Equity & Inclusion Update: 2022 Trail Markers & the Road Ahead

We aspire to offer outdoor opportunities for everyone, and are committed to building a community where all people feel belonging. Keep reading to learn about our most recent efforts in Equity & Inclusion, and nominate yourself or someone else today to join the Equity & Inclusion Committee in 2023.
Serene Chen Serene Chen
Equity & Inclusion Committee Chair
November 16, 2022
Equity & Inclusion Update: 2022 Trail Markers & the Road Ahead
Photo by Skye Stoury.

At The Mountaineers, we aspire to offer outdoor opportunities for everyone, and are committed to building a community where all people feel belonging. Our Equity & Inclusion (E&I) Committee was founded in 2018 to work across the organization, in partnership with staff and volunteers, to bring this vision to life. Reflecting the promise of transparency to our community, our committee shares written updates twice per year and holds an annual E&I Town Hall to highlight key trail markers in our work. Today we’re excited to share the progress we’ve made since our April Town Hall, and to announce that applications are now open to join the E&I Committee in 2023. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Last year, donations from our community provided 254 individual scholarships to youth and adults for courses, programs, and activities. Each scholarship we award helps to address financial barriers that people face to getting outside, and in some cases supports life-changing opportunities. 

“The financial assistance tells me that this [the Basic Alpine Climbing Course] is for me. It's an opportunity for equity. And, not to be too dramatic, but this course ultimately changed my life. Beyond the lifelong friends I gained, I've come away with hard skills that help me feel more confident and safe as a woman in outdoor activity spaces. It also has felt like deep personal growth in terms of seeing my value in a team environment and building the transferable skills of moving through discomfort and fear. Ultimately, I feel more comfortable outside in the mountains and in my own skin. This course has had a lasting and profound impact on my feelings of self-worth and belonging.” 
2-year member, Basic Alpine Graduate 

While scholarships are a very tangible way we work to reduce financial barriers to participation in outdoor recreation, we also work to decrease all barriers and increase belonging through policy development and updates, affinity groups support, partnerships with historically excluded communities, the development of our community-driven strategic plan, and more. Read on for updates about our recent work. 

RECENT PROGRESS

Our E&I Strategy, first introduced in our April 2021 Town Hall, map directly to the five primary goals outlined in the Vision 2022 Strategic Plan: Community, Volunteers, Youth & Families, Advocacy, and Impact on Planet. We provided an update on these goals in our April 2022 Town Hall event, and, I encourage you to read the recap or watch the virtual recording to learn more about why our equity work is so integral to the future of The Mountaineers. 

Vision 2022, like The Mountaineers itself, reflects our interconnectedness. The current plan carried us where we are today, and for the last five months, members of our E&I Committee, alongside volunteers and members across the greater community, have been working diligently to ensure that the importance of belonging is deeply embedded across our new strategic plan launching next year. 

Here are some of our highlights from the past six months, aligned to our five Vision 2022 priorities and mapped to our intended E&I strategic goals:

COMMUNITY 

Goal: Our membership better reflects the communities in which we operate; our core values are reflected in our members' experiences; a diverse and inclusive outdoors that inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love.

  • Board Nominations: This summer, nominations were opened for new Board of Directors candidates in a process launched last year by an ad hoc subcommittee of the Governance Committee in partnership with the Equity & Inclusion Committee. The nominations and consideration process was designed to give all members of our community equal access to and opportunity for leadership. Like last year, we are delighted to see the process identify individuals who would not have previously been considered. See our most recent election results.

  • Scholarships: The Mountaineers supports our outdoor community with more than $75,000 in scholarships annually, which members can use for membership dues, youth programs, and our courses. In October 2021, we launched a new application to revise and improve the applicant experience as well as to collect demographic data for scholarship recipients. We’re still in the process of evaluating the new data, but we hope it will help us continue to refine this process. In general, feedback about the new process has been overwhelmingly positive.

