Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Approach
Updated February 2022
The mission of Nature Sacred is to provide the opportunity for a deeper human experience by inspiring and supporting the creation of public green spaces that offer a temporary place of sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace, and engender peace and well-being. We envision a time when every urban community in the U.S. will provide all people with opportunities for intimate, intentional daily doses of nearby urban nature through the creation of a system of nature spaces.
Our Orientation to DEI
Underlying Nature Sacred’s mission is the belief that access to nearby nature is a right that should be afforded to every individual — like air to breathe, water to drink and nature to thrive.
Despite our belief, not everyone has equitable access to nature. And even if there is nearby green space, people, especially racial and ethnic minorities and individuals with physical and neurodiverse differences, have experienced discrimination that can make them feel unwelcome and fearful to spend time in it. This discrimination stems from structural disparities and racist practices that need to be disrupted for Nature Sacred’s vision to be fully realized.
We value racial equity and access in words, deeds, and actions for all. This is an organizational operating principle, and we are committed to continued learning and action on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Nature Sacred has elevated its efforts to deepen our community’s understanding of racism and discrimination and the actions we can take individually and collectively to recognize and disrupt bias, challenge what we define as “normal”, transform practices and support other organizations in doing the same.
As an organization, we humbly continue to examine our business practices including hiring, purchasing and those we engage as experts to inform our process and services for the communities we serve. We share our successes, recognizing and holding ourselves accountable where we fall short. This organizational assessment of our work is not a process with an end, but an ongoing commitment to practice this work for our community, our Board, our members, and our own staff.
To fulfill our mission, we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in our work. For Nature Sacred:
- Diversity encompasses attributes of both individuals (such as race, ethnicity, age, socio economic status, gender identity, physical ability, neurodiversity, sexual orientation and religion) and Sacred Places (such as differing types of spaces, geographic locations and demographics of those engaged in space creation and served by those spaces).
- Equity ensures that the necessary conditions are in place for each person to achieve his/her/their potential. We view it as one part of anti-racism and social justice, as are diversity and inclusiveness. We acknowledge inequities have root causes that must be addressed beyond just the existence of those inequities. This requires that we work to eliminate policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes, especially by race and ability.
- Inclusion means creating a culture of belonging and community care, grounded in learning and trusting, and which incorporates the viewpoints of diverse and divergent individuals.
A Snapshot of Where DEI Currently Shows Up in Nature Sacred’s Work
1) In Nature Sacred’s processes with communities to create and maintain Sacred Places.
- Nature Sacred’s process intends to create spaces that are built for and by the communities they serve; welcoming to all and reflective of place, story and culture to allow belonging and inclusion to flourish.
- Nature Sacred prioritizes supporting the creation of spaces in communities that have historically been under-resourced and excluded from green spaces and their design processes.
- Essential to the process and the space’s ongoing vitality is a Firesoul, a member of the community, who is identified as a trusted leader and an inclusive presence.
- Nature Sacred does not make design decisions but facilitates partnership between Firesouls and landscape architects and designers to lead their community through designing inclusive spaces that encourage equitable use. The community, not Nature Sacred, becomes the client of the landscape architect/designer and their voice is centered in this process.
- The Nature Sacred Charette process is uniquely crafted to champion community input and care, providing a platform for diverse perspectives to be listened to, centered, and implemented in the ultimate Sacred Place design.
- The first charette meeting is a blank canvass. Design Advisors and landscape architects/designers bring an open mind and a blank sheet of paper to allow community members to authentically envision their Sacred Place. Only the four design elements — portal, path, destination and surround, along with the Nature Sacred bench — are used as guideposts in this process. These elements are not prescriptive and encourage community members to think creatively on how they can be interpreted to demonstrate the unique culture and characteristics of their community.
- The Nature Sacred Charette process aims to provide a safe place for diverse perspectives to come together in the common goal of green space design. It often facilitates otherwise contentious discussions, elevates historical truths and infuses community pride.
2) In Nature Sacred’s Firesoul Network.
- Each Sacred Place has a Firesoul who stewards it. We bring together these individuals in a network — the Firesoul Network — designed to provide opportunities for them to share their knowledge, learn from each other and support each other in their leadership efforts.
- Firesouls typically live or work in the community in question — for a community garden, they are business owners, community activists, heads of local non-profits; for a hospital space, they are doctors, nurses, or chaplains; and so forth. This ensures that they have shared experiences and understanding with the end users of the site. They often serve their communities in a variety of essential ways, so they are well-known, liked and respected.
- Next generation Firesouls are typically selected by the outgoing Firesoul or other stakeholders in the Sacred Place to ensure that the next generation Firesouls have the characteristics to inspire inclusion and cooperation. They are oriented and mentored in their important role by Nature Sacred and current members of the Firesoul Network.
3) In the Sacred Places themselves.
- No Sacred Place “belongs to” Nature Sacred. We work with communities interested in creating Sacred Places that are community-led and which are open and accessible for all to use.
- Each space embodies:
- Open. Physically open and accessible to visitors regardless of race, ability, creed, background or beliefs — all are welcome.
- Nearby. Located within the neighborhood it serves — close by.
- Sacred. Designed to bring respite, encourage mindful reflection, engender peace.
- Community-led. Built for and by the community it serves, reflective of place, story and culture.
Our Commitment to Address DEI in our Operational Practices – Going Forward
- Nature Sacred’s staff and Board of Directors are committed to learning about and acting to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion across all aspects of its operations.
- Nature Sacred will practice anti-racism and inclusiveness among its Board of Directors, including across its committees and task forces.
- Nature Sacred has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board comprised of a diverse set of stakeholders to advise on practices and procedures throughout the organization and to assist us in holding our team accountable to this work.
- Nature Sacred will encourage engagement with Firesouls and the communities where it has a hand in creating and maintaining Sacred Places around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly with respect to program themes, topics of communication, agendas, speakers, audiences, resource materials and the selection of next generation Firesouls.
- Nature Sacred will center its diversity, equity and inclusion principles when contracting for goods, services, and recruiting, hiring and retaining staff and consultants.
- Nature Sacred will consistently assess how its diversity, equity and inclusion principles relate to its communications and research efforts, and we will modify these efforts when needed to ensure that data shared, and stories told reflect these principles.
- Nature Sacred will center its diversity, equity and inclusion principles in the selection of partners with whom to scale Sacred Places. Intending to create equitable access to nature will guide where and how we choose to engage.
- Nature Sacred’s staff and Board of Directors will annually track and measurably assess the implementation of this policy and modify future policies, processes and practices as needed to uphold these values and practices.
If you’d like to learn more about how we are putting these words into action, please contact Alden Stoner at 410.268.1376.