Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
The mission of the Children’s Forest of Central Oregon is to “unite our community to inspire lifelong connections to nature for each child.” Embedded in our mission is the understanding that each child deserves the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors. The health and wellbeing of children, families, and communities improve when all people connect to the outdoors. Time outside brings so many benefits including improving our quality of life, health, social wellbeing, fostering joy, and providing space for healing. These are benefits that every person deserves.
Central to our work related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, is the need to examine what we mean by the outdoors. The outdoor community, including our own organization, has perpetuated a narrow view of what it means to be “outdoorsy”, often focusing on remote, adventure-based, and expensive activities. We commit to celebrating and honoring the diversity of ways that people connect with nature, both historically and today, whether it be neighborhood walks, family picnics, stargazing, farming, hunting, praying, or any other way that provides joy and value to people’s lives. If our organization and society as a whole aren’t placing enough value on these relationships to the outdoors, then youth are less likely to see the outdoors as a place for them. We call on ourselves, our partners, and the outdoor community (businesses, conservationists, health care, individuals, etc.) to reframe how we think and communicate about what outdoor access looks and feels like.
We also recognize that not all kids have equal access to the outdoors, and not everyone feels comfortable and has a sense of belonging in outdoor spaces. Many families face barriers that prevent them from spending time outdoors including time, lack of transportation, and financial barriers. Some people with marginalized identities have and are facing stereotypes, microaggressions, exclusion, verbal abuse, and physical harm in outdoor spaces. As Central Oregon’s network dedicated to connecting children with nature, the Children’s Forest has a responsibility to help dismantle and rebuild the systems that have led to inequitable access, safety, and enjoyment of nature.
In recent years, advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors has become our organization’s top priority and we stand solidly by this commitment, alongside our partners. We strive to live this commitment both by looking internally, acknowledging our individual experiences and biases, and serving as a catalytic leader that supports our regional network of organizations to all become more equitable.
Our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion include:
- Building a diverse staff and partner team that better reflects the communities we reach, while also working towards becoming more inclusive organizations that center the cultural identities, values, and perspectives of those on our teams.
- Building capacity within our network to provide a high standard for inclusion so that all participants can see themselves reflected in the program and feel comfortable, welcome, and included, regardless of their race, background, or ability.
- Partnering with underrepresented communities to co-create programs and resources that center their values, cultures, and needs.
- Shaping a more inclusive definition of what it means to be “outdoorsy” through our communications, relationships, and programs by celebrating the diverse ways in which people experience nature.
- Building relationships with Native communities on whose homeland we live, work, and play on, and work to integrate Indigenous voices and perspectives into programs.
- Continuing to listen, learn, and grow as individuals, an organization, and a network, recognizing that this journey is ongoing.
These commitments align with our Strategic Plan, which outlines a path forward for each commitment. We invite our community to hold us accountable to these commitments. Additionally, we see this as a living document that will continue to grow and evolve over time.