  • Homepage Visibility: Earlier this month, we were able to add a “portlet” to the homepage highlighting our equity and inclusion work. Prior to having this space, our E&I pages were buried and hard to find, and most people found out about this work via other communications channels. We’re hopeful that the new homepage prominence will communicate the importance of creating a Mountaineers where all people feel belonging and share how we’re prioritizing belonging and inclusion with prospective members. We hope to continue to make updates to this page and its resources.

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VOLUNTEERS

Goal: Volunteers understand the importance of E&I for the future success of the organization and are committed and equipped to increasing transparency and equity.

  • Nature of Belonging: Our CEO recently wrote a magazine article about the importance of feeling belonging. In the piece, he included an invitation to our volunteer leaders. “I see this as an invitation to those of you who look like me, and who have often, but not always, been given the benefit of the doubt, to use our current status as leaders to say, “Hey, not everyone has the same opportunities I have had. When do I feel belonging without a second thought, while other folks may not? What can I do to help my programs be a place where all people - whether they look like me or not - can feel like they belong?” It’s our job as leaders and people who have influence and power to advocate for those who do not.”

  • E&I eLearning Module: In July, our volunteer development staff team, with support from the E&I Committee, launched two new eLearning courses to help set the benchmark for outdoor leadership training at The Mountaineers. The Foundations of Leadership and the Foundations of Instruction eLearning courses were designed for our current and future volunteer trip leaders and instructors, with the goal of fostering diverse and passionate connections throughout The Mountaineers. They provide a practical overview of leadership and instructional concepts and definitions with real-life applications.
    • It’s our hope that, in the coming years, committee and branch leaders will continue to see value in these courses and begin to require their completion to earn a leadership position.
    • If you’ve taken the course and would like a refresher or if eLearning isn’t for you, join us December 3 for the in-person version of this course, with an in-person E&I session  led by E&I Committee members.

  • Leadership Development Series: This year, we’re continuing to offer ongoing Leadership Development Series Seminars on a wide variety of topics, including sessions on Equity & Inclusion.

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Coming Soon!
    • E&I Toolkit for Leaders: This toolkit is designed specifically for our volunteers to help them integrate principles of E&I into their courses and activities, including outlining best practices for before, during, and after an activity. An E&I Subcommittee is currently working on this, and is scheduled to be complete in December 2022.
    • Emotional Safety in the Outdoors eLearning course: Safety is highly valued at The Mountaineers, however the tie between emotionally and physically safe environments has not always been clear. This course will help leaders and members understand how to create safe learning environments, leading to better student experiences and outcomes. Scheduled to be completed in December 2022.
    • Board of Directors Recruitment & Training: As mentioned, our committee supported the development of an updated Board recruitment process, and we’re continuing to scope Board-specific E&I expectations to be implemented next year.

YOUTH & FAMILIES

Goal: Prioritize youth programming that incorporates equity and creates pathways to long-term access to the outdoors for participants and their families.

  • Scholarships: Roughly $25,000 of the $75,000 awarded each year in scholarships supports participants in our youth programs. We’re happy to be able to support the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and advocates.
  • Gear Library: Access to gear can be a big barrier for new adventurers of all ages. The Mountaineers Gear Library helps to break down barriers to access, reduce waste, and encourage people to try new outdoor activities. Learn more about our recent library upgrades.
  • Camp Registration Improvements: Seattle Summer Camps implemented a new lottery system with the goal of making program enrollment more equitable, easy to execute, and family friendly. We were able to serve 585 unique campers this summer as a result, nearly twice as many individuals as the year before.

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ADVOCACY

Goal: Fight for equity in legislation; position the outdoors as a place for all people to feel belonging.

  • Land Acknowledgment Statement: Land acknowledgments are a first step towards better honoring Native lands and peoples. They recognize and respect Native peoples’ historical and ongoing stewardship of and connection to the land, and can be a first step toward repairing the harm and trauma historically endured by Native peoples. In September, after years of work and deep engagement with Indigenous tribes, we shared our organizational land acknowledgment statement
  • Going Beyond Land Acknowledgments: We follow up our organizational land acknowledgement statement sharing the many ways we plan to live these values vs. treat our statement as a ‘check the box’ exercise. 

