Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley
Photo by Monty Vanderbilt

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Our Commitment

We believe that when we are connected to nature, our lives are better. We are healthier, happier, and our communities are stronger. And yet, we recognize that not all people have equal opportunities to access the outdoors and the benefits it offers, and that systemic racism creates barriers that influence every aspect of the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

The Greenway staff gathered at the Annual Dinner in 2023

We are committed to promoting greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area (Greenway NHA) and within our own organization and all aspects of our work. Specifically, in our strategic plan, we commit to:

  • Expand participation in our programming and diversify our partnerships, Board of Directors, and staff to better reflect the racial, ethnic, geographic, generational, and economic diversity of people in the region​.
  • Prioritize environmental justice and equity considerations in our projects and programming.

At the same time, we acknowledge that the Greenway Trust is a predominantly white organization in a historically white-led sector, and so most of us can’t know the injustice, prejudice, fear, and suffering that BIPOC experience every day.  We recognize that we have a long journey ahead.

Since fall of 2019, we have been working closely with a DEI consultant who continues to provide guidance as we navigate DEI in the context of the Greenway both as an organization and as a place. We are still learning and know that we will make mistakes, but we are committed to creating lasting structural changes that increase DEI internally in our workplace and externally in the communities we serve. As a coalition-based organization, we strive to be transparent throughout our journey with the hopes of learning and growing together with our many partners.

“Inclusive” is one of our core values — but what does that mean within the Greenway as an organization? 

We will:

  • Strive to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for our staff members, board of directors, partners, and all who interact with the Greenway Trust.  
  • Purposefully reflect on who is at the table and who is not at the table, and seek opportunities for meaningful engagement with a broader, more diverse set of populations. We recognize that when our table is unrepresentative, we all lose.   
  • Engage and listen to people with diverse perspectives and experiences so that together we can create better solutions for our communities and for this landscape.  
  • Actively work to diversify our Board of Directors, Advisory Committee, and staff. 
  • Elevate diverse voices and provide a platform for others to share stories of their unique relationship to this place. 

We are committed to DEI at the Greenway Trust because we want to better reflect the communities in and around the Greenway NHA, because we believe that equity and inclusion are vital to our mission, and because we want to do our part to create a more just society.  

Creating an Inclusive Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area:

As the coordinating entity of the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area (NHA), the Greenway Trust is responsible for honoring the history, heritage, and culture of all communities in and around the Greenway NHA. We build connections with a wide variety of partners, with a significant focus on deepening relationships with Tribes to uphold Tribal heritage within the NHA. As a member of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, we collaborate with other NHAs to engage diverse communities across the country in celebrating our unique histories, heritages, and cultures.

Integrating DEI:

The Greenway Trust is continually working to translate our DEI commitments into practices and actions that integrate DEI into our program areas. These efforts include various internally and externally oriented approaches. 

Greenway Trust Programs Area Integration: 

  • Restoration: Collaborating with Tribes, agencies, and conservation groups on salmon recovery, ecological restoration, and building relationships with underserved communities for equitable investment in projects like urban forest restoration. We seek input on restoration projects from Tribal staff to incorporate better stewardship practices that incorporate and protect culturally significant native plants and wildlife.  
  • Recreation: Encouraging agencies to include diverse perspectives from Tribes and underserved groups in planning and design efforts, aiding in complex trail connections, and making recreational areas more accessible. Implementing equitable practices in the recruitment and hiring of seasonal team members and creating volunteer opportunities with partner organizations that provide opportunities for inclusion and connection.
  • Education: Teaching students from underserved communities about ecosystems and stewardship. Prioritizing schools with low-income, majority BIPOC families, and paying high school students to explore green careers through internships. We also co-create internship programs with partners and invite guest speakers to enhance their high school internships, prioritizing BIPOC experts in the field.   
  • Communications and public outreach: Crafting narratives led by marginalized or overlooked voices, ensuring that diverse perspectives are not only heard, but also celebrated. Organizing inclusive interpretive events, designed collaboratively with and for underrepresented communities. Maintaining collaborative relationships with Tribes to create interpretive materials and events that showcase native stories in the Greenway NHA. As part of the Alliance of National Heritage Area’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, we help curate and disseminate underrepresented histories from NHAs nationwide, contributing to a collection of narratives. 
  • Grant-making: Advocating for equitable grant-making, providing technical support to affinity groups around grant proposals, and directly funding local projects and programs.  
  • Community Partnerships: Developing and cultivating partnerships with different community groups in historically marginalized and underserved areas by sharing knowledge and resources. We aim to make meaningful contributions to broader efforts across the region through our partnerships to uplift underserved populations. 

