Everyone’s Environment Conference: A Successful First Step in Diversity Building

Melissa Williams of WNC Alliance & Helen Powell-Busch at Everybody's Environment Conference
Melissa Williams of WNC Alliance & Helen Powell-Busch at Everybody’s Environment

I feel so lucky to have worked with the Center for Diversity Education at UNCA on the planning committee for the first annual Everybody’s Environment Conference at the Wesley Grant Southside Community Center here in Asheville. I’m also grateful that Dogwood was able to be a sponsor. Our goal was to bring diversity to the local conservation community. As you may already know, there is a nationwide issue of conservation staff and board being mostly white; it’s an issue that many are striving to remedy by bringing diversity and inclusivity into their organizations. Read this report to find out more.

Sarah Nuñez facilitates a World Café.
Friend of Dogwood, Sarah Nuñez, facilitates a World Café.

Here are the top three takeaway tips from our keynote speaker, Melanie Allen, Conservation and Diversity Coordinator at Conservation Trust for NC:

  1. Define what “diversity” means at your organization, and know what your goals are. Don’t rush to do outreach before you look in the mirror and do an assessment of where you’re starting from.
  2. Establish a diversity and cultural competency team at your organization that consists of a high-level staff person, the board and a staff person who’s on-the-ground and out in the community. This kind of change is too much for one person to take on and won’t be successful if it’s not accepted and understood organization wide.
  3. Strive for “equitable exchange” with other communities and organizations. Listen to others and understand what they want and need from you. Don’t just try to get others to get involved in your mission. Find out where the mutual goals are that you can both connect on.
Melanie Allen Speaks at Everybody's Environment Conference
Keynote speaker Melanie Allen

There are many other great events and organizations to deepen your knowledge and experience of diversity right here in Asheville. I personally recommend Building Bridges, which is an eye-opening multi-week course that gave me a full picture of my white privilege and the intersectionality of marginalization while connecting me to new groups and people in town.  I also recommend the YWCA annual Stand Against Racism events. The next step in my education is to dive deeper into my own unconscious bias by taking this survey. Please join me.

We exceeded our goal of 100 registrants and there were 46 organizations from WNC represented. This event was just the beginning for many of us. Stay tuned to learn more about another great event we’ve got coming up in the spring of 2015.

Dogwood has several current job postings. See our recently expanded inclusion language.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>