Intertwine Alliance Equity & Inclusion Strategy
Vision for and values about racial equity
The Intertwine Alliance’s vision for equity is that people of all identities and ages are connected to nature and work together to create and sustain communities in which they can fulfill their promise to be prosperous, healthy and safe. For many communities, specifically communities of color, this is not a current reality, which highlights the need to increase access to and availability of basic resources, including nature. Read The Intertwine Alliance's land acknowledgment.
The Alliance honors the diverse ways communities already connect with nature while recognizing the historical and current barriers that have been put in place to create disproportionate access to new and existing resources: that there are structural barriers that marginalized communities face that are often reinforced by cultural barriers. We work to dismantle these barriers and both ends in order to create more equitable access.
In order to successfully realize The Intertwine vision, it is our intention that The Intertwine Alliance will include, represent and serve the full cultural and demographic diversity of the region. We find that while there are many differences in approach and perspective, our fundamental vision -- that nature is a crucial component of life in the metropolitan region -- is shared by different geographical and cultural communities across the region. With this in mind, the manner in which The Alliance has chosen to pursue a vision for a regional system of parks trails, and natural areas is to find common ground among multiple communities, perspectives, organizations, political affiliations and ideologies. Anything short of that would be a failure to fulfill our most fundamental purpose. We believe our work can be a force for making our community healthy and whole – environmentally, economically and socially. We are different in many ways, but The Intertwine is where we come together as a community around those things with which we have a shared commitment. It is our common ground.
The idea of strength in diversity, and of building bridges among organizations and communities that share common purpose but are diverse in perspectives, is a central value at the very core of The Alliance. This value extends to building bridges across racial cultural divides through relationships.
The Intertwine Alliance will harness the power of our coalition as a force for change. We will support Alliance partners in becoming more diverse and culturally conscious and in addressing inequities in how the benefits of parks, trails and natural areas and associated programming are distributed and accessed. For Alliance partners already working on diversity and equity issues, we will provide a platform for them to further their work. Read more about the Intertwine Alliance Equity & Inclusion Cohorts.
Our path so far
The Intertwine Alliance completed its first equity strategy in the fall of 2014. Staff and board have worked to achieve many initiatives including:
- Successful efforts in increasing the diversity of staff and board
- Organizing and completing the organizational assessment cohort
- Organizing anti-racism trainings for our partners and staff
- Supporting the regional parks directors peer learning workshops
- Beginning a broader effort to prioritize equity as an issue for our sector
- Supporting four cohorts/30 Alliance partner organizations along their path toward operationalizing DEI
- Strengthening TIA'S internal DEI lens through practices and policites
The Alliance strives to further grow our equity work, knowing that equity is not a project that can be completed through a check list, but rather is an ongoing and evolving process. The next phase of our equity work will build on what we learned from previous work.
We recognize that inequality affects individuals differently, and that privilege is a dynamic system that expresses itself differently in individuals and their environment. Social determinants of health act both independently and dependently to create negative consequences. It is important that we recognize all types of inequity, yet leading with race will allow us to target our efforts enough to be effective, while still affecting change in the other areas. As a coalition, our equity work is both internal as a staff and board, and external as a convener and connector with our many partner organizations. The following strategy is divided into these two aspects of our work.
Internal Alliance Efforts
We strive to incorporate equity and inclusion awareness and practice into all Intertwine Alliance work processes and programs. We acknowledge that we are continual learners around racial equity and inclusion and that internal efforts needs to be ongoing and responsive to needs.
Continue efforts to achieve a diverse staff and board. Sustain staff diversity by continuing to improve and utilize best practices regarding hiring new staff and board members. The Alliance board will define governance practices that are both transparent and geared toward engagement, inclusivity and shared decision making.
Monthly meetings among staff to discuss equity. The Intertwine Alliance staff will meet monthly to discuss the equity work of The Alliance, internal staff needs, and deliberate on ways to work in equitable and inclusive ways.