Integrating DEI Into the Greenway Trust’s Organizational Culture and Practices 

Even as we work to integrate DEI into our external programming, we are also committed to continually improving how DEI is integrated within our organizational culture and internal practices. We acknowledge that the Greenway Trust is still a predominantly white organization in a historically white-led sector. Many white staff and board members have much to learn and internalize about the daily injustices, prejudices, and struggles that BIPOC communities and their colleagues of color experience every day.  

History and Context of DEI Work at the Greenway Trust 

The Greenway Trust was founded with community and collaboration at its heart, and we have always seen our organization as a convener of diverse perspectives. Prompted by articulation of “Inclusive” as a core value in our 2016 Strategic Plan, the Greenway Trust staff and leadership began grappling with how that value was, or was not, demonstrated in our conduct and reflected in our programming and partnerships. Among our first steps, we hired a facilitator to lead a DEI workshop for staff and a number of partners; and we began posting and distributing job openings to venues where we hoped to reach more diverse candidates. We learned, though, that despite good intentions and earnest effort, we lacked the foundational understanding, organizational structure, and resource commitment to make and sustain truly meaningful change.

The Greenway Trust committed to drastically change this in November 2019 when we hired a consultant to help guide us through the process of building some fundamental DEI competency and eventually developing priority actions to effect real change within the organization.  

Building A Foundation

We started from a personal level, developing our emotional intelligence to recognize and work on blind spots and implicit biases, and to understand the massive impact of our privilege. We’ve also invested in improving our interpersonal skills – building and deepening staff relationships and learning and practicing skills to communicate across differences.   

In the first half of 2021, having established a strong base of DEI knowledge and skills across the staff, we began shifting toward prioritizing areas for organizational growth to advance DEI and have begun to implement our plans for change in both our internal and external work. By working within committees and caucuses, the Greenway Trust slowly made strides towards creating structures to work towards systemic change within and outside of the organization. 

Caucusing for Racial Equity 

The Greenway Trust created the White Caucus and the POC Resource Group to provide spaces for staff to work within their own racial/ethnic groups. The White Caucus provides time and space for staff to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. The white caucus puts the onus on white people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than placing a burden on people of color to teach them. The POC Resource Group provides space for staff of color to work with peers to address the impact of racism, to interrupt experiences of internalized racism, and to create a space for healing and working for individual and collective liberation. 

Establishing a DEI Framework 

In Spring 2023, the Greenway Trust was grappling with some frustration, dissatisfaction, and uncertainty about the direction of our DEI work. Based on responses to a survey circulated by the DEI coordinating committee and conversations between the Executive Director and staff about pain points and problems, we identified a mix of things that were going well and things that were not. A second round of conversations in small groups considered a framework for reinvigorating our DEI work by reinforcing elements that are going well, and making improvements where needed. We identified ways Greenway Trust prioritizes environmental justice and equity considerations in our projects and programming. Through this review, we created a framework that clarifies the purposes, goals, and priorities of our DEI work, and establishes stronger organizational, program and individual accountability to the responsibilities and actions this work entails.  In 2024, the Greenway Trust set out to use the new framework to better improve integrated DEI initiatives within all program areas.   

This framework is comprised of four complementary elements: Connectedness and Communication, Structured Learning, Internal Supports for DEI, and Externally Oriented DEI Actions. 

Connectedness and Communications and Structured Learning elements focus on the personal and interpersonal scales that are foundational for making positive organizational changes and contributing to wider systemic changes. We do this by ensuring that all Greenway Trust staff have personal understanding of fundamental DEI topics, and competency of interpersonal skills to respectfully and inclusively engage with diverse colleagues, partners, and program participants. 

Internal Supports for DEI focus on organizational infrastructure that undergird both personal/interpersonal and externally oriented DEI work. Through coaching, training and other organizational support for POC Resource Group, White Caucus, and Supervisors, we orient staff to have foundational knowledge that can support their work. The Greenway Trust is also focused on improving recruitment, hiring, advancement, and onboarding processes to reduce barriers and create a more inclusive staff environment. This includes reviewing and evolving staff benefits, fostering organizational involvement through learning opportunities, and investing in professional development to enhance staff capacity. 

Externally Oriented DEI Actions comprise a wide variety of partnerships, projects, and programming that incorporate and manifest our commitments to DEI. To ensure that the Greenway Trust’s programming is welcoming and inclusive of the diversity of people in the Greenway NHA, our projects and programs prioritize considerations of environmental and social justice. 

Progressing with Purpose 

We still have much to learn and we acknowledge that change cannot, and will not, happen overnight.  We will encounter impediments and inevitably make mistakes along the way, but we are committed and ready to move forward together. We are not allowing the fear of imperfection stop us from advancing this important work. 

Connect With Us 

We thank you for taking the time to learn more about our DEI commitment at the Greenway Trust. We aspire to learn and grow with our community. This is a page that will be regularly updated, so please check back.

Please feel free to connect with us: info@mtsgreenway.org. 

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