Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation hosted a meeting of the Environmental Diversity Working Group. Founded in 2001 with the goal of, “providing ongoing dialogue and actions that support the advancement of a broad, diverse and engaged constituency for the most widely defined reaches of the environmental movement, the partnering organizations include the faith community, organized labor, historic preservation and built environment.” The National Trust’s very own Vice President of Business and Finance Greg Coble attended the group as it formed.
I welcomed the attendees and started the meeting by sharing opportunities around diversity at the Trust. Staff from different departments introduced themselves. Patrice Frey, Deputy Director of the Sustainability Program, discussed the National Trust’s efforts with respect to sustainability. Guests included representatives from organizations such as the Institute for Conservation Leadership, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Parks Conservation Association, Rails to Trails, the Sierra Club, Students Conservation Association, and the National Wildlife Federation.
Roger Rivera, President of the National Hispanic Environmental Council and also Chairman of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change spoke about his role as Deputy Team Lead for the Department of the Interior transition during the Obama-Biden Transition. While on leave from his organization, and as part of the Interior transition team, Mr. Rivera conducted the agency review of the National Park Service (NPS), together with Bob Stanton, an African American and former head of NPS in the Clinton Administration. Mr. Rivera and Mr. Stanton also conducted a review of DOI’s departmental diversity plans and operations, and Mr. Rivera shared with us some of their overview findings with respect to diversity at DOI in particular but also at the federal environmental and natural resource agencies in general.
What he shared was consistent with the National Trust’s approach to diversity. Far too many organizations focus solely on workforce diversity, i.e. getting diverse “bodies” into the organization. Rivera highlighted (and has been a long-time advocate for) a “comprehensive” approach to diversity. This included access to education opportunities in the work of internships and scholarships; supplier diversity as an economic development tool; diversity in policy initiatives; diversity in programmatic efforts; diversity in outreach efforts; bringing diverse issue experts to the table; diversity in partnership opportunities; and diversity in future leadership (such as park superintendents) as concepts crucial to making diversity a living and breathing part of an organization.
One of the concepts that Mr. Rivera believes in, as do others, is a concept I found both fascinating and true – the idea that “Personnel is Policy.” Once you bring diversity into the top management and leadership of an organization, the programmatic nature of the organization starts to change. Rivera also identified that a crucial factor in a successful diversity effort is the absolute necessity of having support for diversity at the top of an organization. Fortunately with President Richard Moe being such a strong advocate for diversity in the preservation movement, the National Trust seems right on target with Rivera’s suggestions.
For those who might like to discuss any of the above with Mr. Rivera further, he can be reached at rrivera[at]nheec[dot]org. Information on the Environmental Diversity Working Group can be obtained through Iantha Gantt-Wright at igwright[at]earthlink[dot]net. (Replace the words in brackets with the customary symbols.)
-- Tanya Bowers
Tanya Bowers is Director for Diversity at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.