How We Practice

Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

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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 communities where historical and systemic barriers have not been addressed 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

To make NatureBridge more equitable and inclusive for all students and schools, we are committed to increasing scholarship funds in order to increase access to our 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. 

This Welcome Sign is also posted on every NatureBridge campus as our way of welcoming people from all walks of life. We began this practice in 2017 and we reference this sign in all of our welcome exercises with our participants.

Our Annual Impact in Numbers 

Our impact by the numbers

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 where historical and systemic barriers in the field of outdoor education and consequently the workforce have not been addressed.
  • Inclusion: All of our employees learn and practice inclusive language and Nonviolent Communication. 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 verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, against people from marginalized groups) as well as microaffirmations (small acts of inclusion that foster belonging anyone can take) using Nonviolent Communication. 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.

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, 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 programming.

Advancing Equity #

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.

In March 2022, an internal EI&D team called the Bridge Team was formed to act as a bridge and connection to co-create a NatureBridge EI&D path forward with all staff members based on the Justice Outside report and our internal resources. The team has identified staff EI&D priorities and drafted recommendations for departments and leadership teams. Our next steps are:

  • Departments and leadership team to work on recommendations with the Bridge team
  • Continue holding dedicated spaces for conversations and continued listening
  • Create statement on our learnings and improvements to track our impact

If you would like to read the Justice Outside executive summary, please contact NatureBridge's National Director of Education Meg Jakubowski.

Stories from the Field #

Increase Access to Our Parks