Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at Big City Mountaineers

Since 1989, BCM has provided more than 45,000 nights under the stars for youth who might not have otherwise had the opportunity. BCM’s programs have positively impacted the lives of young people across the United States, helping boost their self-esteem and efficacy, enhance their social skills, and deepen their connection with nature.

As an organization that serves youth, we often find ourselves having deep conversations about issues that impact many young people’s abilities to access outdoor spaces, such as systemic racism, socio-economics, gender and sexual equality, human rights, land stewardship, climate change, intergenerational inequities in the outdoors, and more.

We work primarily with youth from historically disinvested communities, making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) especially relevant to our work. Throughout the years, we have shifted our programming and organizational functioning to meet the needs of youth. We recognize that there is no growth without failure and we want to learn from these challenges to inform our work moving forward.
We know this work is constant and requires intentional time, energy, and collective effort, and we are excited to share our organization’s evolving efforts in this work. Actions we have catalyzed over the past few years to advance DEI efforts include:

  • Adopted new mission, vision and values statements that recognize and affirm the assets and strengths of the youth and communities with whom we work. This has been reflected in all of our external and internal dialogue around programs and youth.
  • Examined and updated HR practices with a specific focus on to be more in line with our DEI values, such as updated hiring measures to ensure that staff and volunteers directly reflect the lived experiences and dimensions of identity of our youth participants. BCM’s current staff and board diverse identity representation has grown more this year than other years.
  • Intentionally built in regular dialogue around DEI topics, particularly about power and resources, within the organization led both by staff and external facilitators.
  • Based on youth feedback, we reimagined our program structure to provide more touch points for the young people we work with over the course of a program series that better addresses their unique contexts.
  • Developed structures internally and externally to ensure all staff have a level of decision making ability in their areas of work. We intend to further extend these efforts to ensure voices traditionally under-represented in organizational decision making, such as youth, are included through intentional engagement.

At BCM, we want to embed the values of DEI into the fabric of our organization and work. We want to be proactive and responsive to crises, not reactive. We seek to ground our work in collaboration with individuals and communities who are most impacted by our decision making.

Kicking off 2023, we have launched an internal DEI Working Group composed of both staff and board members. We plan to use this working group to gather our diverse stakeholders – staff, Board, volunteers, and youth – to conduct a full DEI assessment, with the goals of baselining and understanding how we as an organization are doing through a DEI lens, how power dynamics play in our engagement with youth, how we equitably support our staff, and where there are gaps in our organization’s awareness and function. This assessment will support us in developing an official DEI plan that will serve as a guiding roadmap towards advancing BCM’s DEI position, commitments and agenda.
We are committed to making this  process thoughtful, reflective, and intentional.

This work is iterative and ongoing, embedded in the very foundation of the work we do, and we hope it will be even more integral to our approach to youth engagement. We commit to leaning into this work, sharing our progress and challenges, and being in open accountability with the BCM community as we advance our DEI efforts.

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