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Equitable & Inclusive NatureBridge

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Why Does Equity, Inclusion & Diversity (EI&D) Matter? 

​We believe that nature is inclusive to all beings and that diversity is fundamental to the ecological health of our planet. Our work—connecting young people to themselves, each other, science and the natural world—must be as inclusive and diverse as our national park classrooms. 

At NatureBridge, we examine when and how forms of inequity appear in our programs and workplace. We listen, learn and aim to change individual mindsets and organizational practices to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive at NatureBridge. 

Our Core Values reflect this: We are inclusive. We create an equitable, welcoming and empowering learning and working environment for all people. 

What We Are Doing: Strategic Plan, Students, Staff & Board

In our strategic plan, NatureBridge set the goal to become a more equitable organization. The plan highlights three ways to reach our goal provide EI&D training for all staff; recruit and retain more staff members from traditionally marginalized communities; and establish clear systems and policies to support our EI&D efforts.

A few specific examples:

  • Provide onboarding EI&D training as well as ongoing training for all staff
  • Expand use of the Fair Hiring Guide to ensure consistent and transparent hiring practices that mitigate unconscious bias and discrimination
  • Ensure that the NatureBridge EI&D Framework (see below) is a north star and guiding principle for all initiatives

Students
To make NatureBridge more equitable and inclusive for students, we are committed to increasing scholarship funds in order to increase access to our programs. Financial scholarships support students and schools that face systemic and financial barriers to accessing outdoor education programs. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of schools that benefit from scholarship support has increased from 5% to 43%. Thanks to this effort, our students more closely mirror the demographics of the regions we serve. To further close the opportunity gap in our parks, we will continue to expand outreach efforts and raise the total funds available for scholarships.

Our Annual Impact in Numbers 

Our impact by the numbers

Staff
We promote fairness, access, inclusion and belonging at various stages of the employee journey. 

  • Fairness: A Hiring Manager ensures consistent and transparent fair hiring practices and onboards all new employees with a baseline EI&D training.
  • Access: When students see themselves reflected in their educators, connections are more easily formed. They learn better. This has a lasting impact on youth—they come to understand that these parks are theirs and they feel empowered to explore and protect them. This is why we built the Educator Development Program, a pipeline program that ensures our educator workforce reflects our students' demography and lived experiences. This program is dedicated to train and hire educators who have had historical and systemic barriers to the field of outdoor education and consequently the workforce.
  • Inclusion: All of our employees learn and practice inclusive language. Our staff have opportunities to be involved in greater organizational processes, such as strategic planning. For the education team, many educators lead and facilitate the educator training sessions, promoting collaboration and peer coaching.
  • Belonging: Our staff learn how to address microaggressions (small daily insults against people from marginalized groups) as well as microaffirmations (small acts of inclusion that foster belonging anyone can take). Listening, inviting, valuing and engaging are four strategies that we encourage our staff to practice in our workspace. We recognize that Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to face racial inequity in the outdoor and environmental education workforce. We periodically convene affinity spaces to help support Black, Indigenous, and people of color employees to have confidential conversations around race and belonging and to empower white employees to practice active allyship.

Board
The NatureBridge Board of Directors has an internal EI&D committee that focuses on two priorities: board engagement and education and board member recruitment and onboarding. We are also working on strategic goals within each board committee that provide accountability to our equity work. The national and regional boards are engaged with The Avarna Group for discussion, training and learning opportunities to support our mission, staff and the students we serve.

How We Do The Work: The NatureBridge Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Framework

Our EI&D Framework maps out the “how.” Creating lasting change requires commitment at both the individual and organizational level. This framework offers areas to grow as an individual, in allyship, as departments and as an organization. To become a more equitable and inclusive NatureBridge we use a BOTH/AND approach, both examining ourselves and growing as individuals, and changing systems and mindsets within the organization.

Framework outlined below

Individual-Internal: Building self-awareness and knowledge. Examples include: Understanding your own identity, uncovering and interrupting your hidden biases, confronting your privileges and power and allocating time for learning. 

Individual-External: Building allyship and relationships with other people and your communities. Examples include: using inclusive language, challenging bias, addressing microaggressions, practicing micro-affirmations, receiving feedback and mentoring others.

Organizational-Internal: Building workplace culture whereby your department engages to create an equitable and inclusive work environment. Examples include using fair hiring practices, and training and evaluating physical work spaces to meet the needs of individuals. 

Organizational-External: Building programs and communications that increase access and representation, and create equitable and inclusive experiences for people outside of NatureBridge. Examples include marketing, communication, fundraising, customer service, partnerships, scholarship allocations, event planning, curriculum development and program.

2020-2022: Advancing Equity During COVID-19

COVID-19 has exposed systemic inequity not only in our society but also within our organization. We recognize our failures and, thanks to staff feedback, are working on these critical elements to make NatureBridge a more equitable and inclusive organization: 

  • Social and emotional support for staff well-being 
  • Trust and relationship building 
  • Increased transparency and communication 
  • Decision-making processes that include staff voices
  • More equitable allocation of resources across departments and campuses

In October 2020, we engaged Justice Outside (formerly Youth Outside) in a six-month organizational audit to assess NatureBridge’s areas of opportunity for deepening commitments to equity, inclusion and diversity. Justice Outside is an Oakland-based non-profit whose mission is to advance racial justice and equity in the outdoor and environmental movement. 

We are currently processing the report with all staff. Our next steps are:

  • Hold dedicated spaces for conversations and continued listening
  • Identify the ways to change harmful mindsets, behaviors and systems 
  • Collectively plan our path forward 

If you would like to read the Justice Outside executive summary, please reach out to Miho Aida, our Director of Equity and Inclusion, at maida@naturebridge.org

Meet

Miho Aida

Photo by Gabrielle Lurie

What I deeply care about the most in this world is summarized in five Es: environment, education, empathy, equity and empowerment. Since 2000 when I started my career as an environmental educator at NatureBridge, my life has been dedicated to increasing the visibility and access of those from marginalized communities to our parks, environmental education and its workforce. 

My role as the Director of Equity & Inclusion is to listen to our staff, collectively review and process the external audit report and plan a path forward; onboard all NatureBridge staff by creating trainings and systems; steward the EI&D Core team, support CEO and the board to actualize EI&D goals; improve our communication with all staff on our progress with regard to Equity, Inclusion & Diversity work.

—Miho Aida, Director of Equity & Inclusion

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