Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
ATC’s commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) aspires to cultivate greater strength and resilience within and beyond the organization as we work to manage and protect the Appalachian Trail.
What is JEDI?
Acronyms, we all use them. It is important for the ATC to acknowledge the learning and work we’ve done, and give credit to the organizations that have led us to the definitions that resonate most with us. JEDI was coined from The Avarna Group and The Center for Diversity in the Environment. Defining them is important so we move past jargon and into how we internalize them and fulfill them as values.
Justice: Is about dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life. Barriers include racism, classism, sexism, etc.
Equity guarantees fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented access to the Trail and participation in its recreation, stewardship, and organizational partnerships.
Diversity represents the practice of actively incorporating people of different backgrounds, perspectives, thoughts and beliefs.
Inclusion: We elevate voices that are traditionally underrepresented for a stronger A.T. community. ATC aspires to be a welcoming and diverse organization that attracts, retains, and values talented people from all backgrounds. We appreciate differences in one another as well as our similarities. We strive for this spirit of inclusivity to expand beyond our organization and especially to our government and volunteer partners. Inclusion IS NOT ignoring or surmounting difference.
The ATC strives, in all aspects of its work, to incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Whether partnering with a rural community, supporting urban populations to access the A.T., or building the next generation of Trail stewards, JEDI values and practices are integral to all ATC programs, practices and policies. As managers and protectors of a public resource, we need to also make the resource available broadly and actually reflect the demographics of the communities and people we serve.
Our aspiration is that, in fostering a culture of inclusion, the ATC will cultivate greater strength and resilience within and beyond the organization as we work to manage and protect the Appalachian Trail and its greater ecosystem of communities and people.
We consider this work essential to the future of both the ATC and the Appalachian Trail. Faced with growing impacts of development, encroachment, and visitor use, it is essential the ATC invites and inspires the next generation of land stewards to protect our recreational, cultural, and natural resources. Volunteer leaders in the 31 Trail Maintaining Clubs express concern over lack of new members as well, and specifically identify struggles with cultivating new leaders.
We must be a welcoming and diverse organization to fulfill our mission: To protect, manage, and advocate for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Our process in this work is three tiered: (1) acknowledgement, (2) educating ourselves, and (3) taking action to make sustainable change. Starting with acknowledgements is important not only as a best practice, but a leveling setting exercise for staff, the Trail, and its greater ecosystem. We are focusing on cultural changes within the organization needed to embrace JEDI as a value integral to the organizational mission.
- Barriers that people of color, immigrant and refugee communities experience in accessing public lands and the A.T. are real and exist.
- Diversity is both a strength and opportunity.
- Perpetual conservation of the A.T. and its special communities requires outreach and public engagement that considers marginalized communities’ racial, cultural, and socio-economic complexity.
- All people should have access to and inclusive experiences on public trails, including the A.T.
What We’ve Done
In the 2015 Strategic Plan, the ATC identified Broader Relevancy – which strives to incorporate groups that are underrepresented among ATC staff, AT visitors, and ATC constituents – as one of its five goals. Since then, the ATC has undertaken research and analysis, initiated programs and projects, and conducted projects to bring in new people and new partners.
We established the the Next Generation Advisory Council (NextGen) and hosted summits for young people and for educators. We restructured education workshops to a regional focus and created partnerships with many new organizations, and advanced internal policies, practices and communication around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Internally, we developed language and content to communicate our objectives, including an Equal Employer Opportunity statement, presentations and workshops to volunteer clubs, created youth policies and guidelines, created an online training module for volunteers and staff working with youth, and developed equity training for seasonal staff. We’ve worked to incorporate a more inclusive and diverse array of stories through videos, articles, blog stories, and by working with a broader and more diverse community of authors.
This process will take time, we will make mistakes. However we are committed to learn from our missteps and will incorporate as broad an array of perspectives as possible. We invite you to join us on this journey.
What We’re Doing
NextGen Summits: Regional coalitions of youth-serving organizations and land managing partners collectively plan and lead Summits to strengthen community connection to the landscape and create conservation networks to expand employment and stewardship opportunities for youth.
Affinity Groups: Affinity groups are a means through which those with shared interests and shared identities can contribute and feel supported in executing ATC’s mission. Affinity groups are global in reach and open to all. For example, a women’s group, Wild East Women, has established a social media following and organized multiple women’s workdays along the Trail. A Latinx Partnership Coordinator, advances Latinx voices and connections up and down the Trail. This new position was added to amplify opportunities and voices and ATC aspires to add similar positions in the future.
Education Summits: Formal and non-formal educators, along with community partners come together to learn about public lands, from pocket parks to the A.T., as valuable teaching resources within their communities. They develop Place-Based Service-Learning curriculum units and work with community partners to engage students in authentic community-based learning. Utilizing the inclusive Public Lands Curriculum, and reaching all students on a level playing field through school systems during the regular public school curriculum and standards allows everyone to learn about the opportunities places like the Appalachian Trail and public lands hold for young people. In 2020, educators will have an opportunity to connect to content developed directly for students through a virtual Ed-Venture Series.
Next Generation Advisory Council: Sixteen diverse leaders advocate for stewardship; forge new partnerships with youth and multicultural organizations; advise on strategic questions that relate to bridging young and inclusive audiences; connect the ATC community to a broader network of people, ideas, and resources; and support projects, events, and practices that further equity for the organization.
NextGen Advisory Council members offer a quarterly JEDI Web Forum for ATC, clubs, and A.T. Community partners to join and share dialogue around best JEDI practices.