Incorporate equity more fully into the Intertwine Project Network. The Intertwine Project Network is the framework in which The Alliance does business. As equity is a board-approved resource priority, the project declaration form reflects our stake in equity, and projects with an equity component may be able to receive more resources. Currently, the project declaration form requires that partners identify whether their project has an equity component, but it does not require one. We do not filter projects to incorporate equity, but hope to encourage the use of an equity lens through components of the project network. To move this work forward we will:
- Define and describe an “equity lens” through which projects can be conceived and reviewed.
- Dedicate specific questions to equity on the declaration form and progress reports.
- In the process of preparing a project declaration, provide “technical support” to partners on the incorporation of equity into their work.
- Highlight equity work at project leaders’ meetings, and through peer discussions encourage adoption of an equity lens for those projects that have yet to do so.
- Incorporate equity questions into the progress report of the project. One year after declaration, staff follows up with the project to get feedback on the current state, needs, and changes of the project. Including questions on equity will reiterate the importance within our work and within the project.
Build stronger, more meaningful relationships with at-need communities. We invest in relationships and seek to support and add value to the work of a wide range of organizations and communities. We particularly emphasize building relationships with communities of color, low-income communities, persons with disabilities, and youth, by reaching out to and welcoming organizations that have been excluded in the past. We are interested in the priorities of our region’s various communities and how they think about the social, economic and environmental challenges they face. We acknowledge that the dominant culture paradigm does not supply the only or all the answers to our region's problems, and support and include different approaches to addressing the issues our communities face. We respect the wisdom of the people who live here, and strive to work in partnership with them to create a shared vision among our regional community. In these ways we work to build a coalition that truly reflects in its membership the rich diversity of our region, and reflects the values and ways of our community.
The Intertwine Alliance will seek and apply resources to increase our community outreach work with underserved communities. By and large, this includes showing up at their events and inviting them to ours, providing support as needed, and taking the time to show a commitment to their work and values. Additionally, we will create policies to allow these organizations to more easily become partners. We recognize that this work occurs over time, and we are in it for the long haul. We hope to reflect that sentiment in our relationships with community organizations.
Internal tools and processes. The Intertwine Alliance will address our internal tools and processes, as related to diversity, equity and inclusion, via addressing the conversation at a Core Group level. Our objective is to address cultural bias in Alliance programs and the way those programs are delivered. Since the Alliance’s strategy and key decisions are discussed and evaluated in Core Group, it is truly the “lens” through which The Alliance formulates its programs and approaches. While The Alliance board of directors make policy decisions, Core Group evaluates these issues before they reach the board, and also advises staff on project and program operations. This project will accomplish a fundamental restructuring of The Alliance’s most central process (the Core Group), which we believe will have ripples through the entire organization.
The Intertwine Alliance worked with The Center for Equity and Inclusion to create a more inclusive and multicultural conversation at Core Group through a two-part process. The first part included trainers from CEI facilitating a one-day session and four two-hour follow-up sessions in order to introduce the equity lens for the group. The second part included a staff member of each organization represented at Core Group attending a racial equity facilitation training with CEI in order to continue the momentum and implementation of racial equity and inclusion within the Core Group.
Equity as a part of our communications -- leadership in the message. The Intertwine Alliance has a strong communications reach, and we can use it to advance awareness of our mission, goals and activities. We will utilize our various communications platforms to promote equity in the region. Specifically, storytelling via the blog has proven to be a successful messaging platform. Partner organizations can report on their own equity work, achievements, successes, and issues to spread the work and share interests. We can also communicate equity messaging via the website, our newsletter and at our summits.
Identify leverage points. As a coalition of 160+ organizations, The Intertwine Alliance has a broad reach. We engage with large and small organizations, private and public organizations, non-profits, all the major parks systems, local governments and others. Through this, we have innate leverage points we can access to deliver equity work and bring in a broad range of stakeholders. Our points of leverage include:
- Project leaders meetings. We hold quarterly meetings for our current and prospective Intertwine Project leaders. Incorporating equity conversations into these meetings will reach a wide array of partners who are actively working in the field to increase peer support for the utilization of an equity lens in all projects.
