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Kansas City Conservation Equity Network Advancing Diversity in Conservation

By 2043 no racial or ethnic group will comprise a majority in the United States. According to a report by the University of Connecticut on diversity in the environmental sector, fewer than 20% of people environmental organizations have hired in recent years have been people of color. Conservation in Kansas City is no different—our organizations don’t fully reflect the diverse populations we serve.

So, when the Heartland Conservation Alliance and the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative teamed up in November of 2017 to offer a workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion in conservation, I jumped at the chance to attend. The Center for Diversity and the Environment led twenty-five of us through two days of training on how to thoughtfully build diversity in our organizations and to create a network of local conservationists committed to change.

For many of us, the workshop felt like just the beginning of the work we need to do in each of our organizations. Nearly a dozen of us gathered in early 2018 to discuss how we could best collaborate. We settled on a name—the Kansas City Conservation Equity Network—and decided we’d host a professional development event on how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into recruiting talent.

We invited Dr. Jennifer Hamer, who is the Vice Provost forDiversity Equity at the University of Kansas, to share her work on diversity and recruiting at the university. She discussed how her team helped university faculty understand that diverse faculty expand the school’s creativity and innovation, improve governance, enrich the intellectual experience for students, and improves recruiting and retention of the diverse students they serve. She also shared a report card comparing the demographics of Kansas to that of the university’s faculty, as well as best practices for building diversity planning into every step of the recruiting process, from including a diversity advocate on every search committee to designing equitable job descriptions. The Kansas City Conservation Equity Network will take Dr. Hamer’s framework to their organizations and reconvene in 2019 to compare notes. The event was organized by the Heartland Conservation Alliance, the Kansas City Native Plant Association, and The Nature Conservancy in Kansas. Images: (right) Dr. Jennifer Hamer, Vice Provost for Diversity Equity at KU, in conversation with the Kansas City Conservation Equity Network in December of 2018. (left) Center for Diversity & the Environment facilitators led a two-day workshop for conservation organizations in Kansas City in the fall of 2017. KCEEN members continue to build on this training today. Learn more:

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