In 2020, Trail Blazers made a commitment to being an actively anti-racist organization and we have spent the past year laying the groundwork needed to support this work and move us forward.
We started by lifting up DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), which was one of the four Strategic Lenses identified in our Jan 2020 Strategic Plan (link), as our primary lens and then adding “B” for Belonging. To guide our work and to hold us accountable to our goals, we convened a DEIB committee that comprises board members, staff, an alumna, a community partner, and supported by expert consultants.
We established a path to guide us along this work.
To institutionalize DEIB as a core and essential part of Trail Blazers, we integrated DEIB into our Mission and Vision statements, ensuring that it will guide how we govern, lead, communicate, operate, and interact. Furthermore, as our Primary Strategic Lens, DEIB will serve as our primary guide as we continue to operationalize our Strategic Plan and monitor its effectiveness through 2025.
We are currently at Step 9 on this path. The above tabs describe some of the work in each one of the steps and where we are going.
We believe that our community needs to be at the center of this work and the Committee has spent the past few months hosting listening sessions with the goal of hearing the perspectives of key stakeholders: parents, current staff, alumni, and board of trustees. We believe it is important that we did not move forward without first hearing our community’s personal and shared views regarding where Trail Blazers is, what Trail Blazers does well, and what Trail Blazers needs to do better. The input gathered from the listening sessions is informing our work as we develop a core set of DEIB initiatives, goals, and priorities. As this is on-going, it is our intent that our stakeholders continue to be actively engaged in this process.
The takeaways from the listening sessions are highly encouraging. We heard that stakeholders feel TBC works to create a culture that promotes a sense of welcome, warmth, and community. This is particularly evident in our program design, which creates opportunities for young people to build cross-cultural relationships; fosters an environment that focuses on one of camp’s unique strengths of supporting everyone, regardless of background, in learning and growing; and that these experiences have long-lasting effects throughout life – an example of what can be accomplished in the larger world. We also saw consensus on the importance of DEIB as it pertains to the value of our community and to TBC’s future.
The listening sessions also identified areas in need of improvement, which has guided the “integration” and “priorities” conversations, in the following sections.
DEI Assessment Tool
Next, the DEIB Committee is assessing every aspect of TBC’s business and infrastructure – People, Partnerships, Communications, Fundraising, Operations, Financials, Programming, and Culture – with the goal to build a roadmap to reach cultural proficiency and exemplary status. We chose the Meyer DEI Spectrum Tool for assessing our current state.
The tools functions as our guide for assessing TBC’s progress on the path from “Not Yet Started” to “Launched” to “Well Underway” to “Exemplary” for each of the following 12 components: DEI Vision, Diversity, Commitment, Data, Leadership, Community, Policies, Decisions, Infrastructure, Accountability, Training, and Inclusion.
The findings, based on the committee’s assessment, are that Trail Blazers has a status of either Launched or Well Underway for a majority of the components assessed. The exceptions were Accountability, defined as the inclusion of DEIB-related metrics across all mechanisms, and Training, defined as fostering ongoing training, growth and leadership among management, staff and board.
Our next steps are to develop specific and measurable goals to move Trail Blazers to “Exemplary” across all 12 components, with priority given to Accountability, Training and Inclusion.
This includes engaging our stakeholders and forming formal structures – such as internal committees and affinity groups – to continuously inform the work, and ensure we create a sustainable model.
Additionally, we have established 4 internal areas of consideration, to deepen and focus our conversations.
The Committee has set the following priorities for this fiscal year:
Training: Identify and roll out DEIB training for every tier of the organization
Accountability: Develop DEIB-specific metrics to be applied to the following: projects, programs, management, staff, board
Inclusion: Establish mechanisms for including and integrating all voices of the Trailblazers community
Communication: Continue to build the DEIB communication page on Trail Blazers website
Journey to Exemplary: Establish goals for the other nine components of the spectrum to move TBC to exemplary
Using the work of the DEIB committee and the Strategic Plan, the following priorities were set for the current year:
PRIORITY 1: DEIB (Helen)
Implementing a structured approach to assessing, integrating and measuring DEIB across the organization, to ensure that all parts of the organization are truly diverse, equitable, inclusive and make people feel they belong, in an apparent and genuine way.
PRIORITY 2: STAFF (Josh)
Developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to leadership and pipeline development
SHORT TERM: Initiating a board set of training initiatives and a move to prioritize full time positions where possible.
LONG TERM: Multiple mechanisms for attracting, retaining and developing talent to support all programs.
DEIB METRIC: Training – Trail Blazers Academy – a comprehensive training structure aimed to support and develop our group leaders
PRIORITY 3: RESOURCE MODEL/DEVELOPMENT (Tiffany)
Developing a broad approach to resource development and financial management to build up our ability to take larger chances, make bigger investments
SHORT TERM: Increase in unrestricted revenue
LONG TERM: A versatile income stream that alleviates/reduces the need for the program arms to generate revenue.