- Annual summits. We hold large gatherings at least once a year, where we are able to reach community leaders in the sectors we serve. Breakout sessions or discussions on equity in the region engage stakeholders while providing feedback from the community and partners on progress.
- Forums. We convene forums on a variety of topics, many of which have not historically been seen as equity-related fields (i.e. health). We can address equity issues and apply an equity lens to the forums.
- Communications channels. We have multiple communications channels, including social media platforms and a monthly newsletter. We will continue to work on incorporating equity into our messages and their uses.
- Visioning. The Intertwine Alliance is the steward of a regional vision where nature is integrated deeply into the fabric of the metropolitan region. We have an opportunity to ensure that the vision reflects the values of the diverse communities that make up the Portland-Vancouver region, and to use the vision as a guide to help create a more whole community.
- Metrics. As a central clearing house, convener and broker, we are positioned to gather information on how the sectors we serve are progressing in their equity efforts.
Generate conversation on intersectionality of equity issues and change the conversation from an “us” to a “we." The intersectionality of racial, sexual, and gender inequities means that by effecting change in one of these areas, there is change in the others. By leading with racial equity, we will achieve some success in other areas as well. By acknowledging and addressing the intersectionality of these issues, we can achieve broader successes.
Too often equity is seen as an issue of marginalized communities that receive the majority of the burden. However, equity indeed benefits everyone. By creating a shared vision and language between white dominant culture and underserved communities, we can work together to broaden the impact and understanding of how inequities negatively impact us all.
Connect partners with community organizations. As our own outreach work progresses and we build more meaningful relationships with underserved communities, we can start to connect those groups with our other partners to conduct collaborative work in the region. It is important for community organizations to have a voice and ownership in larger, region-wide work. However, it can be difficult for them to partner with larger, mainstream organizations. Conversely, it can be difficult for the larger organizations to gain community support when attempting to do projects in local communities. We hope to act as a connector on behalf of both sides to be able to facilitate and support collaborations between both sides via a regional platform. These platforms include those previously mentioned, such as the project leaders meetings and the bi-annual summits.
Support partners’ existing collaborative initiatives and generate new collaborative initiatives. We will promote and supplement the programs that our partners are already involved in and connect them to equity/anti-racism professionals that could further expand their reach into the community and substantiate their programs. We will initiate and facilitate projects and programs that support our partners in working together collaboratively to advance equity objectives in the region. These new initiatives will include targeted programs involving a subset of our partners, as well as initiatives that include many or all of our partners.
Support for Organizational Equity
Engage Alliance partners in creating an ongoing learning community focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Our goal is to bring equity work to scale across a broad and diverse array of organizations in order to fundamentally transform the multiple sectors we work with. We learned several lessons from our first equity strategy:
- For organizations, the path to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a long-term project that, by its nature, is somewhat unpredictable. There is no “one size fits all” program. Each organization learns and grows along a somewhat unique path.
- While each path is unique, there are certain sequences of learning and activities that seem to make sense. For example, it is important to provide training in the history of racism and its societal, institutional and personal manifestations as an early step in the journey. It is important to have done this work prior to attempting any kind of deeper organizational assessment, for example.
- Because of the findings of the two preceding paragraphs, it is important to create support for organizations that is sequenced intelligently, but which retains enough flexibility to respond to individual needs.
- Cohorts of organizations where organizational leaders work together and share best practices can be very effective, and are good ways to “bring the work to scale” -- but they work best among organizations that are of similar size and at a similar stage on their equity paths.
- Organizations don’t always know what they need for support, or where to find it.
- Commitment by top leaders is among the most essential determinant of success.
The Intertwine Alliance is proposing to build on the learning from our first equity strategy to create an approach that we think will be extremely effective at advancing equity in our community.
Questions or ideas? Please email Katie Gavares at email@example.com.