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IT’S TIME TO ACT: Introducing the Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Grant Program

About the Author

Sarah Milligan-Toffler is Executive Director of C&NN.

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Dear friends,

The Children & Nature Network is listening, reflecting, and asking ourselves what new actions we can take to address the systems of injustice that exist within our organization, in communities where work, and across our movement. The impact of systemic racism shows up in who has regular access to the benefits of nature; in how parks and green spaces have been designed, distributed and programmed; and in policies that discourage use and create safety concerns for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other People of Color. It shows up in the lack of diversity in the nature connection, environmental, and outdoor recreation fields.

Our team is recommitting to dismantling the personal and organizational barriers that prevent our work from being truly equitable and inclusive. As a primarily white-led organization, we invite you to join us as we work harder to uncover and understand the systems and practices that contribute to predominantly white executive staff and board positions across our field– and a persistent lack of diversity both in outdoor participation and career opportunities. The resources included at the bottom of this email have influenced our thinking and action over the past week. We hope you find them valuable as well.

Action.
We know that young people are leading incredible change in our communities right now. We want to focus on their efforts as our nation and the world grapple with identifying and rethinking systems of inequity. As a demonstration of our commitment, we are redirecting $25,000 of existing funding to a new Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership grant program to support young leaders working to improve equitable access to nature and the well-being of children, youth and families. Outdoor industry leader Vasque Footwear is also contributing $10,000 of additional kick-starter funds.

Support.
The Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership fund will support young leaders working to increase equitable access to the benefits of nature, environmental and climate justice, and community health and wellbeing. Grantmaking decisions will be made by a youth-led committee. Help us raise an additional $40,000 to reach our $75,000 goal before July 31 by donating today(Note: By donating to his fund, you become an official member of the Children & Nature Network, or upgrade your current membership!)

Commitment.
Like many of you, we’ve been on a journey to become an anti-racist organization for the past several years. We recognize that we need to do more. We will conduct an audit of our policies and decision making practices to determine where we need to make changes. We will establish accountability measures for hiring, board development and other systems. We will increase the focus of our regular news features on listening to and lifting up the perspectives and leadership of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and People of Color from both inside our organization and across our network. We will support the work of diverse young leaders working to create a more equitable world, and align with organizations committed to this work.

Please let us know if there are other ways that you’d like to see C&NN step up— or step back. We welcome your partnership, ideas and input.

Onward!

Sarah Milligan-Toffler
Executive Director

2 Comments

  1. Can I interview you for a podcast? I would love to know if you’ve reached your goal as well as what this journey has been like for you and your team!

    Reply
  2. I would love to learn more about this program. I’m with the City of Raleigh and we just hosted a 4-week Youth Conservation Corps through Conservation Corps NC. We are looking ahead to 2021 to form our own, similar program, but to build a lot of leadership training into it, and then to have the youth then lead a one-week service camp for other teens. We had a diverse, and yet very cohesive group of young people; it was very successful (both for our public lands and for the youth), and we hope to continue the program as we grow environmental stewards and potentially new natural resource professionals!

    Reply

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