thoughtful, and uplift humility and vulnerability.
We must be mindful of the language we use and notice unconscious biases. For example, the terms ‘at-risk youth,’ ‘minorities,’ ‘marginalized people,’ and ‘low-income individuals’ contain biases. Using this type of stereotyping language creates a single story about a given community or people. These terms imply that people are solely the sum of their challenges, without acknowledging the role played by oppressive systems in need of reform.
Want to learn about your implicit biases? Try the Harvard Implicit Associations Test, an educational tool to develop awareness of implicit preferences and stereotypes.
TTF established a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee this past year. The committee continuously strives to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our mission, structure and operations. The committee hosts monthly conference calls to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion is embedded into the practices of TTF. We are consulting with Toni Graves Williamson of The Glasgow Group to support and guide our work.
Here are a number of additional resources that TTF is using to assist us in this process: Diversity Toolkit, Clean Water Coalition, 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, Summary of the Diversity Diamond Model, Community Agreements, Resource Media.
AWE Vision, Mission, and Goals
AWE VISION A healthy Delaware River Watershed with diverse communities and people empowered to sustain it.
AWE MISSION To collectively increase and enhance constituent appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of the Delaware River Watershed, leading to greater protection and restoration of the watershed.
AWE GOALS Through Spring 2022, the Alliance for Watershed Education will challenge and equip member centers to:
- Create a larger and more inclusive* constituency of people engaged at and near centers and their waterways, as defined by each center
- Increase and enhance constituent attitudes (e.g., self-efficacy, pride, and appreciation), knowledge, and intention to act to ensure a healthy Delaware River watershed.
- Collaborate, learn from one another, and deliver high-quality, inclusive watershed education programs that are sensitive to community** priorities.
Inclusion is the involvement, engagement, and empowerment of all groups of people, where we recognize, understand, and value the inherent worth of the people and communities of the Alliance. Our centers will seek to promote and sustain a sense of belonging; a valuing of the contributions, beliefs, way of living, and ethnicities of the people and communities of the Alliance for Watershed Education and its centers.
Defining Diversity or a Diverse Audience: When used here, diversity should be interpreted as: working with, recruiting, and/or engaging with an audience that is not representative of, involved with, or engaged in the organization(s). These include culturally and ethnically diverse audiences that the conservation community has not intentionally engaged as stakeholders, leaders, and contributors to conservation. We endeavor to holistically engage the communities that are a part of the Alliance for Watershed Education, including those who have not been intentionally engaged.
Cultural diversity in this context is defined as the habits, ideas, customs, beliefs, traditions, and social behavior of a group, population or society. Cultural differences can be realized nationally, city-wide, neighborhood wide, within families, within sports or hobby groups, etc. Often, these cultures respond and engage in very different ways and should be approached with this in mind.
Ethnic diversity in this context refers to people from different national and ancestral origins. Some examples would be Native Indian, German American, Chinese American, African American, Mongolian, Australian Aborigine, etc.
In this document, we use the term intentional. This term expresses our deliberate desire to engage with a group or groups. The conservation culture has generally left certain cultures and ethnicities out of the conservation conversations. It should be understood that there are a variety of reasons that this happens, which include an oversight of the people group by the conservation agency, challenges with the comfort level of the conservation agency, and deliberate exclusion of the group.