There is no one-time of year to focus on equity and justice. It should touch all we do and consider. June, however, marks two significant events: Pride Month and the Juneteenth holiday. It is a month to remember the history of oppressed people in our country, celebrate progress toward a more equitable society, and recognize the work yet to be done.
I recently had the honor of participating in a panel discussion at River Rally, a national conference that convenes watershed professionals, about how our predominantly white, heterosexual, cis-gendered organization is attempting transformational change. The goal was to reach other organizations like ours who want to become more just, diverse, and inclusive, and with an honest view of this work through the eyes of nonprofit leaders. The message we set out to convey? The work is hard, the progress is slow. Our mistakes will be frequent and sometimes highly visible, but our efforts are absolutely essential.
HRWC has invested in our understanding of issues around equity, inclusion, and justice. Staff and board members have completed trainings to better understand the issues, the roles we play in upholding systems of oppression, and the strategies we can take on to be part of the solution. As individuals, staff completed Intercultural Development Inventory assessments to understand our competencies and deficiencies in our ability to identify and respectfully navigate cultural differences. Each of us then created personal plans for growth knowing that organizational change will be most meaningful alongside personal growth. HRWC underwent a DEI Audit and developed a plan for action. Our plan is a living document with all staff participating in the strategies, accountability for progress, and opportunities to add new strategies as we learn from early actions. Equity and inclusion are now embedded in our new strategic plan.
With this foundation, we are actively changing our culture and way we work to reflect what we are learning. For example, we have overhauled our internal policies, hiring practices, and performance evaluation process to better support diversity in the workplace; we are creating a more inclusive set of volunteer and internship opportunities; and, we have initiated a community engagement project that prioritizes listening to members of Huron River communities to cultivate partnerships for developing programs that meet the needs of watershed residents based on what we learn.
HRWC is committed to dismantling systems that give advantage to some and not others. Everyone, in all our communities, needs a healthy environment to live and thrive. We commit to upholding intersectionality and anti-racism as foundations of our efforts to protect and restore the Huron River. We will advance equitable river-friendly policies and programs that ensure all communities can access, benefit from, and enjoy a healthy environment and river. We will uphold our newly-established organizational DEI values. We are just beginning. But we are in it for the long haul.
If you would like to talk about our efforts, please contact me.