Injustice is not a new issue, and as we navigate through these disturbing times in our society, we know we have to work harder as an organization to reflect the rich diversity of the region we serve. For nearly 50 years, The Conservation Foundation has been committed to preserving open space and to the belief that everyone deserves to have equal access to Nature and its remarkable healing powers. We are elevating our efforts regarding inclusion and diversity in all of its forms, and we stand against racism and discrimination of any kind.
Native American Land Acknowledgment Statement
The following is The Conservation Foundation’s Native American Land Acknowledgment Statement as approved by the Board of Trustees:
As an organization dedicated to environmental stewardship, we acknowledge the many Native People and tribes who were the original stewards of this land for thousands of years before European settlement. With reverence and respect, we acknowledge their indigenous spirit of everything that is on and in the land. Native Peoples did not choose to leave this land, and now we are working to carry on the legacy of land stewardship that is inherent in their culture and customs.
A Land Acknowledgment is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.
To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long-standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgments do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous protocol.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Goal Statement:
The Conservation Foundation will be inclusive, equitable, accessible, dynamic and open to new and different perspectives to effectively meet the unique needs of the diverse communities we serve.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion awareness, knowledge, skills, and practices are nurtured and demonstrated through a range of enhanced practices and learning opportunities.
This is an evolving list of our actions to date. Please check back for updates. Last updated February 2023:
- We hired two Latinx student interns who worked with us for more than a year (2019-20). One helped rewrite some of our brochures in Spanish.
- We are working toward more diversity in our staff and have recently hired two women of color and several early careerists to complement the current team.
- We have reviewed our hiring practices, and we have expanded our reach to diverse communities and their networks to try to attract a more diverse pool of applicants.
Diverse Leadership Development
- We have been implementing youth education programs in culturally diverse and under-served communities for more than 20 years.
- We have created a young Next Generation Advisory Council to help develop future leadership and attract younger, more diverse people to TCF.
- We have created a young staff Leadership Council to develop leadership skills and training early in their careers.
- We have created an internal DEI staff team to help move initiatives forward.
- We created an Inclusion Council comprised of racially diverse individuals who are affiliated with TCF to ask questions, listen, learn and seek advice on how to be more inclusive to others.
- We are partnering with Outdoor Afro on a series of educational workshops.
- For years, children from diverse communities have been visiting our McDonald Farm in Naperville to see a real farm and learn about how food is grown.
- We have designed interpretive signs at O’Hara Woods (Romeoville) in both English and Spanish, reflecting the local community’s diverse demographics.
- We work with the Midwest SOARRING Foundation, a local Native American organization, to ensure our preservation and interpretation efforts at Dayton Bluffs Preserve, and other properties, are respectful of their beliefs and aligned with their cultural values.
- We added Bilingual Forest Therapy Walks and offer them in diverse communities.
- We participated in Aurora’s Farmers Market where customers were able to receive double their SNAP benefits at our GEH stand, and sold organic vegetable plants at a discount to Aurora residents at the Fox Valley Park District’s community center.
- Our Board of Trustees approved a Native American Land Acknowledgment Statement (developed in cooperation with local Native American representative) paying tribute and respect to our indigenous land stewards and their culture. A statement reading and land blessing ceremony was held March 26, 2022 at our McDonald Farm.
Diversity on Our Board of Trustees
- Our Board of Trustees is committed to increasing diversity on our board. We have added racial diversity to our board and to our Advisory Councils.
- Diversity is discussed at committee and board meetings when considering new trustees.
- Members of the Inclusion Council and Next Gen Advisory Council regularly attend board meetings.
Diversity Equity and Inclusion Awareness and Training
- We created a DEI Authentic Actions Committee comprised of staff and board members, and have conducted board/staff surveys. A draft action plan was completed in April 2021 and was finalized in February 2022.
- Staff and board have opportunities to participate in a variety of DEI trainings to help better understand DEI issues and opportunities for growth.
- Staff participate in regularly scheduled “lunch-and-learns” around various DEI topics to help create more awareness and self-reflection.
- A DEI Resource Folder has been created in Teams so staff can continue reading, watching and learning.
- We developed an internal DEI Glossary of Terms to help facilitate internal communication and understanding.
- We were asked to share our DEI journey with other area not-for-profit leaders at a conference in December 2022.
Strong, healthy and vibrant communities are places where people feel valued and have a sense of belonging. Through the lens of DEI, we want to foster a culture of community at TCF where everyone feels they belong; where everyone feels comfortable bringing their whole authentic selves.
This diagram explains the core elements of DEI and shows the power of where all three intersect- BELONGING.
We know we need to do more, and we will. We want to hear from members of our communities about how we can continue to improve. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] with your ideas!