An Equity Assessment

Posted by Holly Brough
Director of Communications

Most organizations, including ours, don’t share much about their internal workings. But recently, the Farm has undertaken an important internal initiative that we thought you might be interested in. It will make us a stronger organization, and have impacts that will ripple out to our program participants, visitors, and more.

We’re excited to be conducting an organization-wide Equity/Diversity Assessment.

Shadiin Garcia of Shoreline Consulting
The assessment is a recent effort, but the Farm has long been committed to advancing our understanding and practice of equity, access, inclusion and diversity. These ideas are foundational to our educational mission, and to the sustainable future we’re working toward. Equity and diversity are two of the Big Ideas of Sustainability.

This journey is one of continual learning, without clear guideposts or end zones. But it is critically important, maybe especially so as an organization with a property history steeped in privilege.

To support us, we are working on the assessment with Shadiin Garcia of Shoreline Consulting.

I sat down with Shadiin to ask her a few questions about equity assessments, and what one may mean for the Farm.

What is an Equity Assessment?

An equity assessment is a year-long process that is intended to support and foster organizational learning and change in service to equity-centered practices and culture.  This process includes the identification of intentions, goals and outcomes; a customization of the process to identify individual and organizational strengths and opportunities for growth, improvement, learning, and change; and culminates in an action plan to identify and begin implementing strategies and leverage points for addressing these key areas.  This process has three phases: Phase I is the development of relationships and the co-construction of goals; Phase II is the data collection (surveys, focus groups, interviews, document analysis, etc.); Phase III is a qualitative assessment, a report, and an implementation plan.

Shadiin (center) working with staff at a recent meeting on the Farm.
Why is this work important?

Participating in a process where folks are examining their practices is important because it does two things: It attempts to address over 500 years of deep colonization and erasure, and it fosters a community of learning, love, relationship and well-being.

What do you personally love about this work?

I love building new relationships with people who believe that equity matters and who are excited to share why they love the work they do.  I also love engaging with folks who are tentative about what equity means and not even sure it matters,  but are willing to explore.

How have other organizations responded to such assessments?

Responses run the gamut from “we do not need an assessment because we already do diversity well” to “Yes, I am excited and willing to learn more.”  Some organizations truly believe they do not need to grow when it comes to equity, diversity, access and belonging, and it takes a bit longer to develop a relationship of trust.  Others embrace the process with gusto.  In the end, when the trust is built, the learning explodes and takes organizations down multiple exciting paths of new growth internally and externally.

What have you noticed about the Farm so far?

That is a HUGE question.  Quite frankly, I have fallen in love with the farm - there is great integrity in the approach folks have taken in embracing this assessment.  The enormous list of strengths that exist to help the Farm address the future challenge in equity is heartening and full of concrete promise.  

What special challenges do you think the Farm faces?

There are two types of challenges -- those that all organizations face and those that are unique to the Farm. The first: Creating conditions for all to engage deeply in work of equity, power, and privilege requires folks to embrace humility, love, vulnerability, and more. That deep work can be destabilizing and scary.  It requires building new muscles on how we are in relation with each other and how we examine our own cosmologies, worldviews, and ways of knowing. That is a challenge shared by all who engage in this work.

The challenge facing the Farm is that it has many moving parts.  It is not just a farm - it is a concept/idea/place that includes homes, livelihoods, memories, traditions, education, families, celebrations. At times it creates a sense of deep belonging and at other times a sense of deep exclusion. The beauty, though, of having so many moving parts is that Shelburne Farms has myriad strengths it can use to address any concerns that the assessment will shed light on.



Submitted by Gail Holmes on Tue , 01/23/2018 - 11:00 AM

Truth is power and knowing the history of how our ancestors lived and treated each other while living on this land over the past 500 years allows one to understand how this history has molded life as we experience it today.
By deeply exploring our spiritual and physical paths we then have the option to choose the paths we want to build, exploring ways we can create what we want to experience in the future.

Submitted by Jacques-Paul Marton on Tue , 01/23/2018 - 11:58 AM

This story is beautifully expressed. Thank you for this vivid inside views of the very Hearts, Souls, and Intellects that combine so naturally as a complete entity at Shelburne Farms.

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