Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at TCA:
Personal and profesional work to advance organizational goals
When I began working at TCA as a contractor in July 2020, the organization had recently decided to partner with Marcelo Bonta, the founder of JEDI Heart, as a JEDI consultant. Outside of any personal reading and conversations I had with friends and family prior to joining TCA, Marcelo became a key partner for my personal and professional JEDI work. Through sessions with him and TCA staff, I began to see first hand how an organization can begin to integrate justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into all areas of their work.
A key 2022 goal for TCA was to integrate JEDI values into all program areas so that it wasn’t an afterthought or a box to be checked off. The website redesign and comms framework were two main areas of my focus. I also wrote a JEDI Reflections blog post to provide transparency to our members and supporters about where we are at organizationally with our JEDI journey.
JEDI and the Website
From the beginning of TCA’s 2021-2022 website and comms work, we sought to meet with a variety of voices to get input and feedback on how people experience the organization and avoid working inside an echo chamber. I coordinated a series of brand workshops where we solicited feedback from panels of board members, business members, and BIPOC conservation leaders.
One of the main takeaways from the brand workshops was to highlight the people that are involved with TCA’s work and less emphasis on the landscapes being protected.
The imagery used on the new site was another huge opportunity way to visually bring to life the organization’s JEDI values.
I sourced authentic, inclusive imagery from members and grantees, instead of the recommmended stock photography
- I sourced imagery that aimed to break away from the traditional outdoors imagery that had dominated the previous site
I then strategically deployed these images across the site to shape TCA’s visual narrative
It was a learning experience for me to work to change the language I use when talking about conservation and the environmental movememnt. It took a lot of slowing down and stepping back to assess my word choices. Also, getting feedback from outside sources was really necessary to break out of my bubble.
Through conversations with Marcelo and other members of the BIPOC community that TCA had become connected to through the Confluence Program, we began working to expand our vison of what an inclusive conservation movement could look like.
TCA used to solely focus on the concept of wild places, but as a staff, we now understand that a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive conservation movement must recognize that the definition of wilderness and wild places excludes many from seeing themselves as conservationists.
All of the close to home outdoor places that are vital to communities of all kinds are excluded when only speaking of wild places. As a result, TCA shifted their language to speak about “wild places and outdoor spaces” as a way to acknowledge this truth. Additionally, through our brand workshops, we were able to get insight about how the way we present our organization could create a barrier to the inclusive vision we are actively working to cultivate.
My main takeaways about integrating JEDI work into my personal and professional life, as well as at an organizational level are some things that Marcelo shared with us: Go slow to go far. Words matter. This will take time. Keep showing up. Sometimes it will be raggedy. Own your words and actions. Bring others in.