Equityat Ecotrust

Working to advance equitable outcomes within Ecotrust and throughout the region

Ecotrust is committed to the ongoing work of embedding racial equity throughout the organization and our programmatic strategies. We recognize that dismantling systemic racism, classism, and other interlocking forms of oppression are central to our efforts to advance ecological lands and water stewardship, promote climate resilience, and build broadly shared intergenerational wealth. In order for our work to be successful, we recognize the need to pursue collaborative efforts that are grounded in our partners’ visions of success, consider the structural barriers to advancing those visions, and recognize the keys to transformative change lie within the communities most affected by intertwined economic, climate, and racial injustices.

The origins of equity at Ecotrust

Ecotrust’s earliest work began in the Kitlope, partnering with the Haisla First Nation to protect one of the last pristine temperate rainforest watersheds in the world. Our continued partnerships with Indigenous leaders and communities shaped an early version of our mission statement, which called out social equity alongside economic opportunity and environmental well-being as Ecotrust’s reason for being.

Throughout our 30-year history, Ecotrust’s actions have not always aligned with our values. In 2014, recognizing this contradiction, an informal group of staff began meeting, learning, and organizing and eventually pushed for the creation of the Equity Working Group (EWG). From 2017 through the end of 2021, the EWG served as one of the primary driving forces for change and holding Ecotrust accountable for progress. During this formative period, the EWG challenged white dominant cultural norms; conventional leadership and power structures; and the existence, support, and defense of exclusive and inequitable processes.

Through the leadership of the EWG and in deep collaboration with key people and teams across the organization, Ecotrust worked to shift culture; transform hiring and promotion practices and outcomes; support Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leadership; and make critical investments in staff time and capacity to begin the long-haul work of embedding racial equity throughout the organization and our programmatic strategies.

A graphic in white lines on a blue background, with hints of pink and green seeping into the corners of the image. The white line art shows three lines intersecting like the spokes of a wheel, with a circular icon at the end of each of the lines.
A graphic representing the six goals of Ecotrust's Strategic Plan

Gaining momentum toward being equity-centered and anti-racist

In 2021, Ecotrust developed a five-year Strategic Plan, which identified the need for the ongoing work of advancing anti-racism and building a culture of belonging to be meaningfully distributed across the organization, at every level and on every team. This marked a shift away from the tendency to compartmentalize strategic planning and racial equity into separate scopes of work. At Ecotrust, the two are integrated. Our strategic plan is our equity plan.

In addition, at the end of 2021, we intentionally and explicitly shifted away from equity work being the responsibility of a committee (the EWG), which often resulted in a subset of mostly BIPOC staff holding disproportionate responsibility in driving those efforts forward. Today, we expect all staff and board members to collectively contribute to these efforts and hold responsibility for moving this work forward. We equip all staff and board members with the training, tools, and practiced experience to advance racial justice outcomes internally and, through our collaborative efforts, across the bioregion. We offer all staff professional development funds and provide all staff with mandatory anti-oppression training on a variety of topics throughout the year. In addition, we offer Anti-Racism Learning & Action Groups that enable staff to strengthen their racial equity competencies and develop their ability to recognize and interrupt racism and other forms of oppression.

Building a multiracial organization

We are building an antiracist, multiracial organization. This requires us to recognize and support the leadership of individuals and communities most impacted by systemic oppression. Over the last several years, Ecotrust has worked to transform our employment and promotion practices, leading to more racially equitable outcomes in hiring and advancement.

Today, as a result of these efforts, Ecotrust’s staff, leadership, and board increasingly reflect the experiences and perspectives of the biogregion. Among staff, a vibrant and growing community of over 30 colleagues who identify as Indigenous, Black, Latine(x), Asian, and multiracial shape our organization’s ongoing transformation and collaborate to bring meaningful and lasting impacts throughout the bioregion. Overall, 50 percent of Ecotrust’s Leadership Team, 50 percent of staff, and 47 percent of its Board identify as BIPOC. Ecotrust is currently led by an interim Executive Director, Olivia Rebanal, who identifies as Filipina American.

Across every team and at all levels, staff who identify as BIPOC meaningfully contribute to Ecotrust’s mission to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental well-being. Ecotrust’s shift into a multiracial organization has been transformational, enabling the organization and its work to benefit from the wide variety of skill sets, content expertise, and lived experiences that BIPOC leaders contribute. Ecotrust seeks to create belonging and support for BIPOC staff in a number of ways, including through a new initiative called Pathways to Institutional Equity and a funded BIPOC Affinity Group. The work to dismantle institutional racism and other forms of oppression at Ecotrust is ongoing. Ecotrust is committed to co-creating a multiracial, human-centered workplace where all can thrive and find belonging.