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COMMUNICATIONS

In addition to supporting these strategic outcomes directly by topic, we also amplify the principles of equity and belonging through our regular communications channels. Here are a few of our favorite examples from 2022:

  • “Have you ever walked into a space, say a meeting room or a new bar, and known immediately that you were out of place?” - The Nature of Belonging.
  • “Many will assume the question is defensive, oblivious, or intentionally harmful. And while questions like these have  been used to hijack conversations, spew hate, etc. they can also offer an interesting point of discussion. So, let’s answer it.” - Why Do We Talk About Diversity in The Mountaineers?
  • “Outdoor spaces are not always a welcoming place for all, particularly for those of us who wear plus sizes. This is even more drastic for those who wear a 4x and above. Beyond safety issues, ill-fitting and hard-to-find outdoor clothing restricts accessibility and discourages participation. A lack of visibility and representation across traditional marketing channels only compounds this barrier.” - The Best Plus Size Outdoor Apparel
  • "I feel like the outdoors is such a great place to feel connected to the earth and your purpose and your life. I want to do everything I can to make my teammates and other women of color feel empowered and elevated. I want them to have opportunities that I have never had, even just a few years ago." - Introducing Women of Color Who Summit

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JOIN THE EQUITY & INCLUSION COMMITTEE

Since December 2018, our Equity & Inclusion Committee, chartered by the Board of Directors, has been overseeing our E&I work. We’re looking for 2-3 additional volunteers to join our committee. If you’re excited to expand our E&I efforts to create a Mountaineers where everyone feels belonging, we want to hear from you! 

TIME COMMITMENT

The E&I Committee meets in the evening on the first Monday of the month via Zoom (2 hours per month, 10-12 months per year). We’ll resume quarterly in-person meetings when it’s safe to do so. This work takes commitment, so you should expect to attend the majority of our monthly meetings and actively participate in sub-committee work between meetings. You serve a 2-year term, with the opportunity to extend in 2-year increments. 

SELECTION CRITERIA AND PROCESS

We are looking for committee members who are actively involved in the organization, as much of our work is focused on internal Mountaineers processes. Given the complexity of the organization, it’s helpful if you are already a volunteer on a Mountaineers committee. It's also helpful if you have a strong perspective on process and leadership gaps within The Mountaineers (and want to help fix them) and/or have previous experience in DE&I work and/or leading organizational change. However none of this is a requirement. 

We ask all candidates to share their identities so that we can be intentional about representation and intersectionality on the committee. We seek to represent as many identities as possible, while recognizing that no one person can speak for a group of individuals. Candidates will also be evaluated by our current committee members based on a personal statement outlining their interest and commitment to this work and on their relevant lived, professional, and volunteer experience.

The identities/backgrounds considered are:

  • Ethnicity and/or race
  • Gender identity
  • Age
  • Disability status
  • Military status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Parent or guardian status
  • Branch affiliation
  • Primary activities
  • Length of involvement and engagement with The Mountaineers
  • Leadership experience

Applications are open until Dec 31, 2022, and will be reviewed in December. Final candidates will be contacted in early January 2023 for a conversation, then invited to join our February or March 2023 meeting.

APPLY

The Mountaineers are committed to creating a diverse committee that includes people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and who are passionate about E&I work. We welcome applicants from underrepresented groups including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, LGBTQIA+, veterans, persons with disabilities, and those 55 and older.

You can learn more about our Equity & Inclusion work on our E&I Committee page, which includes a list of resources and all of the blogs we’ve posted on E&I to date. 

JOIN THE E&I WORKING GROUP

The Equity & Inclusion Working Group was established in September 2018 to offer a forum for our members interested in contributing to The Mountaineers work to increase equity in the outdoors. 

The Working Group consists of 150 individuals who have opted in to provide feedback and resources and participate in conversations as it relates to E&I work within The Mountaineers and in the broader community. People in this group agree to receive messages a few times or more a month, and to participate thoughtfully and respectfully with other members of this working group. Members participate in good faith, and continued participation is predicated on respectful communications and aligning with the norms of the Working Group.

If you'd like to join the Working Group Basecamp, please contact kristinac@mountaineers.org.


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