What Does Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Mean For The Mountaineers?

Members of our staff recently attended a seminar on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Read our key takeaways and learn what's next for The Mountaineers when it comes to investing in DE&I.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
Mountaineers CEO
February 21, 2018
What Does Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Mean For The Mountaineers?
Photo by Luke Helgeson.

In November, a subset of The Mountaineers Leadership Team attended a seminar on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) offered by the Bridgespan Group. The seminar brought together leaders from nearly 50 different local nonprofits to share experiences and insights into the important work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Members of The Mountaineers Leadership Team are participating in Bridgespan’s two year Leading For Impact program thanks, largely, to a scholarship from the Seattle Foundation. The goal of the program is to increase the effectiveness and capacity of nonprofits in the Seattle area and to grow the leadership footprint of those organizations within the community.

Attendees had the opportunity to attend two break-out sessions from the following list of topics:

  • How we use numbers, lived experiences, and attitudes to measure experience for black audiences
  • How to increase recruitment and retention with black students
  • Reflective practices for white leaders around leading for racial equity
  • Reflective practices for leaders of color to navigate white spaces
  • Discussion on equity work, white privilege, and identity
  • A journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)
  • Grappling with racial equity using internal assessment tools
  • How to involve people in anti-poverty, equity advocacy
  • The 4 pillar strategy to understand race equity in work and organizational culture
  • The journey toward racial equity

Between the six Mountaineers staff in attendance, we participated in nearly all of the sessions. We learned from our counterparts at Centerstone, Rainier Scholars, Schools Out WA, Wellspring, Girl Scouts, Planned Parenthood, and Solid Ground - who shared their key experiences and learnings along their journey toward inclusion.

biggest takeaways

There is much work ahead for any nonprofit committed to DE&I and we need to take a long-view of it. Some people may be resistant, and other people will always think we aren’t doing enough. A quote: “Because nothing is happening immediately, equity work can be seen as a distraction. We must recognize it will be hard to hear pushback, but equity work is relational. We must slow down and focus on building relationships and common language to move forward.”

In this process, we need to figure out why we want to approach DE&I as an organization? 

  • Is it political, ie, creating future advocates?
  • Is it because our mission of building a true community of outdoor enthusiasts depends on it?
  • Is it because we want to change the world?
  • Is it because we want others to have these experiences?

DE&I work can only happen when the organization’s leadership makes it a priority. Our Board of Directors, Branch Leadership, and Staff need to demonstrate commitment to evolving our community to become a place for all people. We believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love.

Finding universal ways to discuss what DE&I means to our community, in a safe, non threatening way, will be important to driving change. We should be tolerant and understanding as we work, and strive to establish group norms, including a set of shared language and definitions, to build bridges and trust.

Organizations who have experienced real progress toward becoming inclusive have woven this concept into their everyday operations. Communications focus on inclusive language and diverse stories. Images are diverse and welcoming. Specific action items such as training events are part of staff reviews. All internal training events, regardless of focus, include a DE&I lens.

Leading a DE&I effort can be uncomfortable for a leader who isn’t from a diverse community - for example, someone who isn’t a person of color. Making a sincere effort to understand others’ life experiences can help leaders become an ally of marginalized and oppressed groups.

Starting the Process

Becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community was cited as an important priority in last year’s Mountaineers town hall meetings and an online survey soliciting input for our new strategic plan, Vision 2022. Leaders across our organization are committed to this goal and we’re excited about the journey ahead, recognizing it will take time and requires long-term focus.

As a next-step, we are currently finalizing the language of Vision 2022 with a specific lens toward our future work in DE&I, and we're building out operational plans for each one of the areas of strategic investment. Once Vision 2022 is approved at our March 17, 2018, Board Retreat we'll begin our collective work to achieve the DE&I operational plan.

Main image photo by Luke Helgeson. 

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Tess Wendel
Tess Wendel says:
Feb 22, 2018 04:59 PM

What would it take to get preferred pronouns on Profiles/rosters?

Amanda Virbitsky
Amanda Virbitsky says:
Feb 23, 2018 09:28 AM

+1 on pronouns!

Tess Wendel
Tess Wendel says:
Feb 26, 2018 12:01 PM

I added to The Mountaineers feedback site- if you are pro pronoun give it a vote/comment http://feedback.mountaineers.org/forums/273688-general-feedback/suggestions/33457861-add-pronoun-field-to-rosters-and-profiles

Bam Mendiola
Bam Mendiola says:
Feb 26, 2018 12:15 PM

I would also like to see pronouns on profiles and rosters.

Donna Kreuger
Donna Kreuger says:
Feb 25, 2018 06:46 PM

Thanks, Tom for your and your teams excellent work on this important work.

Danielle Graham
Danielle Graham says:
Feb 26, 2018 06:18 AM

Thank you. I’m looking forward to the next steps.

Siana Wong
Siana Wong says:
Feb 27, 2018 09:03 PM

Thanks, Tom! I also look forward to the next steps

Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Feb 28, 2018 09:11 AM

Eager to see a project plan for this initiative and hoping BLC will be included in the drafting.

Tom Vogl
Tom Vogl says:
Feb 28, 2018 10:47 AM

Hi Peter, at the upcoming Board retreat on March 17 we'll be discussing Vision 2022 operational plans for the next 18 months for focus areas such as DE&I. As we've done in past years, Branch leaders are invited so I'm looking forward to sharing our thoughts and hearing your feedback!

Tyson Harold
Tyson Harold says:
Mar 14, 2018 11:33 PM

Nice post.Thank you.