Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Critical To Our Mission & Vision

Our commitment:

As a steward of taxpayers’ dollars, Great Rivers Greenway embraces the diversity of our region, proactively creating inclusive public spaces and processes with and for all. We’re committed to bringing the vision of a dynamic network of greenways to life in ways that achieve more equitable outcomes for all.

Full document: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan for Great Rivers Greenway (published May 2019)

Click here for other plans for the St. Louis region and how our work can fit into those initiatives. 


Your role:

We do not have all the answers, but we are committed to doing the work. We invite you to get involved. Read the plan. Tell us what you think. Check in on our progress. Bring us new ideas. Hold us accountable. Contact us anytime: info@grgstl.org or 314-436-7009. Our internal champion for this work is our Chief Operating Officer Michelle Bock, mbock@grgstl.org, ext. 116.

Our Title VI policy is located here.

How we got here:

  • Great Rivers Greenway began a formal effort to our ability to understand and address diversity, equity and inclusion in Spring 2016 by starting a series of trainings with our staff and board from Dr. Terry Jones of University of Missouri St. Louis, Julie Simon with United Way of Greater St. Louis and Natalie Self of Practical Diversity Solutions. We learned about the history of our region, redlining, restrictive covenants, segregation and implicit bias. We got more comfortable with being uncomfortable and started to establish a culture of discussing these topics, understanding terminology and working through the complexities of individual and systemic and institutionalized racism.
  • We hired Gladiator Consulting and Practical Diversity Solutions in 2018 to help us design and implement a process to create a plan for our agency to address diversity, equity and inclusion. We formed a group of staff members, board members, partners and community members to audit every single department and function of our operations, identify short and long term projects and document them in a plan, finished May 2019.
  • Our team has gotten better at having those uncomfortable conversations. We meet for lunch at least once a month just to discuss anything going on in the world related to racial equity, separate from the business of greenways. We seek advice from those who know more about this than us on a regular basis.

Progress on the short-mid-term action plans so far (and other pursuits beyond plan):

  • Items completed:
    • Identify internal champion – Michelle Bock
    • Rewrite Employee Manual
    • Create internal communications strategy
    • Form both a staff committee and a Board committee dedicated to DEI
    • Evolve language and voice to be more inclusive
    • Develop reciprocal relationships with community groups to create genuine connections (have formed an Indigenous Intepretation Council for reviewing interpretive content)
    • Shift public celebrations to go beyond opportunities to congratulate professionals and elected officials to centering community voices
    • Create opportunities for enthusiastic trail users or neighbors to share their experiences with potential greenway users and neighbors (started People of the Greenways content series)
    • Update Great Rivers Greenway Foundation policies and bylaws to reflect those adopted by Great Rivers Greenway, including ensurance for accommodations that support all Board members to participate in meetings
    • Audit and revise hiring practices (thank you to our vendor Hicks Carter Hicks)
    • Host photoshoots to capture more diversity in images
    • Ongoing staff trainings include Gender & Sexuality 101, Unhoused Populations, NARCAN/Stop the Bleed and many others
    • Ongoing Board trainings
    • Annual, anonymous DEI sentiment survey for all staff
    • Partnered with Missouri Botanical Garden to host Outdoor Leadership Corps to encourage and train youth for green industry jobs via greenway projects
    • Enhanced outreach and engagement to encourage competitive and representative teams for bids
    • Incorporated DEI comptency into annual performance reviews for all staff
    • Community Centric Fundraising training
    • Develop reciprocal relationships with community groups to create genuine connections, identify opportunities
    • Joined St. Louis Anchor Action Network in 2022
    • Hired Chris Peoples, Director of Equity + Economic Impact to coordinate with St. Louis Development Corporation and partners to encourage workforce development, affordable housing and equitable economic development along the Hodiamont and Brickline Greenway projects
    • Diversified investments into community impact banks
  • Work in progress:
    • Review and update DBE/MBE/WBE contracting goals (in research stage, reviewing current disparity studies)
    • Identify planning lens and budget priority considerations that consider equity (in progress)
    • Go beyond basic ADA requirements toward Universal Design for accessibility (in research phase)
    • Website accessibility audit and revisions (Summer 2024)
    • DEI trainings for Board and Staff
    • Insert DEI commitment into major documents
    • Build an intentional plan for diversifying volunteer base (have measured current demographics, identified opportunities)
    • Define components of DEI capacity that Great Rivers Greenway Foundation Board members should have and train members to increase their knowledge, skills and awareness in those areas
    • Refine process for Foundation Board to consider funding opportunities and include how equitable outcomes are considered
    • Great Rivers Greenway Foundation Board’s Governance committee working to diversify board makeup

Why we do this:

MISSION CASE (how DEI helps our mission):

  • Build, promote and sustain greenways collaboratively with diversity of community members in an equitable way, such that our process meets people where they are.
  • Establish greenways as welcoming, inclusive common ground to enrich lives & bridge communities.
  • Ensure tax funds are spent wisely to provide greenway access to all communities, regardless of local capacity.
  • Develop greater diversity among staff as hiring allows to become more representative of the communities we serve & develop cultural capability with all staff to enhance our ability to connect.

BUSINESS CASE (how DEI helps our agency long-term):

  • Integrate inclusion throughout all projects to become a model for bridging communities to strengthen collaborations, facilitate processes & improve long-term sustainability.
  • Develop greater diversity among staff as hiring allows & develop cultural capability with all staff to enhance creativity, gain insight & perspectives, enhance partnerships, improve problem solving & design projects that are better adapted to needs of the communities served.
  • Develop staff abilities to apply the DEI lens & tools to reduce risk & achieve directives more effectively & expeditiously.
  • Broaden reach & engagement of the region’s taxpayers to deepen their appreciation for the greenway network & build ambassador, volunteer, voter & donor support.