Equity & Inclusion Working Sessions: Key Learnings

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our July working sessions to discuss inequities in our internal systems and processes. We aspire to offer outdoor opportunities for all, and your feedback outlined in this blog is a critical part of creating equitable solutions.
Vik Sahney Vik Sahney
Board VP, E&I Committee Chair
July 31, 2019

At The Mountaineers, we believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. We aspire to offer outdoor opportunities for ALL, and held two listening sessions in July 2019 to hear your feedback about how we should work to confront our internal systems of inequity.  Thank you to everyone who participated in these sessions.

Prior to the sessions, attendees were asked to complete two hours of homework and consider their own unconscious bias and what privileges they bring with them into The Mountaineers (we encourage you to review the homework as well).

The goal of our time together was to discuss the internal challenges and institutional barriers that make some people/groups feel unwelcome in The Mountaineers, as well as the cultural norms that maintain this status-quo. We then worked to identify specific areas of opportunity where we can change internal structures to create a more welcoming experience for all people.

From a high level, potential projects were put into three buckets. After discussing challenges, attendees opted into a conversation focused on one of these areas:

  1. Training & Education: Participants discussed various ways to achieve broader understanding of our code of conduct, how to better integrate E&I curriculum at all levels,  improvements to leader training process, potential mentorship and ambassador programs, and the need to tie emotional safety to physical safety as it impacts decision making. 
  2. Process Clarification & Standardization: The concept of emotional safety was raised in this section as well, with the suggestion that each branch have an E&I chair, or perhaps someone on the safety committee designated to track and handle emotional safety issues. The conversation also focused around how 'leader permission' is used,  increasing capacity through modularization, and being more intentional about student selection.
  3. Recruitment & Outreach: Participants felt that recruiting and training are different sides of the same coin, and that if we wish to recruit and retain people from broader backgrounds, we'll first need to better train the leaders we have in place. Creating better demographic data gathering processes was also cited as important, as was growing affinity groups and creating mentorship programs to get our community to a place where we're ready to go out and more actively recruit beyond people who are choosing to opt-in.

If you'd like to learn more about the content discussed, and see our summary of what The Mountaineers has been working on for E&I to date, you can read the Seattle Meeting Notes and/or the Tacoma Meeting Notes, or view the PowerPoint

This working session helped to build on our key learnings from the November 2018 listening sessions, and offered an opportunity for attendees to share their own experiences while learning from others. We continue to be grateful for everyone's thoughtful participation.

Next Steps

Our Equity & Inclusion Committee will meet on August 5, 2019, to discuss the conversations and potential next steps  in this process. We are committed to continuing to provide regular updates on this work, and you'll hear more on what those might look like in the coming months.

In addition to the E&I Steering Committee, we have assembled an E&I working group which receives regular updates and engagement opportunities around specific priorities identified by the E&I Steering Committee. If you're interested to join this group, please email kristinac@mountaineers.org and we will add you to the distribution list. 

Our Commitment

As we embark on this work, we have been cautioned that our approach will need to be broad, multi-level, and org-wide with a focus on long-term, systematic, and cultural changes (while also making immediate, short-terms improvements). We also have been advised that being persistent yet patient is important - we need to move forward boldly yet with intention. We are not here to simply check a box and pat ourselves on the back, and we acknowledge that an uncomfortable road lies ahead.

We are committed to owning the past failures and current realities of The Mountaineers with humility and honesty. We commit to ask questions as opportunities to learn, not to defend our actions, and to assume best intentions from each member of our community. This won’t always be easy and by committing to this work we know we’ll make mistakes. We appreciate your engagement in this process, and want to acknowledge and thank our community and the members of the committee for their work to benefit The Mountaineers community.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION

We've published a number of pieces over the years on the topic of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. We encourage you to peruse our historical blogs below (listed in reverse chronological order), and dive into the additional resources identified within each post.

You can read additional blogs related to Equity & Inclusion on our blog

Main image by Luke Helgeson.

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Elizabeth Gage
Elizabeth Gage says:
Sun, Aug 4, 2019 10:23 AM

I’m a 71-year old woman who would like to get out in nature more. I’ve just looked through your activity offerings and I can tell you that one way to attract a more diverse group of participants would be to offer more easy/moderate activities on weekends. I work Monday-Thursday and I have stamina for urban walking but I need to build up my skills and strength.
Otherwise The Mountaineers will remain foreign to me and I’ll look elsewhere.