Commitments to Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (JEID) at California State Parks Foundation
After two years of learning, listening, and discovery, California State Parks Foundation has articulated our commitments to justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity as an organization. We are making these commitments public and will regularly report on our progress because we understand that words are meaningless unless followed up by action and accountability.
Why did we engage in this work?
California State Parks Foundation was founded in 1969 by William Penn Mott, Jr. to be a partner to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in protecting and preserving the California state park system. Director of California State Parks, William Penn Mott, Jr. rallied a core group of friends and park supporters to form California State Parks Foundation. They committed to improving the quality of life for all Californians by expanding access to the natural beauty, rich culture and history, and educational and health opportunities offered by California’s state parks. They believed that parks needed an independent nonprofit partner to help engage a broader audience of park supporters, access and inspire philanthropy, and to better serve more diverse communities.
Early in its history, California State Parks Foundation helped grow the system by acquiring land for the state, preserving these treasures for generations to come. As California’s state parks were in a period of rapid growth, we were a leader and partner in safeguarding our state’s natural and historical resources.
As the new millennium approached, the California state park system began to show its age with crumbling infrastructure and mounting deferred maintenance. Simultaneously, it was increasingly clear that many Californians do not have access to their state parks and all the health and wellness benefits they provide.
Over the course of our first 52+ years, the organization built a dedicated community of over 70,000 members and raised more than $300 million to benefit state parks. Today, California has the largest and most biologically diverse state park system in the nation with 279 park units that are vitally important to the well-being of our state’s environment, economy, and quality of life. California State Parks Foundation continues to fight for our state parks wherever and whenever they need us.
Today, California State Parks Foundation empowers Californians to experience, engage with, and champion their state parks, ensuring they will thrive now and for future generations.
The mission statement of California State Parks Foundation is to protect and preserve the California state park system, for the benefit of all. In recent years California State Parks Foundation has worked to define and explore what it means and what it takes to be “for all.”
As we launched our Pathways to Parks initiative, it became increasingly clear that in order to authentically own our role in the outdoor access space, we needed to develop a deeper understanding of our own JEID culture, values, policies, and procedures. In July 2020, we formed a voluntary staff-led JEID committee that met weekly and assessed the organization's existing practices, developed shared definitions and values, and identified resources for staff. The group concluded that we needed to identify resources to support this work long-term, engage external experts, set clear and measurable goals, create an internal plan to achieve these goals, consistently track progress, and share our commitment publicly. From January through May 2021, staff participated in Be the Change Consulting's Becoming an Antiractist Organization Capacity Building series. These workshops examined organizational practices to de-center white dominant culture and support building inclusive and equitable outcomes.
In May 2021, California State Parks Foundation started to partner with consultants that would help in this work. Avarna Group was the perfect partner to engage with on this journey. Avarna envisions a more resilient and connected world where all humans sustain healthy relationships with their selves, one another, and our planet. They manifest this vision by creating pathways, providing resources, and innovating strategies that support the outdoor and environmental sector in their evolution toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
From May to August 2021, California State Parks Foundation went through the initial discovery and vision process with Avarna. In this process, Avarna performed discovery through exploring definitions and data gathering. They hosted visioning sessions on why JEID is important to California State Parks Foundation, how California State Parks Foundation will contribute to a more equitable and just world, how California State Parks Foundation’s work will shift in light of these values, and cultural hallmarks of California State Parks Foundation that support JEID and cultural hallmarks that detract from JEID work. Avarna next collected qualitative data gathering through listening sessions throughout the organization. Lastly, they did a quantitative assessment regarding organizational culture and staff experiences at California State Parks Foundation.
In August and September 2021, staff and Board went through a series of engagement and educational sessions. The Board of Trustees went through the definitions and JEID commitment statement, identifying how the Board can better support the JEID work, and bias training. The staff had three education sessions on bias, power and privilege, and difficult conversations. The result of these sessions and input was the creation of a comprehensive, multi-year JEID implementation plan with commitment areas, strategies, tactics, and accountability.
In January to June 2022, staff reviewed the full implementation plan and made concrete plans to address the highest priorities in the coming year.
With the help of Avarna Group, we identified three critical commitments. Each commitment has a list of strategies to achieve these commitments, as well as tactics, accountability, and resources.
Commitment 1: We commit to fostering an organizational culture that celebrates learning and growth, leans into difficult conversations and feedback, values connection to each other, and sustains staff and board members’ well-being and sense of belonging.
Commitment 2: We commit to centering and amplifying the needs, values, and voices of marginalized people, specifically Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people in our advocacy work and in our programming.
Commitment 3: We commit to building trust-based partnerships, especially with Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people and accountability-based partnerships with funders and agency partners.
Our follow up
California State Parks Foundation commits to continuous learning and an ongoing process to be a better organization. We look for opportunities to learn, grow, and change while staying committed to the goals we’ve set out in our original Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity plan.
Every year, after closing out the fiscal year in June, we will update you on the progress we’ve made.
We welcome honest and critical feedback throughout this process and hope our parks community will join us in this journey for a more resilient and connected California state parks space. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or questions you may have.