DEI METRIC: Inclusion – access to fundraising events and a variety of opportunities for participation and engagement
PRIORITY 4: CULTURE AND MANAGEMENT (Molly)
Actively manage and develop the core team and the program teams to embrace and celebrate the Trail Blazers spirit and culture
SHORT TERM: A senior team that is stable and structured to facilitate growth
LONG TERM: An expansive operational structure designed for excellence across all departments
DEIB METRIC: (inclusion) Comprehensive Staff Engagement and Feedback initiatives within and across departments
PRIORITY 5: PROGRAM QUALITY DESIGN (Eboni)
Finalize and implement a Program Quality Cycle that highlights similarities and differences from program to program, and implement unifying standards across programs
SHORT TERM: Enhanced and scaffolded training and development on program execution that is standardized across programs
LONG TERM: Superb training, execution and evaluation on the program delivery model
DEIB METRIC: (training) Enhanced, voluntary and mandatory, scaffolded training on program execution
PRIORITY 6: BOARD MANAGEMENT (Helen)
Guide and support the board in developing a culture of shared leadership, accountability and belonging.
SHORT TERM: Board expansion, diversification and leadership transitions
LONG TERM: a joyful, versatile and diverse board that exceed fiduciary and governance responsibilities
DEIB METRIC: (training) – Board DEI training
PRIORITY 7: SYSTEMS AND DATA (Molly)
Further finetune systems and operational practices to allow for data-driven decision making
SHORT TERM: Focused financial management and budget tracking
DEIB METRIC: (Inclusion) Inclusive Budgeting – activities that engage staff across levels of the organization in budgeting considerations
PRIORITY 8: ADVOCACY/INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP (Josh)
An intentional approach to public exposure, advocacy, leadership positioning and awareness
SHORT TERM: Increased and intentional participation in advocacy and PR initiatives.
LONG TERM: Positioned as a thought leader in youth development and nonprofit management
DEIB METRIC: (Inclusion) DEI centered advocacy
PRIORITY 9: COMMUNICATION AND PR (Tiffany)
Develop and implement a communication strategy that is accurate, compelling and aligns with industry priorities
SHORT TERM: Improved collateral and communications efforts
LONG TERM: A communication strategy that creates lasting connections to our network of families, friends and supporters
DEIB METRIC: Accountability: complete a comprehensive marketing audit through a DEIB lens
PRIORITY 10: FACILITIES (pending)
Maintaining and enhancing our NJ facility to provide a top notch camp experience.
SHORT TERM: an assessment of site needs
LONG TERM: a high quality property that enhances the participant experience
DEIB METRIC: Comprehensive facilities audit through a DEIB lens.
The work to deeply integrate DEIB into our organization takes time, practice and consistent attention. Here are some of the things were are working on:
Language and Traditions
Over the last 2 years we have begun to evaluate the use of language, both organization wide and at our overnight camp. Like many summer camps, use of Native American language was very common. Some terminology used in camp has been changed already, including for example the use of the word pow wow – time spent around the fire is not called the Sunset Circle.
The DEIB committee is asking your input in developing a comprehensive list of language and tradition items subject to a DEIB consideration. We are thinking about any names, conventions, songs, traditions and habit etc., we can think of that perhaps ought to be reconsidered.
The purpose of this list is NOT to discuss changes, but merely to collect items that you feel either should/could be subject to change, or perhaps items you feel should not be subject to change.
This document is also NOT a discussion forum, so we ask you not to comment on items, but merely to list yours.
You can access the document right HERE.
DEIB Performance Indicators
Guided by the 2025 Strategic Plan, Trail Blazers maps out priorities on an annual basis, with the goal of being a ‘Best in Class’ organization. The DEIB has added DEIB specific short and long term goals to these priorities.
Here is the work document that has established these DEIB performance indicators.
There is still plenty of work to be done as we move to “Exemplary”. TBC’s Leadership is more conscious and affirmative now, more than ever before, about ensuring TBC actively and effectively creates a diverse, equitable, inclusive space where people feel they belong and believe they can thrive.
This year is a year of action, integrating practices into our organization and building DEIB muscle memory, so we work towards the day when DEIB integration is not needed as as a separate goal because it is a deeply integrated reality at Trail Blazers.
The DEIB committee’s role will be to monitor progress and help develop the specific measures needed to hold ourselves accountable, including periodic assessment with the tools described here. We are in the process of rebuilding out IMPACT page, to include our Key Metrics for the year.
For 2022, we measure our success by assessing progress in the following areas:
– Level of tuition assistance
– staff engagement
– SEL growth of our participants
– program satisfaction
– staff retention
– camper retention
“Building Values for Life” is the Trail Blazers tagline – it reflects how we view ourselves as an organization and our place in this world. We believe it is our job to actively engage in building essential values and create positive impact. Motivated by this mission, we remain committed to moving forward and will continue to share updates as we progress. We invite YOU, our community, to join us in this on-going work. Keep on the lookout for opportunities to participate in listening sessions and committees to keep us centered on what matters most – our community.