NESEA created a Strategic Plan in 2017 that includes a diversity and inclusion mandate which states “with an initial focus on Emerging Professionals, broaden the demographic diversity of NESEA Membership to better reflect the constituency NESEA serves.” Over the past two years, we have established a thriving Emerging Professionals program, analyzed the Board composition and set goals with respect to its geographic and gender diversity, and begun to restructure the Board recruitment and nomination process to make it more accessible.
At BuildingEnergy Boston 2019, a dedicated group of NESEA Members organized and convened the first ever NESEA Diversity Caucus. This event brought together members of our community who identify as people of color/indigenous people; queer, trans and gender non-binary individuals (LGBTQIA); women; and people with disabilities, and resulted in a series of recommendations for what NESEA can do to foster a truly inclusive conference, organization, and industry. A core team of individuals from the Diversity Caucus continued to meet after the initial event, and have produced a report which is being distributed to the NESEA Membership.
The NESEA Board of Directors met in person in September 2019 to review this report and understand how our current work supports the recommendations and how our future work could better support our community and the initiatives described in the report. The reaction of the Board to this report was appreciation, inspiration and a strong sense of responsibility to ensure a response that encourages the staff and members to build the best community possible for all people while supporting the NESEA mission.
Below is a list of recommendations from the Diversity Caucus Report, and the Board's response to the items we believe we can take action on now, in the near future, and farther on down the line.
- Consider demographics and representation as a factor when evaluating which proposals are selected for future conference sessions. Establish goals around the balance of sessions dedicated to people, planet, profit. BuildingEnergy Boston 2020 chairs requested information about demographics of the presenters for the final sessions under consideration. We hope to establish a list of standard questions to include in the initial proposal process moving forward.
- Prioritize having at least one conference session annually that touches on themes of diversity or inclusion. The Board supports this recommendation and knows that the BuildingEnergy Boston Content Committee is currently in deliberation; the chairs are encouraged to include this as part of the final content.
- Provide the option for businesses or sponsors to subsidize the cost of attending NESEA programming. We currently offer this through our BE the Future sponsorship program.
- Create more relationships/partnerships between trade schools, community colleges, and unions represented in disadvantaged communities and NESEA Member businesses. NESEA Staff have developed an Academic Membership level to increase student, staff, and faculty participation in our community. The grant funding, discussed below, could further fund these activities.
- Commit to creating space for a Diversity Caucus at every future BuildingEnergy conference provided there are folks willing to organize and participate in it. Institutionalize this as part of the BuildingEnergy programming rather than it needing to be a session that is voted on by the Content Committee. The Board has committed, with the NESEA Staff, to always provide space at BuildingEnergy conferences if there is a group of members to organize.
- Gather demographic data as part of the registration process for all future NESEA conferences and events in order to track current statistics and progress. This will be a part of the registration process for BuildingEnergy Boston 2020.
- Survey demographics of NESEA leadership and set demographic diversity goals to work towards. Within 6 months, this will be complete and will build upon the earlier Board diversity analysis from 2016.
- Ensure that gender-neutral bathrooms are available at future NESEA conferences and events. This request will be made at all major venues, starting with BuildingEnergy Boston 2020.
- Add pronouns to all name tags. The NESEA Staff will pilot this for BuildingEnergy Boston 2020.
- Continue to develop the work with emerging professionals and include language about the Diversity Caucus in EP programming. The Strategic Plan already ties our work with emerging professionals to diversity; all emerging professionals at BuildingEnergy Boston 2020 (including scholarship recipients) will be directly invited to any diversity programming that is offered.
- Bring in a keynote speaker who can address issues of intersectionality and climate justice. Evaluate who has access to the BuildingEnergy conferences and NESEA programming in general. This would be driven by the conference content committee and co-chairs but could be developed further with support from the Caucus.
Farther on Down the Line
- Conduct a survey of existing NESEA Members including questions about demographics in order to track current statistics and progress. NESEA Staff will review, within 6 months, the feasibility of including this as part of the membership join and renew process.
- Formalize a relationship of accountability with the Diversity Caucus and/or create a separate anti-bias working group with whom to consult on related topics. NESEA Board supports the development of a NESEA Committee, with Board member involvement, to formalize a group working on these issues at NESEA.
- Consider sliding scale conference fees and/or a scholarship program for minority-owned businesses and workers. The NESEA Development Committee is evaluating grant options to address diversity and inclusion through funding programs like BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines for MWBE businesses; this would be included in the grant application as part of the business support for these businesses.
- Offer a sliding scale/scholarship for minority businesses to participate in BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines. The NESEA Development Committee is evaluating grant options to support this initiative.
- Develop a relationship with a local minority-run climate justice, housing or trades-related organization and provide them with a free table and conference passes for BuildingEnergy conferences as a way of raising awareness about their work, thereby increasing access to NESEA’s educational opportunities and reaching more diverse populations. Climate justice is not part of NESEA’s primary mission but the NESEA Development Committee is currently researching grant opportunities and this may be a part of the application, depending on the funding source.
- Provide anti-bias, anti-racism, inclusion training for NESEA Board, Staff, conference leadership and BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines facilitators. The NESEA Development Committee is evaluating grant options to fund this kind of training for people in leadership roles within the organization.
We want to thank every person who participated in the Diversity Caucus and contributed to the report. We especially want to thank the organizers, Mel Baiser, Miriam Gee, Maria Washington, and Ace McArleton, who put their time and effort into helping NESEA be the best organization it can be for its members and community. We plan to provide annual updates to the membership about our progress towards these recommendations and other efforts towards diversity and inclusivity. We welcome your feedback, please direct it to Lauren Brust Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below.
Thank you for supporting NESEA and a special thank you to the NESEA Staff for all of their hard work on issues that are critical to our membership and our mission.
While many of the initiatives proposed in the Board response to the report will require grant funding, NESEA is making progress towards inclusivity goals with resources from the Kate Goldstein Fund for Emerging Professionals. Donations made to this fund allow NESEA to recognize and support emerging leaders within our membership as we continue to our efforts to diversify our leadership and community. You can read more about these efforts here.
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NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.