June 5, 2020 update: We know that Black Lives Matter and that addressing systemic racism takes everyone doing their work to change course. As a public agency, Great Rivers Greenway, our board and staff are committed to our role in this work. Please read our plan, follow our progress and hold us accountable. Join us in listening to people of color, learning from their experience and expertise and taking action to move forward. Visit https://forwardthroughferguson.org to see the roadmap laid out for structural change in our region and https://bit.ly/LearnAndAct for actions we can all take today.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-436-7009. Our internal champion for this work is our Chief Operating Officer Michelle Bock, email@example.com, ext. 116.
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:
- Items completed:
- Identify internal champion
- Rewrite Employee Manual
- Create internal communications strategy
- Form 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
- Work in progress:
- Develop DBE/MBE/WBE contracting goals (in research stage)
- 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 (in 2022 budget)
- Insert DEI commitment into major documents
- Develop reciprocal relationships with community groups to create genuine connections, identify opportunities (in progress)
- 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 (have created committee of the board)
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.