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Reflections on TWS in Color

January 17, 2023

Green 2.0 Team

Photo Credit: The Wilderness Society.

Reflections on TWS in Color

By Wordna Meskheniten

In September of 2022, staff of color at The Wilderness Society (TWS) gathered for the TWS in Color retreat. In this blog, TWS’s Vice President of Equity, Culture, and Learning  Wordna Meskheniten reflects on the experiences and learnings of their convening and provides advice for other groups looking to better support their staff of color.

Q: What were the goals and intended outcomes of the TWS in Color retreat?

The Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Caucus named our retreat “TWS in Color” to capture the essence of who we are and the experience we sought to have in coming together. The Equity Team also established the gathering as a convening rather than a retreat because the intention was not to have formal programming in the way that many staff retreats do, but to simply be together, build community, and strengthen relationships. The theme for the 2022 TWS in Color convening was “Joy & Connection” with a focus on celebrating our identities and the greater racial and ethnic diversity of The Wilderness Society.

Photo Credit: The Wilderness Society.

Q: How has the retreat contributed to your organizational culture?

The convening was the first of its kind at TWS. We co-created a space where BIPOC staff felt they could show up more authentically and build a greater connection to the organization by bonding with each other. We had a number of team members who’d recently joined the organization participate in the convening which set a positive tone at the start of their tenure.

Team members left feeling a new sense of dedication to the mission and greater TWS. At the end of the retreat, we discussed TWS’ commitment to equity and what BIPOC staff needed from the organization, leadership, and each other to actualize that commitment. Our team has begun the process of sharing that feedback with TWS leadership and determining the ways our team can support equitable change across the practices and policies at TWS.

Q: What are the next steps for creating a more diverse and inclusive community at TWS?

First, we will be sharing a more detailed summary and analysis of the feedback we received from BIPOC staff with TWS leadership and the greater organization. Leadership at The Wilderness Society was very supportive of the convening and is interested in how we can better incorporate the lessons learned during the event into how we continue building an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive and we achieve equitable outcomes in the pursuit of our mission. Next, we will consider the timing and resources necessary for making TWS in Color a regularly scheduled event as nearly all participants wanted to see it happen once a year or every other year. 

Photo Credit: The Wilderness Society.

Q: If other organizations are interested in holding a similar convening, what advice can you share for planning a successful event?

Three pieces of advice: 1) Plan early 2) Consider how this can be a collective effort 3) Ensure you incorporate down time for your colleagues and yourselves.

We had a very short window of time to plan and execute the convening, however, if possible, I would have loved for us to take 3-4 months to plan. In that short timeframe, our small team of two took on much of the planning, organizing, and logistics of the event. We could have accepted more offers for assistance or even have asked for a larger budget to work with a consultant to provide additional support.

Lastly, we intentionally built in flexible time for colleagues to engage in activities across Washington, DC so that we were not “on” for the entirety of the convening. Doing so allowed us to maximize our capacity while also giving colleagues the space to connect with each other in fun and exciting ways.

Q: Why is it important to create and maintain community among staff of color in the workplace?

We are already in a community but it is essential to create spaces to bring our community together. To speak with each other outside of the Zoom boxes. To fellowship over great food. To experience nature and have adventures together. It is so vital to create these intentional spaces to ensure that our community can thrive and grow and be a force of positive and sustainable change within The Wilderness Society and beyond. 

For more information on the Wilderness Society, visit their website at