A photo of about two dozen adults standing outside the doors of an event building
Ecotrust staff and board members in June 2022

Partnerships at the center

Strong and sustained partnerships are critical to how we approach all of our work. We are committed to deepening existing relationships and developing new partnerships with BIPOC-led and/or -serving organizations, tribal governments, and Indigenous leaders and networks, as well as architects and builders, agricultural producers, policymakers, institutional buyers, researchers, and more. In 2021, we worked with over 160 programmatic partners in our region, including 85 BIPOC-led organizations, to advance and co-create a more equitable, prosperous, just, and climate-resilient future. For example, some of our programmatic partners include the Intertribal Timber Council and Hoopa Valley Tribe on climate-smart forestry; The Blueprint Foundation, Native American Youth and Family Center, Self Enhancement Inc., and Wisdom of the Elders on workforce development; and Mudbone Grown Farm, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Oregon State University Center for Small Farms, and Sakari Farms on equitable food systems.

Our work continues to evolve as we more intentionally prioritize building partnerships and programs that serve Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, and we acknowledge we have more work to do. In 2021, 42 percent of our partners are BIPOC individuals or BIPOC-led organizations; 54 percent of trainees (via career education, capacity building, and other training programs) identify as BIPOC; 40 percent of business at Ecotrust’s Redd campus are BIPOC and/or women-owned; 100 percent of Redd campus business leases have equity covenants; 60 percent of Ecotrust event venders are BIPOC- and/or women-owned; and 40 percent of event vendors are LGBTQ+-owned.

Power-sharing, collaboration, transparency, and accountability

Through the implementation of Ecotrust’s Strategic Plan, we are shifting organizational structures to better enable inclusive decision-making and other forms of power-sharing. These efforts include integrating various forms of shared and distributed leadership into our structures and practices.

While Olivia Rebanal leads Ecotrust in the interim, a Leadership Transition Working Group made up of staff and board members is using a participatory process to develop the scope of a permanent Executive Director role, which the organization will hire for in late 2022 or early 2023. In the coming years, Ecotrust will continue to assess and adapt leadership structures for more equitable outcomes. To further institutionalize distributed leadership, Ecotrust staff are learning about and practicing different ways of making decisions, with an intention to cultivate a culture of agency, initiative taking, and shared accountability.

Continuing the work, enabling impact

Our collective efforts have brought about meaningful changes to our leadership composition, organizational structures, and how we approach our work to advance equitable outcomes across the bioregion. Yet, we know that we have so much more to learn and do in order to fully live into our values. We recognize that in order to be successful, our efforts must be active, continuous, and sustained over time. Everything we do, from internal efforts focused on building a culture of belonging, to external efforts focused on developing equitable partnerships, is done in service to our mission and our collective work to advance ecological lands and water stewardship, promote climate resilience, and build broadly shared intergenerational wealth. We invite your partnership and feedback in this work. To get in touch, email us at equity@ecotrust.

close-up on lavender flowers
Lavender growing in 13 Moons Community Garden

Partners who’ve supported our efforts

Coalition of Communities of Color
Derron Coles, DRC Learning Solutions
Daryl Dixon, Cascade Employers Association
Cat Goughnour, Radix Consulting Group
Daesha Ramachandran, Tusk Consulting
Greg Wolley, Creating Tomorrow’s Workforce
Resolutions Northwest
Anita Yap, MultiCultural Collaborative
Bea Yeh Ogden, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and Zenger Farm

Action Plans and Reports

Learn more about our 2021-2026 Strategic Action Plan

Read our 2021 Racial Equity Action Plan

Read our 2020 Equity at Ecotrust Report

Read our 2019 Racial Equity Action Plan Annual Report Summary

Read our 2017 Equity Progress Report / 2018 Equity Plan

Equity Working Group members

In recognition of their service, vision, and leadership, we express our heartfelt gratitude to the members of the Equity Working Group:

Brody Abbott (former staff)
Allison Brinkhorst
Kevin Bumatay
Laura Ford
Brittanie Grayson
Stephanie Gutierrez
Jamese Kwele
Maralea Lutino (former staff)
Vickie Owens
Lisa Watt